Saturday, October 16, 2010

Post Hole Digger

Oh cry, cry the wretched literary disparity necessitated by freedom of the press at The Washington Post.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, wait, I think that's been done before. It was the best of times, it was the worst. . .darn, this is so difficult sometimes.

Please be assured, I wish no ill will toward John Kelly, staff writer at the Post, who seemed surprised to receive a wealth of angry mail following his, hmm, rather dismissive piece about Robert Hastings' (nonetheless important) UFOs and nukes presentation before the National Press Club on September 27. In his October 5 article, journalist Kelly sampled a few pieces of mail sent along by folks who thought maybeeeeee he should have attended for other reasons than merely to enjoy the donuts.

So the donuts, like the NPC proceedings, by now have been long swallowed, digested, fermented and, um, dispatched. And Mr. Kelly's report about the affair, ufologically focused though it could have been, will be remembered as a few paragraphs about donuts at some press meeting relative to something or another.

But what a difference a few years make. Instead of lamenting what is, better that I return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and what was. Witness The Washington Post in July, 2007, and, being much too lazy to come up with new verbiage today, I'll quote from a 2007 five-part article I wrote for this blog entitled, "As Weird as it Gets." You can access the series in the search engine above if you wish, but here's the portion regarding the variety of journalistic face I prefer worn at the WP:


most of us slept during the wee small hours of July 26, 2007, oblivious to the routine world of consciousness, a fast-paced drama portrayed to the press in benign terms, yet of perhaps immense significance simply because the public learned of it at all, was playing out over the skies of Maryland, not all that far from the highly restricted air space of the nation's Capitol. While the basics happened to emerge here and there from the deluge of information that confronts newspaper and electronic media editors daily, chances are good that the story escapes you to this very day.

Around 1:00 on that otherwise quiet Friday morning, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado made radar contact with an apparent low, slow-moving aircraft outside of D.C. Unable to establish radio contact with this unidentified target in a post September 11 country that can no longer afford to leisurely ask questions first and shoot later, NORAD immediately scrambled two armed F-16s from the 113th Air National Guard squadron at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington.

We are told that as the jets investigated, the image faded from NORAD radar and the pilots returned to base after seeing nothing in the skies. However, as peculiar stories often tend to do, this one became increasingly mysterious.

WTOP-AM, an all-news radio station in D.C., began getting calls from listeners near Andrews AFB who were not only "shaken from their beds" as the jets took off in a hurry, but claimed to have seen either a bright blue or orange ball of light moving very fast while the jets screamed overhead in pursuit.

By the next morning, reporter Steve Vogel of The Washington Post had sorted out the facts and revealed a few surprises as well for the daily edition. He, like WTOP, spoke with witnesses and was given particularly to quote from one named Renny Rogers of the nearby Maryland suburb of Waldorf. Rogers, whom UFO (unidentified flying object) researchers later learned had actually run in and outside of his house twice as the jets were engaged in an apparent chase, described seeing a "light blue object traveling at a phenomenal rate of speed."

"This Air Force jet was right behind it, chasing it," he added, "but the object was just leaving him in the dust. I told my neighbor, 'I think those jets are chasing a UFO.'" Rogers had already insisted to a WTOP reporter that the object displayed no smoke or trail, no flashing lights, appeared smooth and seemed "eerily silent."

Maj. Douglas Martin of NORAD in Colorado, according to Vogel's report, stated that radar had detected "a track of interest," but fighter pilots observed nothing. "Everything was fine in the sky and they returned home," Martin advised. Maj. Barry Venable, another NORAD spokesman, bluntly told The Washington Post, "There are any number of scenarios, but we don't know what it was."

Other than the Post, media coverage of this incident, intriguing especially because of the official candor involved in even confirming publicly the presence of an unknown on radar that necessitated a military scramble, proved pathetically sparse and the incident received brief mention in a handful of cable news programs and newspapers before disappearing into accounts on various Internet sites.

Nevertheless, the fact that The Washington Post bothered to cover this story at all further authenticated its significance. Incredibly, just a few days before the scramble, WP reporter Peter Carlson had written an astonishingly open-minded look back 50 years ago, when Washington experienced well-documented instances of UFO activity, including reportedly solid radar returns and pursuing pilot visualization. UFO researchers, accustomed to decades of abundant UFO-ridiculing newspaper reports in the U.S., were taken aback that a major U.S. newspaper afforded the subject a thoughtful examination. This writer's brief query to Carlson revealed that his article did elicit a good response from readers.

In an intriguing footnote to Carlson's piece, the July 26 F-16 scramble coincided exactly 50 years to the day with July 26 of 1952, when a major multi-UFO event occurred over the Capitol.


There you have it, readers. Some Washington Post writers alert the public about UFOs, while others judge donuts. Still, I guess writing about refreshments at press club gatherings beats the approach taken by the perpetually snooty New York Times, which chose to offer nothing of substance whatsoever about Hastings' presentation. Maybe they were busy waiting for a bulletin-level pronouncement from SETI, where shocking are-we-alone? news happens all the time, and there's probably not a donut in sight.

BRING "BALLOON BOY" BACK: If some reports are correct about this incident ,all one has to do is release a few balloons in the skies over Manhattan, and the major TV networks and screen crawls lap up the ha-ha-not-really-UFOs feature story like kittens at a milk festival. But give 'em the real thing and they'll sooner do a piece on dust bunnies or Hollywood blah-blah-blah. Unfortunately, the usual suspects (debunkers) may well have a balloon field day with this possible non-event to arbitrarily explain away substantial UFO cases for weeks to come.