Monday, May 13, 2013

That "Citizens Hearing" on UFO Disclosure Got the Respect it Deserved - (Very Little)

Recently I wrote about the forthcoming "Citizens Hearing on UFO Disclosure" arranged by the Paradigm Research Group, headed up by Steven Bassett.

Parapolitical's image of Sen. Gravel
In past exercises in UFO "disclosures," the major media were surprisingly passive and uncritical, taking the "revelations" at face value. And some were still credulous this time and could see nothing amiss about these wild claims, for example the New York Times.

But not all of the media were quite so uncritical this time - some reporters actually did their jobs. Some noted the fees being paid to the ex-Congressmen, and the absence of any skeptical witnesses. A full week before the "hearings" began, on April 21, the website Parapolitical had a long and quite cheeky review of the forthcoming proceedings titled "UFO Carnival Returns to National Press Club ."   Among its observations were:
What is more significant than the topic of the event, however, is the fact that it marks a first-ever convening of the, hands-down, nuttiest U.S. congressmen who ever lived....Historic Meeting of Lunatics - The hearing panel will be headlined by former congressman Merrill Cook (R – Utah) who was once banned from his own party’s offices after a profanity-laced tirade and was famously plagued during his few years in Congress by reports of erratic behavior leveled by his own staff. “Merrill has taken up permanent residence in whacko land,” Cook’s chief of staff Janet Jenson wrote in an intra-office e-mail in 2000. ”If he asks you to fax his underwear to the speaker’s office, please just do it.”
 Joining Cook will be former congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R – Maryland). The 86 year-old raised eyebrows in 2004 when he attended a Unification Church event to receive the “Ambassador of Peace medal” from cult leader Sun Myung Moon who, afterwards, declared himself the Messiah and his wife the Assistant Messiah as Bartlett watched in delight...The crazy train doesn’t stop there. Also appearing is former congresswoman Cheeks Kilpatrick (D- Michigan) who embarrassingly failed to receive her own party’s re-nomination in 2010 owing, in part, to her connections with  her son, the disgraced former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (who is facing up to 30 years in prison after being convicted of 24 federal crimes involving stripper parties at the mayoral mansion, funneling city funds to his wife, tax evasion, mail fraud, assaulting police officers, and more).
Rounding out this happy band of lunatics is former senator Mike Gravel (D- Alaska). Since his most recent bankruptcy, Gravel has pathetically taken to making public appearances for anyone who will buy him lunch – his previous engagements have included a conference sponsored by the holocaust denial website Barnes Review. (UFO conspiracies aren’t Gravel’s only angle. He’s also been working the 9/11 Truth circuit and several truther websites have accused him of absconding with donor funds.)
Not surprisingly, perhaps, these probably cash-strapped has-beens are each getting $20,000 to perform at  the Paradigm Research “Citizen Hearing.” 
In fact, the cost of the entire circus has been pegged at $600,000. Who is paying for all this? There was a lot of uninformed speculation on the internet, but it looks like Parapolitical has nailed it down:
Following much speculation, Steve Bassett – the ringmaster of next week’s UFO carnival  – has identified his financial backer for the event as a man named “Tom Clearwater” who lives in Canada. Who is Tom Clearwater? A Twitter account belonging to a “Thomas Clearwater” of Vancouver is filled with tweets containing links to websites that claim a U.S. government laser beam destroyed the World Trade Center. So, yeah … maybe that guy.

The New York Daily News pulled no punches, and showed the "hearings" for what they really were: SPACE CADETS HIT D.C.: UFO buffs beam up to well-paid ex-pols. "Six former members of Congress, who were paid $20,000 each, heard testimony on the U.S. government trying to cover up contact made with extraterrestrial life."

Daily News photo: "Ret. USAF Col. Billie F. Woodard shows off his shirt and Lemurian Crystal headband during the hearing."

Lee Speigel, Weird News reporter for the Huffington Post, sat there at the National Press Club all week long to listen to this thing. He provided live updates during the week. He listened to all this so we don't have to! (Don't feel too sorry for him. He's a reporter, he got paid to do this.). If you want to read his full coverage, his five articles are here:
1. Citizen Hearing On Disclosure: UFO Believers To Testify At Congressional-Style Hearings
 2. Citizen Hearing On Disclosure Day 2: England Has Close Encounter, UFOs Tamper With Nuclear Sites
3. Citizen Hearing On Disclosure Day 3: Panel Takes On Animal Mutilations And Roswell Crash
4. Citizen Hearing On Disclosure Day 4: Global UFO Encounters Take The Stage 
5. Citizen Hearing On Disclosure: Pilots Testify To UFO Encounters
Lee Speigel (right) with Yours Truly at the 2011 MUFON Symposium
 Here are some highlights from Speigel's Live Updates:
"Linda Moulton Howe on reported UFO abductions and the possible manipulation of the human mind. She tells a story about a military person who told her he was on a team that, in 1978, was assigned to investigate a town that was allegedly flooded by extraterrestrials."

"Kilpatrick introduces Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. “I am honored today to take on this assignment, and to have one of the leaders here on this topic. I’m honored to introduce Minister Louis Farrakhan.” To which, stood up to mild applause. " [Farrakhan claims to be a UFO Contactee. She also introduced Dick Gregory.]

 "Sgt. James Penniston claims a Close Encounter With A UFO Taking Off" (Rendlesham Forest, U.K, 1980). Apparently nobody asked him about that 'binary message' that he supposedly received "telepathically" from the UFO, and wrote down - thirty years afterward.
"Cong. Roscoe Bartlett gets a little testy about the press coverage so far about this week's Citizen Hearing On Disclosure: "I've been looking at some of the press clippings from yesterday's session and the government has been quite successful in relegating this issue to the lunatic fringe." [Does this former Congressman think that the government controls stories in the press?] "I'm going to comment on only one article. [Not specified, but from the Atlantic Wire.] It says 'The mock Congress hearing on aliens is heavy on real-life Mulders and not Scullys.'" [But this is correct: the "hearings" consist entirely of True Believers, and no skeptics.] "The trouble with this week's alien panel (we're an alien panel now) at the National Press Club is that any of the participating members of Congress who might naturally be a Scully have been incentived to suspend their disbelief. Because the Citizen Hearing foundation is paying them $20,000 plus expenses to listen to the testimony.'" "That's just insulting, that we can be bought for $20,000." [What is the going price these days for a has-been former Congressman? Perhaps he feels insulted because he was bought too cheaply?]
Dr. Robert Wood, the principal promoter of recent MJ-12 documents (supposedly revealing a secret government UFO coverup group), said ""The identification of one aspect of a questioned document as being anomalous often results in a skeptic accepting none of the rest of the document, even though it might be filled with accurate information. It seems to be accepted in the intelligence community that faked documents usually -- if not often -- contain much valid information to help get it accepted as genuine throughout." [ In other words, the MJ-12 documents are Fake, but Accurate.]

Lt. Col Richard French (Ret) told the committee about an incident he witnessed in the late 1960s in Alamogordo, N.M.: "While there, I learned of an accident a few miles away in the direction of White Sands [missile range]. A short time later, I witnessed the takeoff of a prototype fighter aircraft that I neither recognized or knew what it was. The aircraft took off at a very high rate of speed and fired a rocket, five inches in diameter and about six feet long... Afterward [I was told] there was an unknown number of humanoids, either killed or injured. The parts of the casualties were taken to base operations at Holloman Air Force Base [in New Mexico]. The only parts of the craft that I was allowed to see had markings that appeared to be Arabic or some language I didn't understand."
 Speigel has a follow-up interview with French in which French describes seeing underwater UFOs while standing  with a crowd of people on a wharf in St. John's, Newfoundland, where Blue Book sent him. Two glowing underwater UFOs were apparently being repaired by two swimming ETs. (My understanding is that Project Blue Book did not send investigators to foreign countries to investigate UFOs reported there. )

French claims to have been an investigator and paid "debunker" for the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book. However, John Keel has this to say about French in The Mothman Prophecies:

“Did you ever hear of anyone—especially an air force officer—trying to drink Jell-O?” Mrs. Ralph Butler of Owatonna, Minnesota, asked. “Well, that’s what he did. He acted like he had never seen any before. He picked up the bowl and tried to drink it. I had to show him how to eat it with a spoon.“
Mrs. Butler was describing the man who had visited her in May 1967, following a flurry of UFO sightings in Owatonna. He said he was Major Richard French of the U.S. Air Force although he was dressed in civilian clothes and was driving a white Mustang. His neat gray suit and everything else he was wearing appeared to be brand-new.

Even the soles of his shoes were unscuffed, unwalked upon. He was about five feet nine inches tall, with an olive complexion and a pointed face. His hair was dark and very long—too long for an air force officer, Mrs. Butler thought. Unlike Jack Brown, Major French was a fluent conversationalist and seemed perfectly normal until he complained about his stomach bothering him. When Mrs. Butler offered him the Jell-O she suspected for the first time that something was out of kilter.
Richard French was an imposter. One of the many wandering around the United States in 1967. For years these characters had caused acute paranoia among the flying saucer enthusiasts, convincing them that the air force was investigating them, silencing witnesses and indulging in all kinds of unsavory activities—including murder. When I first began collecting such reports I was naturally suspicious of the people making such reports. It all seemed like a massive put-on. But gradually it became apparent that the same minute details were turning up in widely separated cases, and none of these details had been published anywhere ... not even in the little newsletters of the UFO cultists.
There was somebody out there, all right. A few, like Richard French, almost pulled off their capers without drawing attention to themselves. But in nearly every case there was always some small error, some slip of dress or behavior which the witnesses were usually willing to overlook but which stood out like signal flares to me.

They often arrived in old model cars which were as shiny and well kept as brand-new vehicles. Sometimes they slipped up in their dress, wearing clothes that were out of fashion or, even more perturbing, would not come into fashion until years later. Those who posed as military officers obviously had no knowledge of military procedure or basic military jargon. If they had occasion to pull out a wallet or notebook, it would be brand-new ...although most men carry beat-up old wallets and notebooks quickly gain a worn look. Finally, like the fairies of old, they often collected souvenirs from the witnesses ... delightedly walking away with an old magazine, pen, or other small expendable object.
Keel seems to be suggesting that French was an extraterrestrial! Or at least an MIB. While I find both suggestions extremely unlikely, the point being made is that French was an "impostor" and did not represent Project Blue Book, although he may have gone around pretending like he did. Is there any documentation to prove that French actually worked with Project Blue Book? A search for "French" in the Blue Book archive returns nothing except references to the country, or its language. By comparison, a search for "Quintanilla" returns 89 hits.

Continuing with Speigel's updates:

"Possibly the most intriguing testimony offered today so far came from a former 25-year Peruvian air force fighter pilot. Col. Oscar Santa-Maria (pictured below). In 1980, he was ordered to takeoff and shoot down a sphere-shaped UFO that was in restricted airspace near an air base. The encounter lasted more than 20 minutes. "These were 22 minutes where we went up and down, it went around, and it was trying to avoid me while I was pursuing it and I was trying to fire." [A pilot having a 'dogfight' with a supposed UFO has happened before. In 1948, Air National Guard pilot George F. Gorman spent twenty minutes in a "dogfight" with what he described as a "ball of light." The Air Force says he became disoriented while chasing a lighted weather balloon. ]
"Final Day Of Citizen UFO Hearing Takes Off With Pilot Testimony... Cong. Kilpatrick appeared very moved by the testimony of the private, commercial and military pilots as well as previous panel witnesses during the week... "I was convinced before this morning's panel that there probably is something out there, and I'm willing to work the rest of my life to see that, if it is, how we can enhance the universe to see that we all have a better quality of life." "[ Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the late USAF Project Blue Book consultant and perhaps the best-known and most-respected of UFO proponents, came to exactly the opposite conclusion. On page 271 of his 1977 book The Hynek UFO Report, Hynek wrote, "Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses."]
"a 15-minute video was a 15-minute video was about to be shown of a 77-year-old man man, in very bad health, who wanted to take the opportunity to reveal a story of what happened to him while he worked for the CIA under Pres. Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.shown of a 77-year-old man man, in very bad health, who wanted to take the opportunity to reveal a story of what happened to him while he worked for the CIA under Pres. Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. This gentleman has received numerous threats from his government not to talk... X goes on to talk about how Eisenhower was upset when he learned that there was activity going on at a base in Nevada (that would later be renamed as Area 51) that the government allegedly had no jurisdiction over. Eisenhower sent X and his boss to the base to find out what was going on there.
Photo of "Mr. X" as shown at the "hearings"
X: "There were different garage door openings and inside they had different saucer crafts. The first one was the Roswell craft -- it was kind of crashed up, but apparently every alien had died except for a couple. Later on we viewed the autopsy film and then the colonel said, 'What we've got in here is we're interviewing a grey alien.'"... X and his superior went back to Washington to meet with Eisenhower and Nixon again.
Is this "Mr X" being interviewed at the International UFO Congress, 2013? (photo by author)
"Leir, a podiatrist, described the numerous surgeries he's performed with a medical team in which they removed unusual small objects from people who claimed to have experienced alien abduction.... by use of a radio wave frequency detector, we were able to detect that certain radio frequencies in the FM band, were being emitted from the object.

Former Canada Minister Of National Defense "Paul Hellyer is widely known and credited for his work to unify the Canadian Armed Forces. In 2005, he made headlines by announcing that "UFOs are as real as the airplanes flying overhead." ...Among the things Hellyer says he has learned and believes is a particular document that concluded at least four species had been visiting Earth for thousands of years"
After the UFO carnival had ended, Parapolitical pronounced its post-mortem:
Results Are In – UFO Carnival a Failure. How bad was it? Google Trends actually recorded a decrease in online interest in the term “UFO” during the carnival. To say this week’s UFO carnival – billed as a “mock congressional hearing” – at the National Press Club was a failure would be an understatement... There are roughly 2,200 television stations in the U.S. Three covered the event. Radio coverage was similarly sparse...A search, by parapolitical, of closed captioning records of U.S. television stations found that only four stories had been filed on the UFO circus – half of them by KLAS-TV (Las Vegas). DC’s WTGG-TV gave five minutes to the subject on their morning news. They then did a segment on acrobatic cats...Bassett managed to secure the singularly nuttiest group of former congressmen to have ever walked the planet, a fact lost on no one except, apparently, the UFO believers. He also failed to organize a costume-check at the front door of the hearing (the New York Daily News photographed ufologists wearing tin foil hats). Self-described “investigative reporter” Linda Moulton Howe even wore a costume to “testify” (it appears she was dressed as a Reptilian-Grey hybrid).

Now Paradigm Research wants to take its show to the U.N.:
Citizen Hearing on Disclosure Committee Seeks UN World Conference on Possible Extraterrestrial Presence
Washington, DC – On May 3, 2013 members of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure Committee and Hearing witnesses representing ten UN member nations met at the National Press Club to draft a statement seeking United Nations review of evidence of a possible extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race. 
Presumably they will need a U.N. member nation to sponsor the motion, and the United States shows absolutely no interest in doing so. There was a previous proposal for the U.N. to study UFOs in 1977-78, sponsored by the tiny Carribean nation of Grenada (whose Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy, was a UFO buff), and organized by non other than Lee Speigel. As I wrote in my Psychic Vibrations column (in The Skeptical Inquirer) for Spring/Summer, 1978 (page 5 in the paperback book),
This past fall, Gairy braved the hazards of a trip through the Bermuda Triangle to travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, proposing that the UN set up a special agency to study UFO sightings. The New York Times reported that as Gairy spoke to the half-empty assembly hall, “the atmosphere was one of somnolence”; more diplomats appeared to be greeting friends or preparing dispatches than listening with rapt attention as the way was prepared for the great quantum leap in science. To build enthusiasm among the delegates, Gairy invited them to a showing of the much-hyped film, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Eagerly awaiting the all-important vote, the tabloid National Enquirer reported that “initial reaction seemed favorable at UN headquarters.” But when Grenada’s proposed UFO agency came to a vote, out of the other 148 member nations of the UN, only one voted with Grenada - Idi Amin’s Uganda. 

That time, the proposal to set up a U.N. agency to study UFOs at least was able to present the testimony of seemingly-credible persons like Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, and Gordon Cooper. The U.N. still ignored it. This time, they would hear from the likes of Steven Greer, Linda Moulton Howe, and Richard French. Does anyone think this U.N. proposal has even a snowflake's chance in hell of getting anywhere?