Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"To The Stars" Shares Its Misinformation with Italian Colleagues


On October 22, Tom DeLonge, founder of To The Stars Academy (TTSA, which has been the absolute center of UFO attention for the past year), posted the following enigmatic message to his Facebook page:
Tom DeLonge  October 22 at 7:17 AM ·

@tothestarsacademy has been invited into private meetings with a particular European Government on UFOs. I am on my way this morning to discuss some very interesting cooperation opportunities with a few International partners. :) #TECHNOLOGY #DATA #DISCLOSURE
Accompanying it was a photo of an airliner taken through the window of an airport terminal. Obviously, DeLonge was flying to Europe, and he wanted it to seem all mysterious. But the "mystery" was solved on the following day when he posted, "#ROME Any Italian fans here today? I’ll be walking around enjoying the amazing history."
Tom DeLonge does Rome.

It turns out that DeLonge's comment "@tothestarsacademy has been invited into private meetings with a particular European Government on UFOs" was quite disingenuous. In fact, TTSA's presentation was sponsored by the Italian UFO group CUN, which has been in existence since 1967. It is a private UFO group much like MUFON, and has no official government connections.

Before TTSA's presentation on October 27, a panel of Italian UFOlogists spoke, talking mostly about UFO history in fairly conventional terms. We hear about Project Blue Book, the UN UFO session, Carl Jung, J. Allen Hynek, Edward Ruppelt, etc. The whole session, almost four hours long, was recorded and posted to YouTube, unedited. (Approximately the first 30 minutes of the video are empty, waiting for the program to start.)
One of the slides of the Italian UFOlogists, offered with the hope of  'not offending anyone'(!). It's about SETI.
The guy standing says "Our latest technological discoveries notwithstanding, we have not yet received any
message. It's useless, there doesn't exist any civilization except us on earth."
Elizondo spoke first, to explain "why we are here." Unfortunately, "technical difficulties" prevented him from showing his slides, so he handed the microphone to DeLonge, to tell the story behind TTSA. DeLonge said,
"To The Stars has created a private company with a perpetual funding mechanism. We work with government partners to achieve the revolutionary change in mankind's destiny...[TTSA has] the first set of major motion pictures and television series in development... [also] a multi-year program plan to launch satellites into space with lasers.. and a robust program plan to achieve the engineering of the space-time metric, and most people people would call that 'anti-gravity'."
DeLonge did not explain exactly how, or when, these engineering miracles would be accomplished.

Elizondo finally got his slides to work, and continued with his version of UFO history. A full transcript of TTSA's comments has been prepared by UFO Joe (thanks, Joe!).

On October 27, UFO researcher Curt Collins posted to the Facebook page for his Blog Blue Blurry Lines that
       Elizondo claimed that this photo was "real."
(from Ray Palmer's magazine).
The Italian UFO group CUN hosted a presentation in Rome by Tom DeLonge on the TTSA, and Luis Elizondo on AATIP. Elizondo discussed the famous 1952 Washington, DC saucer event saying:
.
"In the early 1950s, the United States had another very significant event over our nation’s Capitol. Once again, these objects were identified both with the naked eye and again on radar, and unlike Roswell, many people had cameras and were able to take photographs. And what you see here are real photographs, along with the story - the headline story that came out."


Elizondo's picture is from the YouTube preview image for "UFO Sightings over Washington D.C. and The White House in 1952" by FindingUFO. It's a frame from a CGI-animated version of a picture of lens flares, and an image from an EC comic book found in the files Project Blue Book.

"Photo Fakery: Washington, DC Flying Saucers 1952," goes into detail on the history of this bogus UFO photo.
Other problems with Elizondo's presentation were quickly noted:
  • Elizondo presented a slide promoting the supposed UFO from STS-48, even suggesting that the Space Shuttle crew witnessed it. James Oberg has thoroughly debunked this claim, back in 1992
  • He also cited the supposed UFO from STS-80, which Oberg has also shown to be baseless
  • Elizondo showed a photo of a supposed "foo fighter" allegedly taken during World War II, which he said "was actually taken by a pilot in World War II.". It  is almost certainly a hoax, its provenance is unknown. No authentic photo of a supposed "foo fighter" is known to exist.
  • In Elizondo's overview of UFO history, he said, "later, in the 1940s, we had the Roswell incident. I’m not going to speculate in this room what crashed at Roswell. But those of you who are familiar with the world of intelligence, know that a military response is usually symmetrical to the incident. A crashed weather balloon does not usually merit the response of a colonel, several flat bed, military vehicles and an armed force." These claims are completely unsupported. There is no proof for the claim that "a colonel" was involved, or any military vehicles or guards.
  • In response to a question about alleged "force fields" surrounding supposed UFOs, Elizondo replied: "We can. In some cases if we know what to look for, we can actually see a distortion around these craft, surrounded it. We believe it’s a result of the propulsion that’s being used. In essence, an event horizon is created. Imagine a bubble being created around the vehicle and if you are bending space time in a localized area, one can expect electromagnetic energy to behave differently inside that event horizon than outside." This is preposterous. The so-called "glowing aura" (so named in the headline of the original New York Times story about TTSA) seen in the TicTac and Gimble UFO videos is simply a processing effect of the infrared imaging circuit. This was pointed out long ago, and it is amateurish to claim otherwise.
Elizondo's photo of supposed "foo fighters," almost certainly a hoax.
All along one frustration has been that TTSA has released little, if any, information about the cases they are promoting. But with this unedited two-hour-plus presentation by DeLonge and Luis Elizondo, we start to understand what is happening. Both DeLonge and Elizondo are Babes in the Woods when it comes to UFO claims. (We knew about DeLonge's UFO foolishness for quite some time, but until now we knew relatively little about Elizondo.) Neither of them has any real understanding of the difference between credible and non-credible sources of information concerning UFOs. Neither of them seems to have any "filter" for baseless UFO claims, and neither seems to understand the prevalence of misinformation in UFOology. (Indeed, Elizondo has previously boasted that he had purposely stayed away from reading UFO books, so as not to prejudice himself about it, meaning he knows practically nothing on the subject.)  They seem to believe every UFO claim they hear. The longtime Canadian UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski posted to the Facebook group UFO Updates, "I am more concerned every day that anyone affiliated with the TTSA has limited knowledge about the subject, beyond pop culture and sensational tabloid material." Indeed.

On October 28, DeLonge posted to Facebook,
Thank you to the Italian Government for the security you provided to me and my team all week, and thank you for having your AIR FORCE Generals, UNITED NATIONS Officials, INTELLIGENCE Operatives and VATICAN representatives attend the @tothestarsacademy briefing on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and the ADVANCED AERIAL THREAT IDENTIFICATION THREAT PROGRAM here in Rome, Italy. It was my pleasure to represent the United States and start the international conversation here, in such a wonderful country. 
Here DeLonge sounds like a cross between Stephen Greer (claiming to need protection while presenting dramatic UFO revelations) and George Adamski (claiming to meet with VATICAN representatives). Let's hope that, assuming these distinguished persons actually were present, they realize that they've been fed a line of pure, old-fashioned amateurish UFO misinformation. They might as well be listening to Stanton Friedman. In fact, as much as it pains me to say this, I think that Friedman is more credible than DeLonge, however slightly. Friedman wouldn't fall for the Capitol Dome UFO photo, or the unsourced Foo Fighters one.




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Financial Firestorm over "To The Stars"

As noted in the previous posting, the deal for "investors" to purchase shares in To The Stars Academy expired on September 28. It was available for exactly twelve months, and that time is now up. We do not know how much money was actually raised in that way, but we know that it was far less than the maximum subscription of $50 million. For a while, TTSA published the total of "investments" on its website. But when "investments" noticeably slowed at about $2 million, they removed this information. Steve Basset of the Paradigm Research Group recently posted on Facebook that TTSA raised about $2.5 million through selling shares, which is probably correct.

Rocker Tom DeLonge, founder of To The Stars.
But what set off the current wave of feces-throwing was when the Internet discovered To The Stars' required financial filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated June 30, 2018. What got everyone's attention was the passage at the bottom of page 13:
NOTE 2 – GOING CONCERN

The accompanying financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis, which contemplates the realization of assets and the satisfaction of liabilities in the normal course of business. The Company has incurred losses from operations and has an accumulated deficit at June 30, 2018 of $37,432,000. These factors raise doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.
What this appears to say is: To The Stars has assets of less than $3 million, vs. a debt of over $37 million. Therefore, it is toast. However, others maintained that this interpretation is not correct. A "deficit" is not the same as a "debt," and start-up companies reportedly often show similar "deficits" that represent only highly over-valued insider shares, or some other such financial legerdemain. This begs the question: if the "accumulated deficit" of $37 million does not really mean anything, then why does the SEC filing say that it "raise[s] doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern"?

This was discussed widely on UFO-related groups on Facebook and elsewhere, starting about September 30. As typically happens, "real journalists" picked up the story much later. On October 15, Eric Berger wrote an article for Ars Technica titled "All the dumb things? UFO project has $37 million deficit":
Put another way, after a year of fundraising, Tom DeLonge's alien business has raised just over $1 million in outside funding. The company has racked up a $37.4 million deficit, however, largely from a stock incentive plan for its employees. The financial filing states that To the Stars intends to remain in business over the next 12 months by selling additional stock. Their website says they accept credit cards, if you're so inclined to help keep the effort afloat. But bear in mind that any financial returns may be beyond the reach of even The Phenomenon.
Actually, To The Stars cannot sell any more stock, and there is no longer any solicitation of funds on their website. Apparently, this article was finally was noticed by Tom De Longe. That same day, DeLonge posted the following to his Facebook page:
Wow!
BLATENT LIE — APPARENTLY, THIS WRITER CAN’T READ? BTW- TTSA never even raised $37m, so how in the hell did we spend it? Lord. I ask all of you that believe in the @tothestarsacademy mission to right now go write a complaint on their website for trying to hurt our admirable effort through negative attacks using—-> lies. Dear Ars Technica— I am writing you regarding the article posted to Ars Technica this morning titled ‘All the dumb things? Blink 182 front man’s UFO project $37 million in debt’ by Eric Berger. Link: https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/10/all-the-dumb-things-blink-182-front-mans-ufo-project-37-million-in-debt/

We were surprised Ars Technica would allow Mr. Berger to post such an article without asking either Mr. DeLonge or To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science for comment. This article is highly misleading and grossly mischaracterizes statements in an SEC filing. Had Mr. Berger bothered to reach out to us for comment this could have been prevented.

Mr. Berger apparently did not read the filing in its entirety, and clearly did not understand the excerpt of the SEC filing he quotes. The approximate $37 million stockholders’ deficit is not debt as he characterized it but is attributable to stock-based compensation expense. It is not related to the operational results of the company. The Consolidated Balance Sheets of To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science in the SEC filing quoted by your author clearly shows the approximately $37 million deficit is attributed to Stockholders’ Equity (Deficit). The filing goes on to explain the mechanism for calculating stock-based compensation and details the various grants of stock options by the company. Mr. Berger’s characterizations of this as debt implies that it stems from traditional borrowings.

Had Mr. Berger bothered to email or call us we could have directed him to these portions of the SEC filing and walked him through it. For Mr. Berger to make the conclusions he did on incomplete research and his own interpretations without contacting Mr. DeLonge or the company is inexcusable.

We request that you print this letter in full within the article as our
The original was truncated in this way. Also, apparently DeLonge does not use a spell checker. This posting has since been deleted from DeLonge's Facebook page. As I noted earlier, DeLonge is a serial Deleter - he has a history of making stupid posts on social media, then deleting them.

What is especially galling about DeLonge's reply is his self-righteous statement that "Had Mr. Berger bothered to email or call us we could have directed him to these portions of the SEC filing and walked him through it." This is beyond ludicrous, since TTSA has famously ignored journalists' questions and requests for information. Well-known UFO researchers like Billy Cox, John Greenewald, Alejandro Rojas, and many others have commented on TTSA's unwillingness to answer questions. Researcher M.J. Banias wrote, "I have inquired about six times for comment on various articles to TTSA. Never heard back, ever."
Speculation soon began about why DeLonge deleted this posting. Chris Cogswell of The Mad Scientist Podcast posted to Facebook that
From what I have understood his comments on the SEC filing could be construed as an attempt to commit fraud or harm investors. Similar to Elon Musk's tweets... As far as I understand it by suggesting that the SEC filing is in some way incorrect or misleading (e.g. they are doing better than they claim on the required form) they open themselves up considerably. Add to that the now rampant speculation that TTSA is actually doing significantly better than the SEC filing suggests and you have all the makings of a fraud case by unnaturally inflating the public confidence in an investment.

There is now an article on TTSA's website titled "An explanation for the recent mischaracterization of TTS Academy's Stockholders’ equity/deficit." It says many of the same things that DeLonge said above, but it has obviously passed through a lawyer's review:

We've noticed some reports that we are “in debt” in some astronomical amount. The reports are highly misleading and grossly mischaracterized statements in an SEC filing.  It looks like people are misunderstanding the difference between debt and stockholders’ equity. “Debt” is what we owe.  The number that is getting the attention is actually the “Stockholders’ equity/deficit” number. That looks like a big number but we don’t “owe” it to anyone and it's not related to the operational results of the company. It just reflects the fact that we’ve been paying our people, like many start-ups, in stock as opposed to paying them in dollars.
An article just published in The Daily Grail by Red Pill Junkie is titled "Man Overboard: One Year After Its Launch, To the Stars Academy’s Financial Situation Remains Stuck on the Ground." It takes note of the difference between "deficit" and "debt," but is nonetheless pessimistic about the company's prospects:
That does not mean the company is not in financial hot water, mind you. They still have amassed quite a few i.o.u’s from DeLonge’s other companies –mainly Our Two Dogs, although they also need to pay Angels and Airwaves royalties for the use of Tom’s image (!)– and, like they themselves admit in the filing, the only way they can stay afloat is by “raising additional capital through debt and/or equity transactions.”
And they cannot do any more equity transactions. We shall see how this plays out.