Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ain't That a Kick in the Head?

Heads don't make very good crash test dummies, particularly when attached to living bodies. Unfortunately, this is an era infamous for head trauma, whether on the battlefield or the athletic field.

In the older literature, one special case involving a head injury towers above all others, and almost certainly you're at least marginally familiar with it. Maybe while growing up you saw it depicted in a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" newspaper cartoon, or perhaps you read about it in one of any number of books or magazines exploring the strange and unknown. Should you be a physician or specialist with a background in neuroscience, surely you became fascinated with the incident as you pursued your medical education.

But why mention the strange case of one Phineas Gage here at all? Well, because those of us with an interest in Fortean (ref. Charles Fort on the Internet) subjects are well aware of the Gage story, and now another piece of this bizarre little event has emerged.

At the young age of 25 in 1848's Vermont, as a railroad crew member, Gage was using a tamping iron to pack explosive powder into a railroad bed hole when the mixture exploded, instantly propelling the 43-inch-long iron rod through the man's left cheek, into his brain and out through the top of his skull, coming to rest several feet in the distance. To everybody's amazement, he survived the injury with residuals of a blind left eye and some curious and annoying neurological changes.

Smithsonian Magazine for January, 2010 (the cover is shown here) features a compelling little article by Steve Twomey, who not only updates Gage's story, but also offers an incredible photo of Phineas Gage himself, dressed in fancy attire as he strikes a bold pose, left eye closed, holding the very iron rod that should have been his passport to the Grim Reaper's lair. The photo, enlarged for publication, was actually a tiny daguerreotype image, and for much of its life nobody realized the identity of the photo's subject.

Twomey recounts the detective work and personal accounts of those involved in locating and identifying Gage's picture. A major giveaway, once the photo was enlarged via modern means, was an actual inscription on the metal bar itself, clearly signifying it as Gage's object of near destruction.

Gage only lived a few years after the accident, and Twomey's article, "Finding Phineas," also shows a photo of Gage's obviously damaged skull (now on display for medical students), and a mask image.

Due to copyright restrictions, I can't reproduce Gage's photo here (it seems, however, to have made its way to at least one Internet site), but I urge readers intrigued by strange historical accounts and early photography to visit a library or procure a copy of the magazine because, while most old publications haven't even been able to describe Phineas Gage, the enlarged photo of this incredibly lucky young man, holding the killer bar as if exhibiting a prized shotgun or trophy, beams with charm, confidence and power more than 160 years later.

Oh yeah, there's a definite rush, just to know that this is the guy we all heard about as kids, and one might detect a bit of a gothic flavor here due to the period clothing. If we didn't know better, we might even think we're looking at a male clothing model from a time long, long ago, and had he donned an eye patch and button-down shirt Gage could have been the perfect Hathaway Shirt model of recent decades. Some might even find Gage's photograph reminiscent of a James Bond movie poster, advertising a dashing secret agent with not a hair out of place.

Indeed, while the lore regarding Phineas Gage sometimes conjured up the image of a snaggle-toothed rail yard roughneck who probably couldn't get so much as a date with a barnyard chicken, the facts reveal an imposing figure and a very nice-looking young man. Regrettably, fate decreed that a tamping rod and explosive powders would assure his legend, but not a long or normal life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walter Sullivan and the Blink

In less than a 1973 millisecond, Walter Sullivan performed a feat on the level of atom-smashing in The New York Times. Science blinked, but quickly regained composure before its rusty armor developed another crack. After all, the debate was over, and those little flaws were always so dangerous to the established order. The mere thought of allowing sunlight's ultraviolet rays in to destroy the carefully groomed molds and fungi of settled and organized science, whose honored and hoary proponents assured us would guide humans forever, almost always sent shivers up the highly educated spines attached lovingly to closed minds.

But 1964 is the place to look first. Oh yes, 1964 was a fascinating year. In addition to the Socorro UFO, news stories and rumors of other UFO landings, close approaches and evidence consumed public interest.. The world of organized -- that is, "respectable" -- science also had something to crow about in '64, with publication of the book, We Are Not Alone. Written by Walter Sullivan, then science editor for The New York Times, Not Alone was well-received and regarded as quite thoughtful and scientifically accurate regarding the possibilities of intelligent life in the universe, and how we would deal with its discovery. Not only does this sound like Dr. Carl Sagan material, indeed, Sagan was quoted throughout Sullivan's book.

What wasn't a part of the book's extensive index, however, were the terms, flying saucers, unidentified flying objects or even UFO. Science editor Sullivan, already revered as the author of several informative books, explored extraterrestrial theory via the safety of mainstream thinking -- that is, again, respectable science. In fact, if one takes a quick look at the words of various columnists and reporters specifically writing for The New York Times in the sixties, there was considerable ridicule and dismissive prose about the UFO phenomenon. Not that this was unusual then, or now, in publications whose publishers and editors consider some things just too strange to take seriously.

So Sullivan's book became a fast award-winner and time passed. 1965 arrived and, as in 1964, intriguing UFO reports continued to pop up in the news. Early In August, writing in The Washington Post, reporter Howard Margolis advised: "The latest flurry of flying saucer reports -- if experience continues to hold -- will be forgotten in a few weeks by everyone except the people who saw them, the Air Force, and the devotees of the cause." Unfortunately, Margolis also swallowed the Air Force explanation that Jupiter and a few stars were responsible for thousands of UFO reports in the western U.S. during the summer, unaware or uncaring that investigators determined that these heavenly bodies were only visible from the opposite side of earth during sighting activity. Over at The Times, and this is purely my speculation, a skeptical Walter Sullivan was, nevertheless, watching quietly with care.

By March of 1966, something of a crescendo was reached when abundant UFO reports surfaced in California, Ohio, Illinois and, particularly, Michigan, for this was the home state of then-Congressman Gerald Ford, and while his office was besieged by a multitude of anxious citizens looking for answers, Ford began demanding a congressional investigation. The media "balance" could hardly have been more apparent, for while some news services reported about UFO sightings in deadly earnest terms, others treated the very idea of UFOs absurdly. One such was The New York Times itself, home of Walter Sullivan, which featured a humorous column by Russell Baker entitled "Salvation Through Flying Saucers" on March 29, 1966. Yet, somewhere in the background, I suspect, Walter Sullivan's impression of the universe continued to evolve.

During the first week of May, 1966, perhaps in an attempt to allay public concerns, former defense secretary Robert McNamara announced that there was no proof that UFOs existed. Within just days after McNamara's peculiar declaration, a new Gallup Poll revealed that some five million Americans believed they had seen UFOs, and ten times that number -- nearly half the U.S. population then -- thought that observers saw something real, though not necessarily flying saucers, and were not victims of imagination. Even as the Gallup Poll emerged, the Dept. of Defense announced that a search was underway to fund a scientific study of UFOs -- ultimately involving the University of Colorado and its eventually disastrous project.

Getting back to Walter Sullivan -- he was destined to take his popular book to prime time television, but first TV airwaves became notoriously fouled in May by the presentation of CBS-TV's one-hour special entitled, "UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy." Narrated by Walter Cronkite, this anti-UFO propaganda piece deteriorated so quickly into nonsense and negativity that when TV Guide (May 28, 1966) featured three letters from viewers commenting on the show, all were negative. If this was a cross-section of national viewer reaction, the program clearly fooled almost nobody and both TV Guide and CBS must have received a lot of "hate" mail.

Frankly, I did not know what Walter Sullivan was writing about as the years progressed since 1964, but in October of 1966 ABC-TV presented its homage to Sullivan's volume, also entitled "We Are Not Alone." Dr. Carl Sagan and several other respected scientists contributed extensively to the hour's premise about the possibility of extraterrestrial life -- and, of course, this involved evidence suggestive of everything but those troublesome UFOs.

I was not a regular reader of The New York Times, but seven years later, on October 17, 1973, I happened upon a fresh copy containing an article by Sullivan himself, entitled "Strange Radio Pulses Reported by Moscow." Now, as any tabloid reader can tell you, the Russian press has distributed so many wild claims over the years that one hardly knows truth from fiction from could-be. Nevertheless, Sullivan apparently received reliable information and had decided to impart what little he knew, cautioning that the signals may simply have originated from some mundane source.

However, the Russian report wasn't nearly as interesting as Walter Sullivan's other subject matter woven within the story. This brilliant writer, author of an award-winning book which clearly offered a positive case for extraterrestrial life somewhere else -- devoid of references to UFOs which would signify possible visits here and now -- acknowledged the incredible in his column, apparently not even raising an eyebrow:

"Amid reports from at least six American states that unidentified flying objects had been seen and even been visited, Moscow reported last night the detection of radio signals that may have originated with another civilization."

This was an astounding statement from a man whom, as far as I know, had spent virtually no time as a proponent of UFO existence. Yet, after mentioning more about the Russian radio signals, he smoothly returned to UFOs, not even attempting to flag a change of subject:

"An Ohio report, by the Associated Press, concerned a woman who phoned the police 'hysterically' to say that an oblong object had landed in a field and killed two cows. The police investigated but were unable to confirm the account."

Wow! Yet, hardly content to let things stand, Sullivan then quoted from a new UPI report about "two shipyard workers" in Pascagoula, Mississippi (the case of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, as we would later learn) who claimed a UFO abduction. No-bull science writer Sullivan then explained that former Air Force chief UFO consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University and Dr. James Harder of the University of California had questioned the men and conducted hypnosis sessions with them, and that the two believed the alleged abductees were telling the truth about their terrifying experience involving a physical examination by UFO entities. Further, Sullivan advised, Hynek had long insisted that the government should take such reports seriously. No laughs, no ridicule, no jokes here. Sullivan displayed matter-of-fact for all it was worth.

Sullivan may well have written more about UFOs before or since, but the main point here is that people change and, when allowing themselves the chance, so do science people. Bless Walter Sullivan, for he must have been a rare individual indeed to dare wear an open mind -- an inordinately open mind -- on his shoulder. Then, as now, publicly embracing the UFO issue in the company of the scientific community, even a little, is not always healthy for one's professional career. Expanding upon Dr. Hynek's familiar statement, science is not always what scientists do, nor is science writing always what science writers do.

For me, to discover the eminent Walter Sullivan casually and seriously weaving and crafting incredible statements about UFOs and the people involved with them into what would otherwise be just another article about Russian claims was a phenomenal moment, no more, no less. In a flash, Sullivan forced science to blink, and whatever words arrived on the scene the next day or the next week didn't matter because his literary freeze-frame image, in the words of the newspaper industry, had gone to press and was put to bed. And that's a --30--.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Confessions of An Irrelevancy, Vintage 2009

Ah, Christmas and New Year's -- annual occasions when people of good will celebrate religious traditions and/or look back to reflect fondly upon the last 12 months.

Unfortunately, I can't be bothered with any of that today. I'll leave the good cheer stuff up to my readers because, by George, you can probably handle it better than I. Merry Christmas! Happy 2010! Okay, my turn. . .

Maybe it's my age and the realization that nothing gets better and every motion becomes more painful with time. Perhaps it's the mortal fear involved when I actually consider attempting exercise with a hula hoop, certain that I'll awaken the next morning with my quadratus lumborum switching positions with the rectus abdominis. Forget mere floating kidneys, this is the serious stuff of which self-contemplation is made.

I decided to take this opportunity to do what thousands, millions of bloggers do every day, and that is to bore the living daylights out of you with my personal mind baggage. That's right, today I'll be using the word, "I" at least half as many times as President Obama inserts it into his speeches. Ol' Robert is gonna put you to sleep, right here, right now, with a few of my concerns over the years, and there's nary a UFO in the bunch.

My Confession: First, because I've mentioned President Obama now and again in these pages in uncomplimentary terms, there will be the occasional reader wondering if I'm a racist. Well, that's an interesting point, so I'll both clarify my position and shoot myself in the butt at the same time.

The truth is, several years ago when then-Senator Obama spoke eloquently before the Democratic National Convention (the previous one, not the last event), probably for the first time ever, I found myself very impressed with his demeanor and ability to express issues far more coherently than many of his colleagues. I did, in fact, e-mail his office within hours and congratulated him for a fine speech and said it was my opinion that he would make a good presidential candidate someday. I don't believe I have a copy of the e-mail by now, but surely his office must because his speech was an historic political occasion, and I can't imagine that any form of communication (including letters and telegrams) reaching his office regarding that special moment would have been deleted or destroyed, so somewhere in cyber land the evidence of my questionable advice remains. My bad, as modern clueless youth, unable to organize a proper sentence in English class, would say.

However, my opinion softened considerably when he actually began campaigning for the job, because I -- and, by far, I am no political genius -- felt and continue to believe that his plans are just too expensive and radical for the turmoil our country currently experiences. I don't know that he's going to go down in history as a very good President, and of course that would be a shame. And no, I was no fan of President George W. Bush, either. Politically, I'm an Independent voter, a creature traditionally both hated and coveted by the established parties, and there are days when it wouldn't take much to push me toward the Libertarian side. To me, the Democrats and Republicans have become evil twins in many respects, and we should be appalled at the evidence of corruption frequently emerging from either party -- appalled enough to do something about it the next time elections are held.

So no, I'm not a racist. My immediate supervisor in the Air Force 40 years ago was a black man who wrote excellent performance reports for me (he is shown in a group photo in my Air Force blog), and my roommates included black and Hispanic airmen (though I admit to a special place in my heart for Santos L., whom I once drove to town outside our Texas USAF base, and every time we passed somebody on the street he would open the window and shout, "F*** you, you mother!" as my face graduated through shades of red).

Climate Change: If there's anything profoundly more dangerous than changes in climate and/or "global warming," in my opinion as a non-scientist, it's the frenzied compulsion among many people for numerous self-centered reasons to "do something." Steady progress in "green" alternatives is a great idea, but don't sledgehammer the process into the heads of others. If anything, I believe that a significant decrease in world human population is the key to everything, but, of course, nobody wants to tackle that issue -- which indicates right away that it's likely the most important culprit causing problems.

One tires quickly of opponents who insist, well, if we took all the humans in the world and put them next to each other, they would only fill a space the size of Rhode Island or New York City or a bird cage or whatever calculation they throw out -- but the truth is that each person requires (according to statistics, and who even knows how accurate they are?) 14 point something acres, or far more, to sustain himself or herself throughout a lifetime, so things quickly become enormously complicated at that point. In the meantime, Third World countries persist in clear-cutting forests at an alarming rate, rare animal and plant species disappear forever, and we are left with just more and more of. . .us.

Drug Companies: To stay in business and to be amenable to huge profits and funds for further studies, pharmaceutical corporations must continue researching and producing medications, and then somebody has to purchase and actually put them into their bodies. Yep, that's where we come in. They and/or we must convince our physicians to make us/allow us to enhance or foul our organs by ingesting or injecting their stuff. Their efforts have become remarkably successful, particularly via the expensive marketing campaign evidenced nightly during national news broadcasts among the major TV networks.

My current favorite is a commercial for Ambien CR, a sleep medication, and while we concentrate on the cuteness of a rooster parading through bedrooms and city streets, I wonder how many folks hear warnings in the background that the medication may cause hallucinations, death, suicidal thoughts -- and the possibility that you might even get a swollen tongue (great for making you appreciate your airway, before you lose it)! Well, maybe they'll invent a pill to prevent that, too. At least the rooster looks healthy and apparently harbors no ad-induced neurotic requirement to beg for a sleep aid.
Wonder drugs can be good things, but Wonder-Why-They-Invented-This-One drugs may not be, as one contemplates the disturbing frequency of news announcements and lawsuits regarding medications that turn out to have questionable, injurious or even fatal benefits. Which shall be next? Who shall be next? If we ever return to nutritious eating, lots o' meds could disappear overnight.

Americans who travel overseas for terrorist training to use against U.S. military personnel and American citizens: Your age doesn't matter, you really deserve only to be executed swiftly by authority of my government upon your return to the states or on the battlefield. I don't give a damn what a great all-around high school student you were or how nice you were to grandma.

AM Radio: Fingernails on a blackboard, that's what it's like when I hear callers to talk shows say, "thank you for taking my call," because it's the show hosts who should thank people for phoning in. Without callers, they would be out of business, and in many cases should be. Some "talk shows," mostly on the local level, are merely hourly blocks bought and paid for by various businesses or corporations. In my area, for example, local weekend radio mornings are fouled by "help" talk shows funded by home builders, auto repair people, financial advisers, health food advocates and a hospital. Hourly blocks can cost, I've heard, around $2,000 in many circumstances, but I'm sure that's extremely high or low, depending upon one's location.

AM and FM radio, often a mere shadow of their former selves, have become vast wastelands populated by commercials disguised as other formats, and one longs for the days when radio was fun, informative and not just a tool for advertisers and a blatant political agenda machine.
As one example, perhaps you've had the displeasure the last few months of having your ears pounded with frequently played "Mrs. Douglas" commercials. Intended as a commercial to sell a brand of automobile, these annoying and, in my opinion, over the line commercials start out with the sound of a ringing phone whose tone and pitch are obviously intended to rattle the listeners' brains, and the sound is repeated as the spiel reaches its end. Worse, I heard this commercial repeated as often as three times within 20 minutes, and certainly for at least 2-3 times per hour for days on end. Then the commercial would go away for a few days or weeks, and then would return, where the cycle started all over again. Ad agencies aren't stupid and obviously the commercial helped sell cars -- but it must also have instilled hostility among many potential customers once they knew they were being played by this nerve-jangling promotion intended through a ringing phone to force your undivided attention.

Radio station management whom make it so transparent and obvious that advertisers are appreciated more than loyal listeners do a real disservice to the industry. In fact, any ad agency, in-house commercial production team or sponsor which chooses loud noises over intelligent writing and marketing to sell a product should be looked upon with suspicion, because we often find that there's very little substance behind the noise and flash they churn out.

Illegal Immigrants: No. Get out or let's help you get out. We can do that by monitoring and criminalizing employers who hire border-jumping criminals, and by at last taking extreme legal action against both public officials intent upon operating "sanctuary cities" and against those with various other agendas who illegally import the world's human detritus inside our borders. When you look at throngs of people who sneak in with no intention of assimilating or caring about our borders, language or culture, bold moves are definitely required. Call me cold and dispassionate, call me cruel and harsh, but don't call me if an insurrection due to government inaction evolves.
Gays in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.
Heterosexuals in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.

Radical Islam in the Military: Uh, no. That doesn't seem to work out well.

Animals: Be kind, just be kind. Our human idiocies are not their fault and, as relative latecomers to this planet, it could be said that we are merely their guests of a temporary nature. William S. Lemur and Spike the Rat will be smiling over sun-bleached human bones in eroded international human graveyards long after the universe forgot the moment it burped us into a brief and troubled existence.

Major Lifetime Surprise: I was gratified and very much surprised when (the late) former Central NY Congressman James Hanley recommended me to the Carter Administration in case they organized a new UFO study (see letters above) -- an intention rumored, but apparently never established. Anyway, we all know where the real UFO studies are going on, don't we? Hmm?
Far Less Than 15 Minutes of Fame Moment: Actually, this less than shining moment only lasted 2-3 seconds when the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind used one of my magazine articles as a background prop among props, during a crucial moment displaying a collection of the main character's (Richard Dreyfuss) UFO newspaper and magazine clippings (see above). Chosen obviously because the Argosy Magazine graphics department produced a stunning and easily recognizable depiction of the subject at hand -- published just in time for Steven Spielberg's people's people's people to find this gem on some newsstand -- I remain particularly grateful that the rest of the article wasn't shown on The Big Screen. This article was one of the worst I ever wrote and the best thing about it was the artwork. Yeah, a couple of seconds in a motion picture, and I can tell you, stardom ain't all it's cracked up to be - and just where ARE my residual payments??? Been waiting for years and years and years. . .

Major Annoyance of the Moment: 2001, 2100, 2900, 1910 -- just wondering how long it'll be before I get the numerical 2-0-1-0 combination right this next year. The ones and zeroes in dates are so, so computer-ish. Must be a conspiracy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking Gary McKinnon for a Little Swim - Part 2

Looks more and more as though alleged British computer hacker Gary McKinnon will be singing, "Coming to America" in a solo performance (Has the Queen knighted him yet? Sir Hax-A-Lot would sound cool). The young man who proved single-handedly that United States government computer security still sucks may already be on our shores when I post this entry. I'm still kinda ambivalent and kinda not about this mess, but maybe if I can break into multiple personalities or something for a few minutes I can manage a little conversation with myself, though directed toward others who aren't likely to read it.

TO MY GOV: At the end of the day, I hold out some hope that the benevolent part of us will let McKinnon off with a stern warning. What example would be set with a stiff prison sentence? Would imprisonment point the finger away from our own security incompetence, or give government attorneys some sort of testosterone rush? Wouldn't it be infinitely more constructive to jail U.S. leaders intent upon sharing U.S. weapons technology with China, Russia and our other, um, caring international "friends?" Instead, forget McKinnon -- maybe shouldn't our military drones go bomb the snot out of Italy and make 'em return Amanda Knox, who just went to prison based upon the judgment of jurors equivalent to the sort who would storm Frankenstein's castle with torches and pitchforks simply because "they ain't our kind?"

TO MR. MCKINNON: In the courtroom, please, for starters -- don't cry like a baby. Generally, that only works over here, especially in the media, if you actually ARE a baby -- or a professional athlete or congressman caught cheating on a spouse. Be pleasant, quiet, kind and courteous, and wear a facial expression that exudes confidence with just a touch of smugness -- the variety which silently announces to one and all that you're at least as smart as any computer geek in Homeland Security. At least.

TO MY GOV: Have you guys seen all the hate blogging going on in England over this? Wow, I never realized so many Brits could despise the U.S. This affair will surely not help U.S. radio talk show host and beloved (!) national treasure Michael Savage overcome his "banned in Britain" status.

TO MR. MCKINNON: Whatever happens, English dude, here's some great news -- you just know that some schlockmeister producer out there will dramatize your life story and techno-escapades in a movie. True, you're no Charlie Manson, but my gov certainly is entertaining the impression that you killed half the country. No fooling, by the time Hollywood finishes with you, movie audiences everywhere will forget the name, Jason, and Twilight will again be known only as something occurring at the end of a sunshine-filled day. Whether you spend eight days or 80 years in prison, a fat paycheck for the story of your life as hacker extraordinaire will be waiting for you like a faithful jailhouse bride when you get out -- that is, assuming authorized lethal injection isn't in your future, but I suppose even that could happen under the right circumstances in court. Well, whatever, just remember that my government can kill you, but it isn't allowed to torture first, so you've already cracked a lucky break there.

TO MY GOV: Pssst -- Hey, don't announce this publicly because, as you know, we don't t-o-r-t-u-r-e, but I think maybe you need to water-board this guy because it will be great fodder for the screenplay. And once the official case hits the courtroom, make sure your lawyers look darned official in dark suits -- and shine those shoes! Look the part -- remember, we're talking Hollywood here, and you want to project a properly debonair image and political stance to be recreated for the eventual motion picture.

TO MR. MCKINNON: You might get out of legal trouble altogether, if you can manage to bring along those folks associated with that East Anglia University "Climategate" thing. Those people are looking so guilty now that, by comparison, any hacking you've accomplished looks as dangerous as a game of solitaire. Bonus points if you can make the international thugs who populate the United Nations look any phonier they are, now that "global warming" has succumbed to the ice cube tray.

TO MY GOV: Oh right, what about that Climategate issue? Just when will Al Gore be sued in Federal and international courts for alleged environmental misinformation based upon lousy science, non-science and stiffness of oral communication?

TO MR MCKINNON: Finally, bring along the best attorney you can find, because while my government attempts to pound you to shreds for hacking -- deservedly, yes -- a little cobweb will be hanging above every head in the courtroom. Some folks will spend a lot of time trying to brush that web off their faces as it slowly descends, but it won't go away and it won't lose its annoyance factor. Where is the spider that spun this web? should be the question. Yes, something unknown should dominate that courtroom, and Gary McKinnon's own words of the past have implicated this mystery monster called the UFO. If ever there was a time for UFO disclosure, this is it, and if by some slim chance we find proof of a government cover-up, then let the legal fireworks begin. But chances are high that the government will find a way to avoiding addressing the UFO issue at all because it's the hacking, not the look-what-I-found part, at issue here. All foul things considered, the U.S. badly needs to make an example of you as both a warning to the legitimately lethal global hackers whom they'll never be able to touch, and to make us forget that computer technology is, at best, a complex and expensive game destined at all times to be devastated by the best player. Yes, you won a round, but some folks don't take kindly to having their marbles taken away. We beg for the best computer wizards and then condemn them when they demonstrate their talents to the max. Sucks to be you. You fill government hearts with fear, truly a danger because you have the skills to break through the extreme fantasy of technological security cherished almost as a religion by governments and corporations everywhere

TO MY GOV: Remember -- you wanted to bring McKinnon to our shores. Be careful what you fish for. Oh -- one more thing: Since you're ready to tear McKinnon apart like a pack of wild dogs, how about likewise pursuing the UFOs allegedly hacking our computerized missile systems, per Mr. Hastings, Capt. Salas, Lt. Col. Halt and others? I can understand your displeasure regarding a single human hacker screwing up NASA and defense files, but where's the outrage over mysterious bright objects showing up on radar and either disabling or reprogramming nuclear -- yes, nuclear -- missiles at supposedly secure Air Force bases? Will that issue be on the public agenda simultaneously with the McKinnon affair? Want to talk about priorities? Surely, this matter of obviously highly advanced hackers is a shade more important and urgent to national security than some British guy who currently trembles in his shoes and, we suspect, would sooner turn into an ocelot than ever tap into a government Web site again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Scare Pegs in Round Holes: The Fine Art of Global Warming

Eeeeeowwwww! It's almost like re-visiting the Colorado University UFO project.

Take the money and then do whatever you want. Preconceptions. Overlook the proper evidence. Make square pegs fit -- no, wait -- make that scare pegs fit into round holes. Memos. Written proof of ill intent. Winks and nods.

Now I understand what former VP Al Gore and President Obama mean when they say the debate over global warming is over. Apparently, they base their conclusions upon a proliferation of non-science and straw-man scenarios peddled by groups more intent upon the construction of a movie fantasy than actual facts. Critics with a science background already denounced Gore's first book and movie as seriously flawed, and he produces yet another book of . . .?
But now a new scourge upon honest inquiry pops up. Should politicians and scientists who reportedly betrayed our trust (and accepted government research funds to do so) be held accountable for misinforming the public? Are there crimes here? Will those who stand to benefit most from "green" projects involved with fat cash receive a second look as the truth unfolds?

I'm no fan of computer hackers (though, as mentioned months ago, I really think "they" should loosen up on Gary McKinnon -- while, of course, the U.S. government should explain what's up with the UFO evidence he claims to have found when he hacked into the gov), and this may actually be the work of a whistleblower, but whomever busted open 61 megabytes of confidential files and e-mails at the University of East Anglia's (England) Climate Research Unit (CRU) may have done the world an enormous favor. A wealth of documents allegedly demonstrate (in my own words) a manipulation of information, destruction of scientific data counter to preconceived notions, cooperation in fudging the facts, a campaign to resist disclosure of scientific findings which negate the CRU's dogmatic approach, conspiracy, and interpersonal communication admitting to inaccuracies in claims foisted upon the public. Yeah, allegedly.

Is the climate changing? Yes, and with or without our help it has always done so, and will continue for better or worse. Should we continue making the world greener? Yes, but at a comfortable pace. In the short term, sorry, but we need fossil fuels, and we need them more than we need the CRU's supposed distortion of facts and, for example, attempts to shove under a green rug the significance of naturally occurring planetary warming during human history's medieval period.

We must not underestimate the profound significance of the CRU story. These are the people relied upon by the United Nations and much of the world's so-called climate industry and think tanks, and it now becomes curious that every bit of misinformation passed along the rat trail simply repeats and emboldens itself, building upon alleged lie after lie until we reach a point where a treaty intent upon creating basically a one-world government (in the opinion of some) or, at the very least, sacrificing a lot of individual national control, awaits the signatures of international leaders. What sounds like science fiction at last stares us in the face, and it's all biding its time in Copenhagen as the world's elite gather in eager anticipation. After all, many billions of dollars are at stake, as international corporations and various other economic interests stand in line to steal away with whatever share they previously agreed should be theirs.

Years have passed, and the constant goal was fear, global terrorism with an identity unsuspected by many. The global warming mongers, as either shrewd, fact-twisting, wealth-acquiring geniuses or useful idiots, have gone all out to frighten schoolchildren into crying tears over a fantasy planet earth (predicted to do everything just short of catching fire), and their tactics worked equally well on university students and professors who should have known better -- alleged intellectuals who forgot that science is almost never "settled," and debate is a prime component of the scientific method.

So now these folks behind presumed lies are slowly becoming unmasked, and maybe the coast at last is clear for real scientists to come forth and explain that, indeed, carbon dioxide is our friend, that coal can be used cleanly and that "acid rain" isn't necessarily responsible for what we've been told all these years.

In the United States, every congressman who voted for "cap and trade" legislation, and every senator who still intends to do so, owes an apology to the American people for such haphazard actions. The Obama Administration, tragically, is apparently filled with like-minded people, and it remains questionable whether any of them will do anything to destroy the "carbon credit" exchange/pricing plans which now appear catastrophically bogus and whose existence may bankrupt the wealth of nations in the name of non-existent jobs or nonsense jobs or whatever labels are thrown out for the people to lap up like clueless cats at the milk bowl.

As one gazes upon the environmental dirt sure to emerge from the CRU mess, how can it not be crystal clear that governments, with the help of well-funded "scientific" institutions anxious for a never-ending money stream, sometimes go all out to lie? We currently live openly in an era of lies, the largest being the cover-up and distortion of whatever immense truth lurks behind the UFO mystery. Perhaps disclosure will creep nearer with these revelations, but don't bet your life on that.

I used to write letters and articles with an occasional warning about global warming, but somewhere along the way came to realize that planetary changes will occur despite our efforts for or against them. Then, when data emerged a year or two ago suggesting that not only earth, but Mars and other planets in our solar system were warming concurrently, well, one must consider these things. Now we learn that "global warming" ceased years ago, and a cooling cycle apparently rules the planet.

Yet, the President, publicly but surely not privately oblivious to the CRU firestorm, still intends a journey to Copenhagen, possibly intent upon passionately embracing a dangerous and, quite likely, irrelevant climate treaty based uncomfortably upon fraudulent data badly in need of meticulous peer review. Remember -- somewhere around 1,500 international scientists are said to be highly skeptical of the presumed science associated with the warming issue, and those are just the ones who dared to step cautiously forward to date, frequently in fear of their colleagues' scorn for refusing to be part of a wretched the-debate-is-over sheep herd.

But, hey, if you're the Prez and the world's toadies are going to award you a Nobel Peace Prize right after you affix your John Hancock (not to offend John Hancock's place in history, nor to offend anybody offended by the merely offensive thought of offensive United States history, which is offensive to those who are easily offended, pardon me) to a questionable phony baloney treaty, it might be worth taking the plunge, and the Nobel will obviously be a great addition to the eventual presidential library built with the help and deep appreciation of powerful industries, union bosses and their associates.

Mr. Obama's signature upon this absurd document (with or without congressional endorsement) may become a costly embarrassment for the United States, an expensive puppet show for the world, and an action that history books may record as a colossal error. He really should decline, otherwise we'll be forced to depend upon Congress and perhaps even the Supreme Court to sort out this mess. Instead, let us allow the climate debate a proper airing -- and tell anonymous puppet masters who eagerly anticipate countless billions of "green" dollars to fall into their hands via trumped-up climate legislation to go eat grass until they turn their favorite shade of green.

Under proper circumstances in connection with the CRU's hacked or whistle-blown goldmine of alleged self-incriminating deceit, we might expect global criminal charges to be filed without hesitation (in legal terms, hacking is bad but whistle-blowing can be very, very good). In the meantime, however, as always, one need only follow the lies and the money. It's just that simple.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going Nuclear at the National Press Club

Maybe this time things will be different.

In 1964, many of us pinned our hopes on a document entitled The UFO Evidence, published by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). The late Richard Hall, Maj. Donald Keyhoe (USMC, Retired) and a team of dedicated UFO researchers worked at a fevered pitch to produce and edit the lengthy report so that every member of Congress would receive a copy. This was important stuff, filled with reports, science and technical information about the UFO phenomenon gleaned from impressive military, government and civilian witnesses. Unfortunately, though many in Congress found the document of interest, and even urgent in its warnings, one could almost hear the sounds of a collective yawn throughout the House and Senate when the concept of everybody getting together and taking some sort of action actually reared its dubious head. To this very day, The UFO Evidence stands tall, and to this very day widespread congressional interest does not. Maybe because UFOs don't vote.

The Next Big Thing arrived a few years ago in the guise of The Disclosure Project, via a meeting held at the National Press Club in Washington. There were problems, a major glitch being a still troubling loss of Internet visualization and audio when the connection to viewers all over the world failed. But at least many among the media commented politely and lent credence to what they heard with their own ears, close up and personal, from competent witnesses who encountered UFOs, sometimes under dramatic circumstances.

Now, as some of you may have read in Frank Warren's UFO Chronicles (see link), it appears the National Press Club will again host a UFO conference, next fall in Washington, D.C.
When that happens, history will be made and -- if inquisitive ladies and gentlemen of the press react as one would hope with weathered anticipation -- the proceedings could exert a major influence upon the process of open government in the U.S. The event, apparently scheduled to include at least a dozen former and retired U.S. military personnel who experienced UFO visitations at crucially important nuclear weapons installations, will be organized by UFO/nukes connection researcher Robert Hastings and former U.S. Air Force Capt. Robert Salas (himself a witness to such activity and a participant at the previous NPC conference mentioned above).

Salas and Hastings have thought this out, fortunately, for by announcing the event a year in advance they hope to attract other former military personnel wishing to appear and/or write accounts of their UFO/missile base experiences for inclusion in the 2110 conference. According to their press release, UFO encounters at Air Force and Navy nuclear installations may still be occurring.

Everybody's fond expectation is that ultimate disclosure of UFO information by the U.S. government will materialize, as it has increasingly in foreign countries. My personal wild speculation suggests that NICAP's major fatal flaw in 1964 was an inability to enlist the amount of serious media interest necessary to influence congressional sources into exerting definitive action. It remains the misfortune of the people's right to know that the UFO and UFO vs. nukes issue stays below the public radar while simultaneously evidencing itself on government radar screens. The real question is whether Mr. Hastings, Capt. Salas and associates can convince media representatives, who are sure to attend their presentation in abundance, that First Amendment practitioners and all the tools at their disposal are urgently required.
Salas and Hastings may be contacted per their individual e-mail addresses:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A 1972 UFO Report from Hanoi

Just a little history here. During the Vietnam conflict, private United States UFO investigative organizations received reports from their own members who happened to be in the military, stationed in Southeast Asia. APRO's Coral Lorenzen confirmed to me many years ago that APRO members stationed in that part of the world stayed on top of UFO incidents, and indeed various newsletters and journals occasionally reported on S.E. Asian UFO activity. For the most part, news services either remained blissfully uninformed about these incidents, or simply didn't care. But sometimes. . .

This one certainly wasn't among the best reports, but I did find a curious and widely reported September, 1972 news account from Agence France-Presse about an object observed over Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. According to a reporter with binoculars, a bright spherical "luminous orange" object appeared high over the city in a clear blue sky and seemed to remain in one position. The thing's mere presence caused Hanoi officials to sound air raid sirens, and barely as soon as warnings ceased three surface-to-air missiles were launched toward the object.

The missiles apparently failed to locate their extremely high target, and nearly an hour and a half later the object was still visible, though not as bright.

I have no further information (nor specific time of day) about this incident (more of an unidentified aerial object encounter than a flying one, so it would properly be called a UAO and not a UFO), and of course our first thought would be that Hanoi officials observed a bright planet, though the color noted suggests otherwise. Something about this affair made it newsworthy, and because no other media reports surfaced with an explanation, and because astronomers apparently did not come forward with a solution, we might assume that this case baffled one and all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

UFO Newspaper Headlines 1966

By 1966, the quality and abundance of UFO reports left a massive public impression, and reports submitted by law enforcement personnel all over the country added to public concern. Close encounters with lights or apparent objects in the sky no longer seemed a rarity, and ultimately Michigan Congressman (and later President) Gerald Ford demanded a congressional investigation after his own state was clobbered with nationally publicized UFO activity. The mid-sixties allowed newspapers from coast to coast to shine because, whether their UFO reporting reflected sobriety or humor, all the "good stuff" was out there in print, often on the front page, for an interested readership to judge, recorded in the archives for posterity.

UFO Newspaper Headlines 1964-66

The recent death of retired Socorro, New Mexico police officer Lonnie Zamora reminded me of the influence his 1964 UFO close encounter experience had on national newspaper reports of the day. For old times' sake, I'm posting a couple of entries showing some typical headlines, and this one highlights the Gary Wilcox (the farmer who claimed an encounter with UFO entities) incident from New York State (information available on the Web), and the four-state UFO sightings mentioned a few blog postings ago. Argentina UFOs were also in the news, a complement to other international activity. UFO evidence on the ground began to receive much more publicity and, not to make light of this, but even observing UFOs could sometimes require rocket science -- or at least a rocket scientist.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Audacity of Ill-Advised Diversity

Here we go again. A horror story, this time at Fort Hood in Texas, and having once lived in Texas as an Air Force airman, I can tell you that Texans don't take kindly to this sort of thing. But no matter the state, we grieve for the murdered and their families, as we grieve for all servicemen and servicewomen who, all too often, sacrifice everything they have to give and everything they will ever own.

I once worked in a large Texas military hospital known for an impressive psychiatric section, so I certainly experienced no lack of psychiatrists running around every day, and some of them seemed crazy beyond crazy. If you reading this are, indeed, a psychiatrist or, even creepier, a psychologist, well, you already know about your personal demons and how screwed up and even crazy you may be yourself. So my first thought when the media reported that the good very bad doctor may be a psychiatrist was, oh no, a psychiatrist, no wonder this happened. After all, a local prominent psychiatrist I used to see around the hallways of a city hospital went bonkers and stabbed his wife with a big ol' conflict-solving kitchen knife in recent years, got off with a hand-slap and went back to emotionally cleansing patients under, um, minimal supervision, so very little surprises me anymore.

But we now know much more, and, surprising to almost nobody, radical Islam is the culprit. As in film noir, over the years we have come to realize that all we need do is round up "the usual suspects" because that's who we're dealing with in real life. You know, the ones who everybody knows should be checked at airports instead of the rest of us because government officials realize darned well who they are.

My government seems to have a problem understanding the significance of the term, the enemy within. This "alleged" mass-murdering medical professional was reportedly under official surveillance for quite some time and, frankly, should have been relieved of his duties months or years ago because my government knew exactly what reptilian skin this individual wore. Don't enlighten me with nonsense about him being the real victim here, not after my country paid handsomely for his medical education, not when he knew from day one that he signed up for an obligation. During WW II and other wars of the past, people like this would have been tried (maybe) and shot in the head, hanged or might experience a mysterious disappearance from which there would be no return. No excuses, no fancy lawyers, no audacity of dopes.

The overwhelming number of Muslims in the United States are good people who want no part of the monsters intent upon twisting and distorting their faith and if you read this blog regularly you know that I recently urged the young people of Iran all the best in their own fight with such devious, cunning and evil rulers.

The truth is, diversity isn't looking too hot right now, Mr. President, just in case you're reading this (well, that'll be the day). Just what do we want to tolerate as Americans? I believe most Americans have had it up to the proverbial here with exclusively university-trained, lily-livered legislators and negotiators who never spent a day in the military and have not a clue what real danger is. Somebody in Washington needs to hear, loud and clear, that there are folks in our country who need to be located, ripped out of their hiding places, quickly tried and, when warranted -- frequently, one hopes -- deported or destroyed with extreme prejudice. Imprisonment is such, oh, "old hat" in current circumstances, particularly because these little Islamic terror incidents crop up more and more here and abroad. Of course, I'm no expert, but it seems that justifiable executions of rabid vermin which can't even rise to the dictionary definition of cockroach are warranted.

The lone gunman. The lone psychiatrist. The lone radical Muslim. Add it up any way you wish, "lone" seldom means what those with a political agenda try to spin. What a wonderful time to not waste a crisis, to quote, um, somebody or another, and instead to tell Washington officials to take political correctness and shove it up where the sun doesn't shine -- if there's still room with some leaders' heads and brains clearly shoved and lodged so far up those crevices already. Lives will depend upon it.

Oh, just an afterthought, but, while you legislative folks are at it, start thinking of nice, polite ways to deny anything and everything to illegal people who really to need to pack and get their criminal butts out of my country. I know, I know, different subject, same time of day.

The games are over, and before one more dedicated young military officer or enlisted person, cop, fireman, or FBI agent puts his or her life up for grabs in the service of his or her country, the appropriate factions of this government must go all out to assure maximum safety. If that means putting a little "diversity" aside, that's just too bad. What good are diversity and pleasantries exchanged during Washington cocktail parties, when the most truly and dangerously diverse amongst us here in the USA endeavor 24-7 to destroy us? Do something, and do it quickly. The time for hand-wringing and worrying about sugar-coated official legacies for the history books must wait.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Come Back to the Five and Dime Barry Goldwater, Barry Goldwater

As a recipient of letters from Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960s, I can assure one and all that he did not harbor an intensive public interest in UFOs, a bit of fiction helped along by a phony letter with RFK's signature which continues to make Internet rounds.

But then there was Arizona's Senator Barry Goldwater, a Republican who might have become President in 1964 if not for the endeavors of an opposition successfully and absurdly depicting him as a madman whose efforts would result in a nuclear holocaust. I felt an immense respect for Goldwater, particularly because he wasn't afraid to speak his mind (for example, many among his congressional colleagues and military personnel went spastic with outrage in later years when he suggested that openly allowing homosexuals in the Armed Services is no big deal) and didn't walk the politically correct tightrope which concerns so many public servants anymore. I'm not saying I wanted him to nuke the world, but at least he would have been forthright enough to announce on TV, folks, tomorrow morning at 8:00 sharp I'm blowing up the world, and that's how it's gonna be. You just have to respect that refreshing, take-charge attitude.

Many "pro" statements about UFOs made by this late senator happen to be true. We printed one of his letters about the subject a few months ago (put his name in the on-site search engine above and that entry should pop up), and it's hardly the only one out there.

Back in the sixties and seventies, when UFOs were hot stuff and the national media stayed awake and alert, throbbing with a palpable pulse, notable events sometimes happened or were reported about almost simultaneously. During the first two weeks of November, 1973, Senator -- and retired Air Force Reserve Brigadier General -- Goldwater told students during a speech at Washington State College that UFOs are real. According to an Associated Press story that echoed throughout the nation, seasoned pilot Goldwater stated, "I've been flying for 44 years, and I'm the last guy that's going to say I don't believe they're up there." Asked about UFOs during the question-and-answer session, Goldwater replied, "I've never seen one. But when Air Force pilots, Navy pilots and airline pilots tell me they see something come up on their wing that wasn't an airplane, I have to believe them."

However, the ink regarding Goldwater had barely dried on newspapers from coast to coast before the AP coughed up another gem, the bizarre story from Canada of an Ottawa family pursued by a UFO sometime during the same week when Barry Goldwater gifted the U.S. with his insight. These were the days, mind you, when UFOs not only tended to take the high road, they also took the roads less traveled during darkness, and on this evening occasion an object with flashing white lights was reported to have chased a family's truck along Highway 417 at speeds up to 100 miles an hour.

"I noticed these bright lights in my side-view mirror, claimed Rick Bouchard, 25, driving with his wife and three small children aboard. According to his account, the object seemed to be about 10 feet wide and even at speeds up to 100 miles per hour the UFO approached within 15 feet of the truck and hovered about four feet above the road.

"The children were petrified," said Bouchard's wife, Donna. The UFO finally disappeared behind trees and police were notified.

Adding to the mystery, a family friend returned to that stretch of highway later in the evening to investigate and reported pursuit by a similar object. Ron Hamelin, a 19-year-old who knew and worked with Rick Bouchard, said when he turned off his lights the object disappeared. "I know what I saw," Hamelin insisted. "If people don't believe me, that's tough."

Enter The National Enquirer. Though a significant percentage of almost any population would roll their eyes and bemoan the Enquirer's long reputation as a sensational tabloid, some of us know a not so secret secret -- that the Enquirer of particularly the seventies and eighties offered a wealth of well-researched reports on UFO activity. This I learned personally, when the publication dispatched one, and eventually a second reporter to Central NY to investigate some major UFO activity, and I had an opportunity to watch them hard at work, practicing honest-to-goodness journalism (for more, type National Enquirer in the search engine above).

So UFO sightings and close encounter reports became nearly as commonplace as moths near a flame in 1973, all in the absence of the Air Force's long-dismantled Project Blue Book, and despite the subject's presumed banishment from common sense via the non-science performed by Dr. Edward Condon and his merry debunkers at the University of Colorado.

The thing was, however, watchdogs at The Enquirer had not neglected Barry Goldwater's November surprise, and when the January 6, 1974 edition of the tabloid hit national newsstands, grocery stores and pharmacies, Senator Goldwater returned with a vengeance: "I Believe Earth Has Been Visited By Creatures From Outer Space," screamed the quote above the Enquirer's exclusive interview with the senator. "I'm not convinced," Goldwater told reporter Allan A. Zullo, "after having been around for 65 years, that human beings are the smartest creatures in the universe. . .They may not look or talk like us, but I have very strong feelings they have advanced past our mental capabilities."

Admitting to cases where military and commercial pilots revealed to him instances where UFOs approached them and then would "just zoom away at incredible speeds," Goldwater regretted his inability to examine UFO research files at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "I asked Gen. Curtis LeMay, who for years was head of the Strategic Air Command, for permission to check into the files and he told me: 'Hell no, and don't ask me again.' I think some highly secret government UFO investigations are going on that we don't know about -- and probably never will unless the Air Force discloses them.

"But someday soon," advised Goldwater, "someone's going to have strong UFO evidence that can't be explained away."
And so we wait. Meanwhile, Sen. Goldwater, Richard Hall, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. John Mack, Dr. James McDonald and a host of others who explored pathways to the unknown are gone. Too bad that the passage of time can't confine itself to the face of a clock and not intrude upon our brief flirtations with life and curiosity.

(Thanks to playwright Ed Graczyk for naming his play -- eventually a movie -- "Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," which I knew of but never saw, and went bonkers over when I needed a title for today's entry.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

(Don't) Send in the Clowns

You don't forget that first letter to the editor when you're a teenager -- you know, the one that actually saw print in a newspaper, one of those paper thingies with ink on every page? Maybe you're old enough to answer the question, what's black and white and read all over? That's correct, it's a. . .well, I guess nobody really cares much anymore.

My first letter appeared in a newspaper during the summer of 1965, precipitated while interesting UFO sightings seemed to engulf the world and its news services. The reason for my literary outburst was a feeling of incredulity when I read of a UFO flying over the Azores with a curious ability to literally stop cold a weather station's electromagnetic clock. Time may not have stood still, but the clock apparently did. Nevertheless, during this period when UFOs were seen over Portugal as well as the Azores, an obligatory official explanation was soon thrown out to the anxious media like a soup bone to a starving dog pack, and all were enlightened with the knowledge that a "research balloon" launched from India was responsible! Surely, I post-adolescently editorialized, weather station personnel would know if balloons could stop their clocks, otherwise why should this become a news event?

As it was, 1965 was already a very big year for international UFO reports, and people all over the United States reported an abundance of strange sights in the skies. The Air Force and Project Blue Book, stressed by the sheer volume of reports, insisted to inquisitive reporters that all was well -- after all, they had their own time-worn (nevertheless, misleading) statistics to "prove" it, and frenzied newspaper editors gobbled up any officially-flavored numbers they could get like turkey buzzards at a decaying road kill feast.

The thing is, UFO reports weren't progressing quite the way skeptics and debunkers expected. For example, when thousands of people in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas began seeing bright lights and defined objects zipping across summer skies in late July and early August of 1965, Air Force spokesmen came to the rescue of cool heads by explaining that wide-eyed UFO observers were probably misidentifying not only the planet Jupiter -- frequently the culprit whenever doubt needs to be introduced -- but also the stars Aldebaran, Rigel, Capella and Betelgeuse.

Unfortunately, much of the national press couldn't be bothered to report soon thereafter that all of these heavenly bodies were only visible from the other side of the earth during times of UFO activity. Despite a lack of substantial follow-up in the media, at least some news services took the opportunity to listen to witnesses such as an Air Force weather observer in Oklahoma, who assured one and all that he had watched objects exhibiting apparent structural features.
Broadcaster and writer (the late) Frank Edwards, famous for his UFO interest, couldn't have said it any better when he entitled his best-seller, Flying Saucers: Serious Business, quoted from an official statement about the phenomenon. And "saucers" were on America's mind, especially because reputable accounts of UFO landings and ground evidence began to surface. UFOs had reached a level causing reasonable concern for the U.S. public, if not downright fear on the part of some.
Then, during the first week of September, 1965, an event of extreme significance occurred in Exeter, New Hampshire as a young man named Normal Muscarello walked home on a lonely road from his girlfriend's house, long after dark. Suddenly, a large object with red lights appeared and seemed to pursue the frightened teenager. The story is related in detail in John G. Fuller's classic book, Incident at Exeter (also excerpted in Look Magazine in 1965), but suffice it to say that the boy eventually convinced a police officer to return to the scene with him that night, whereupon both -- and other area witnesses, as it turned out -- witnessed what may have been the same huge object rising silently from a field near the road, and then. . .
And then. . . here it is, almost 45 years later. Muscarello joined the Navy soon after his UFO event, became an adult and died much too soon in 2003, still haunted by his UFO experience -- or maybe the word is affected, not haunted. Whatever the word is, it wasn't good, because Muscarello and other witnesses never found the explanation they wanted and probably needed more than even they realized. One thing's for sure, the explanation wasn't Jupiter and it wasn't Betelgeuse.

So, these days I raise an eyebrow now and then, and I'm a little dismayed. I think back upon the days of the "Giant Rock" contactee-lovin' UFO meetings in California of the fifties, and all the considerably more serious UFO conventions which became commonplace in the sixties and seventies, and which survive to the current day. At least these sober attempts keep the UFO issue out there, alive and kicking for the media.

What concerns me, however, are the tribute sites, and I refer to solid-ground places, not Web sites -- locations of historic UFO events land-marked and turned into profitable "cash cows" by locals. These ventures didn't really bother me until I read several news stories about the "first" UFO festival in Exeter last September 5, noteworthy for laughs, good times, good food and refreshments, sales of all sorts of "UFO" nonsense, contests, posters drawn by children (who had a really, really nice time. . .) and -- well, you get it. It was apparently like a neighborhood circus or a cavalcade of weird field day exhibits or something. Bah. Humbug.

On one hand, I understand how this presumably annual affair will serve as an X-marks-the-spot designation for one of the most famous UFO incidents ever, and I know there are people who truly wish to honor experiences retrieved from fading memories and powerful writing related to that September night so long ago, so many surreal light years ago.

But the circus atmosphere? Aliens to laugh over, and spaceships to draw for prizes? Where are Dorothy and Toto? The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion? Was Barney invited? Shouldn't they attend? Should we? What of the science, what about the horror, the shock, the missing time and confusion, repressed agonies and inconceivable intrusions upon mind and body? What about wounds that even time can't heal because the wounds, at least intellectually, continue for close-encounter UFO witnesses? Are cakes and pies and ice cream cones the solution, as children colorfully draw monotonous alien faces on sidewalks? Yes, but in these economically strapped times, some might say, towns and cities need the cash derived from these fun events and. . .

Shall we have ocean cruises with drunken parties to commemorate the disappearance of young pilot Frederick Valentich at sea after a possibly terrifying UFO-related disaster? Might we "celebrate" the Cash-Landrum incident (whether UFO territory or conventional) with microwave-radiated chicken dinners? Shall caterers be hired to bake cakes and provide food entertainment at homes where presumed UFO abductions have come to horrifying light in the minds of alleged abductees? For a proper remembrance of the Travis Walton abduction, how's about an annual pickup truck tailgate party in the woods, a green event featuring folks chasing one another around with chainsaws?
Why not an annual fishing derby in the Pascagoula River to keep the memory of Hickson and Parker's UFO encounter alive, with an appearance by the newly-infamous "Balloon Boy's" family and a special trophy awarded to the fisherman most likely to experience a mental breakdown after catching the biggest fish? Let's consider an annual dog show to mark the anniversary of Barney and Betty Hill's terrifying experience, where people can judge dogs that most resemble the Hills' favorite canine, Delsey.

Could we note the UFO-involved/not UFO-involved plane crash of Capt. Thomas Mantell with a race car destruction event at a racetrack somewhere in Kentucky? How about the fifties Lake Superior incident where radar showed a huge UFO and pursuing military aircraft merging, with neither craft nor two-man crew ever seen again? Surely, that's worthy of an annual lakeside volleyball tournament, spotlighting children's drawings of dedicated pilots in fear for their lives.

Have we lost our minds?

It's discouraging enough when we can't get scientists to give the UFO issue a second look, and it's head-hammering outrageous when we see events begging for a serious investigation turned into clown shows. I, for one, don't intend to attend such affairs, only to be asked by some 10-year-old attired as a space alien, why did the UFO cross the road?* Halloween only comes once a year, and notable UFO incidents would best be commemorated in the halls of scientific inquiry, not on street corners or sidewalks.

(* Um, to get to the other side, yuk, yuk. . .)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UFO Classics for Free

What's that? You say you looked for UFO books in your local library and all the dusty shelves held was a well-worn copy of My Trip to Mars, the Moon and Venus by Buck Nelson, and a couple of deservedly ignored volumes by the late Phil Klass?

With the economy in turmoil, maybe you'd like to purchase some good books about UFOs, but can't afford them, nor do you know what titles to choose.

Well, there's a temporary solution as close as your keyboard, and all you need to do is click on the NICAP link in the margin (that is, the link for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena). Once there, click on the section offering free book downloads and you'll be on your way to sampling some very worthwhile history. A few of the classics.

For starters, there's 1964's NICAP document, The UFO Evidence, the landmark report sent to every member of Congress to alert them of the UFO issue's serious nature.

Ufology, by James McCampbell, addresses the possible relationship of UFOs to microwave energy and other power fields. UFOs: A New Look is a classic NICAP publication dealing with UFO evidence. Ted Bloecher's Report on the UFO Wave of 1947 superbly covers a year important to early UFO history.

Maj. Donald Keyhoe's first UFO book, a 1950 paperback entitled Flying Saucers are Real is also available as a free and instant download, as is Leonard Stringfield's early publication, Inside Saucer Post. . .3-0 Blue. The original sixties Congressional symposium on UFOs is here, as well as Capt. Edward Ruppelt's 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, involving his work as chief of the Air Force's Project Blue Book.
Don't miss Alfred Loedding and the Great Flying Saucer Wave of 1947 by Michael Hall & Wendy Connors, and Francis Ridge's Regional Encounters. Max B. Miller, an early UFO researcher, produced the classic, Flying Saucers: Fact or Fiction? which includes some interesting photos.
Be sure to check for click-on sections in blue indicated for some of the entries, as additional relating information may be available for free downloading.

Voluntary donations are always appreciated to help keep this not-for-profit educational site up and running under the guidance of researcher Francis Ridge, but accessing its contents is always free of charge.

During your visit to the NICAP tribute site, be sure to read more about the organization's accomplishments, affiliation with key personnel, detailed UFO reports and a virtual treasure chest of all the aspects of UFOs in need of a serious scientific investigation. NICAP may be history, but its goals and discoveries are more relevant than ever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Media Pathetique

Okay, I get it. The nation bit its fingernails over fears that a six-year-old boy had climbed aboard a balloon in Colorado and, of course, we're all relieved that this peculiar-looking balloon actually enjoyed a childless solo flight, no matter the curious circumstances. Yet, oh, how the press danced in the televised media ballroom, thrilled to show a mushroom-shaped "flying saucer" whizzing across the skies of Colorado. How graceful! How beautiful! How dangerous! How amazing! How high! How low! Wow, it's not even a Mogul project!

Sadly, however, the bonus wasn't there. Nobody clinging to the balloon, audibly screaming in fear, nobody performing aerial acrobatics while in free-flight, nobody perched atop the thin fabric like James Bond ready to do battle on the Golden Gate Bridge. How disappointing! What a let-down! How come nobody's waving at the camera?! Ms. Peggy Lee herself might have been tempted to shake her head and belt out a song: "Is that all there is? Is that all there is to a rampaging balloon?" And the press could have responded: If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing. . .

Perhaps it's true, contemporary journalism classes really are turning out the adult version of TV babies, charged with an ability to investigate little more than shiny hypnotic images capable of rendering them senseless, hopelessly entwined in the pitfalls of brain function deprivation.

This isn't exactly a Ph.D. level observation, but'cha know I watched this freaking balloon video on TV "news" shows long, long after the biggest story in the country deflated -- pardon the balloon comparison -- to a major non-story, and I thought, yep, things are normal. For decades, all manner of high-ranking and impressive active duty and former military personnel have come forward and described fantastic encounters with things in the sky exhibiting characteristics far more incredible than the flight of a helium balloon, but Big Media just won't or can't be bothered to shout out a big "Hey, lookee here!" regarding that untidy elephant in the living room. The Colorado balloon was so. . .so. . .well, there were close-up telephoto videos and motion and the thing was spinning as if Dr. F. Anton Mesmer himself had invented the damned thing so the whole nation could fall into a trance.

So, innocuous balloons are welcome to flit about in the skies, posing for expensive photographic equipment and grown-up TV babies, and while everybody's sending instant images of nothing special to the media the sober voices of former military personnel warning that UFOs have the capacity to screw around at our nuclear missile bases go unheard, unheeded. I get it. Who wants to listen to this stuff when it's such fun to watch balloons spin and cruise overhead, or to discover animal faces in the clouds?

Look, I'm glad a kid wasn't in the balloon, because he wouldn't have had a prayer, not this time, not like on TV dramas ripped from the headlines where everything makes sense. I just wish the mature professional TV-baby journalists would put a little more effort into checking out other things in the sky, weird, usually off-camera stuff capable of intimidating military installations and confounding official personnel.

Big Media already has a public relations problem, a.k.a. down-home credibility, and someday that problem may escalate faster than a helium balloon set at warp-speed when the most untold news story ever untold hits the streets. When words matter more than videos or color graphics, who will give us the truth and be bold enough to demand answers? What will TV-baby journalists do? How will they cope? Who will change their diapers when scary government people tell them to go away?

(Jake Tapper, thank you for being you.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ivan the Tangible

Imagine barely reaching your teen years in the seventies and taking full advantage of an opportunity to visit and indulge in a learning relationship with the famous naturist Ivan T. Sanderson, while acquiring some great photos and recorded audio as a bonus. That's what veteran technology editor and writer Richard Grigonis recalls in his Web tribute to Sanderson at

I've posted very little on this blog about the late Ivan T. Sanderson, whom I never met. Versatile in many areas of both education and experience, and a prolific writer, Sanderson also created the (defunct) Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU), of which I remained a member and writer for its journal, Pursuit, until the organization eventually fizzled out under the increasingly troubled care of the late Robert Warth years ago.

Although my exploration of Grigonis's tribute section has barely begun, it's instantly apparent that he sees Sanderson in his own unique way, and I encourage Sanderson's many admirers and researchers to visit "Zippy" (yes, Zippy) Grigonis's site and delve into multiple chapters (some 47,000 words to date, by his estimate) already posted about Ivan, a man whom some still view as a mystery. Mr. Grigonis hosts a continuing project, so be sure to consult his Web site regularly for more about Sanderson's life, work and encounters with a (thankfully) very curious young man in search of Ivan the human. (Sanderson photo via Richard Grigonis's Web site).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Honeymooning Badly in Socorro

The marriage remains troubled, but the divorce hardly seems imminent, primarily because neither the "other" man/men or woman/women are palpable by name.
I refer, of course, to the Socorro, New Mexico UFO case of April, 1964, involving patrolman Lonnie Zamora and other possible witnesses, fellow police officers, U.S. Army and Air Force investigators, Dr. J. Allen Hynek himself, civilian UFO investigators and a cast of untold multitudes when all was said and done, or undone.

The RRR Group, seemingly intent in the long haul upon giving the old heave-ho to the Socorro incident once and for all, now approaches history with a new bend -- that, this time, the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by university students. For the evolving details, go to (and particularly watch for reader comments following the story) Frank Warren's UFO CHRONICLES Web site using the link in the margin, or click here:

and in his search engine at the top type in the word, Socorro.

On this occasion the RRR ice men cometh with interesting documentation via respected researcher Anthony Bragalia, but no names of those (allegedly) directly responsible for pulling off one hell of a prank. A balloon? Hmm -- weren't the small figures (now supposed prankster university students) observed by officer Zamora noted to disappear before it took off with a roar? So now we have everybody not only presumably escaping (in a balloon?) somehow, but the balloon had the curious ability to fly against the wind and be seen by other witnesses who continued to believe a UFO is a UFO is a UFO. And. . .how about that desert dynamite shack at the scene, would anybody in their brilliantly right hoaxing mind attempt to pull the cactus wool over a patrolman's eyes by staging the event near a potentially explosive source?

The questions linger, the Socorro skeptics and proponents rock on and little has changed. And, oh, for laughs here, once again I'm throwing in my 1965 letter from the Air Force regarding the matter. USAF spokesman Maj. Maston Jacks references Zamora's UFO as a "vehicle," but cautions us not to worry because, unidentified or unidentifiable vehicle though it may be, it wasn't a tin Lizzy driven by the usual extraterrestrial scofflaws.

In an odd way, and I do appreciate Mr. Bragalia for bringing his work to the forefront, I'm hoping that the prank solution holds up, lest we endure yet another explanation, perhaps a mad scientist's theory that Zamora's roughly egg-shaped object really WAS an egg, a gift from the residents of Alpha Centauri -- a giant extraterrestrial chicken egg piloted by vacationing Centaurians that turned hazardously rotten after a long, long journey and exploded in the desert heat, sending its remnants into the wild blue. Remember, too, the old movie, "20 Million Miles to Earth." Eggs can be both mysterious and deadly. Take heed, RRR Group, this theory awaits your attention. Next time.

So, just what happened in Socorro on that April day, a day I remember well as a 15-year-old lying outside in the yard, gazing upward while listening to a transistor radio crackling with a succession of news snippets regarding a UFO incident far away from my home in New York State? Important questions remain, and they aren't going away just because some folks wave their skeptical wand over a document, intent that the end is near. Neither turkey vultures nor Judge Judy would bother picking over this potential ado about nothing. Names, gentlemen, names and their personal how-to lessons are of the essence, thank you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oldies Still the Best: Al Chop's 1953 Classic

Why run 1953's letter from Al Chop to Maj. Donald Keyhoe's publisher again (and a better copy), having featured it two or three times before? First, because I cherish this particular triumph of correspondence from the days when letters were letters, destined to survive on paper indefinitely. How long would this document have lasted as an e-mail? As a jpg image? If converted from rich text into lackluster plain text, minus the official look, what might have been its fate? And no official seal? Please! Like a day without sunshine, to quote a TV commercial.

I've even thought of starting another blog with one eternal entry displaying this letter and nothing more, not ever. In fact, were it in my power, I think I'd instruct every TV station in the country that still runs the National Anthem before signing off for the night to show Al Chop's letter prominently prior to a hitting the goodnight switch. I don't know, maybe a sober viewing should be a requirement for every high school American history class in the U.S. As readers of my blog regarding the 1956 movie, "UFO" know (see link), I've posted several personal letters from the late Mr. Chop over there, but this timeworn document trumps every piece of mail in my files just for the last paragraph's stand-alone shock effect from a man of integrity who was just trying to do his job.

Albert M. Chop, chief of the Pentagon's Air Force press desk, did far more than type out a letter to Henry Holt & Co., a major U.S. publisher -- he put a time line on history itself. Barely six months before churning out this testimonial to Keyhoe's UFO work, Chop had endured a very busy ringside seat and public relations tightrope amidst two bouts of apparent UFO activity high over the nation's Capitol, occurring within just a week of one another in 1952. In addition to the nightmarish days and nights which followed him to and from the Air Force press desk, Chop was already so impressed by a wealth of good military and airline UFO encounters that he slowly transformed from UFO skeptic to ardent proponent. Keep in mind, Al was an ex-Marine with a dual reputation as a responsible journalist, unlikely to radically alter his views without just cause.

So -- Mr. Chop answered a letter from Henry Holt & Co., responding in a remarkably freestyle manner regarding the possible origin of UFOs. Hard to believe, but up to that time a fellow working for the government could openly speculate a bit on things like this. Yes, he took a little -- a little -- flack from superiors over this because Al never suspected (though he should have) that the publicity folks at Henry Holt would take rabid advantage of a delicious opportunity to post the letter on the back of Keyhoe's new book jacket for the whole country to see and purchase (for some reason, as we've mentioned on a previous occasion, the British version did not include Chop's letter on the jacket). Flying Saucers From Outer Space was Keyhoe's title for this 1953 release, and now it seemed to project a profitable aura of official sanctioning about it, even if it didn't. Good. So what?

But, as I said, Chop accomplished not simply a letter, but an historic time line, an indelible stamp, on January 26, 1953, for this was the year when the "Robertson Panel" convened. 1953 was also the year that aeronautical engineer Capt. Ed Ruppelt departed Project Blue Book and the Air Force, only to die of a heart attack a few years later, still a relatively young man. Al left government service that year, too, for a while, but the reason, far from being job-related, was the simple fact that his beloved wife, Dee, hated crowded Washington and yearned for the open spaces. So they up and moved West, Al went to work for Douglas Aircraft Co. and eventually rejoined the government payroll, first at NASA (sometimes as the voice of mission control during a space launch) and then with the Atomic Energy Commission.

Al's letter pretty much delineates the end of an era, a period when citizens could depend somewhat upon openness in government. The CIA, H.P. Robertson and the gang were concerned about UFO reports messing up intelligence channels integral to national security, so everybody went nuts and decided to downplay UFOs from that point forward. Maybe it was a good idea at the time, but -- but look where we are today. The policy never went away and things just became worse. Any, any -- any government public information official daring to write a letter like that on official paper tomorrow would be nailed faster than you can say yes-we-can.

Way back in this blog, I posed a question or two about heroes, contemplating who they are and what makes them heroes. While many are obvious, too many more are not. Is it heroic, for instance, for ex-military personnel to come forward and alert the public that those UFOs which governments so stringently deny are actually, from their own perspective and observation, intelligently controlled objects sired by amazing sources unknown, even when such admissions may questionably violate security oaths they took years ago?

Make no mistake, Chop echoed the UFO opinions of many in the government, though being far too modest and careful to specify more than "some of the personnel" in his letter, at this time when freedom of official speech glowed refreshingly tangible in specific instances. "Some of the personnel," hardly a reference to office folks standing around a water cooler, meant high-ranking military people, engineers and scientists, and there were many standing silently on Chop's side of the philosophical aisle.

Contrast the early fifties with the current day, when former military officers such as Robert Salas and Charles Halt come forward, probably at considerable risk to themselves, to alert us of incidents which open governments are charged with telling us about, but won't. Yet, the numbers of former military UFO whistle blowers appear to be on a steady increase (per especially the research and writings of Robert Hastings and revelations from the Bentwaters RAF base/Rendlesham Forest witnesses). Who are our modern heroes? Who are the new patriots -- or is there a "new?"

Funny, isn't it? In Chop's time, everybody recognized the enemy. Now, nebulous forces and agents of regulation consider us our own worst enemy, and telling the truth is, presumably, a punishable offense, as supposed national security entities wait vigilantly to wield a destructive club in strange ways against their own. Our own. Oh, absolutely yes, how I honor Al Chop's truthful, lay-it-on-the-line letter to Henry Holt & Co., truly bold and tragically emblematic for the end of an era.