Monday, March 29, 2010

Straight Scoop On Twisty Subjects

Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more by Arthur Goldwag. Vintage Books/Random House 2009.

Ever wonder about those shadowy groups that want to run -- or maybe are running -- the world? The Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, that ilk? Or maybe you want to learn more about less nefarious organizations like Woodmen of the World.

Try Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag. He acts as a knowledgeable guide through the convoluted historical mazes of non-mainstream organizations. This non-fiction book is easy-to-read, easy-to-grok, but not so easy to use as a reference.

CC&SS is broken down into the three general categories mentioned in the title. Of course, this is Goldwag's personal organization. You might think a subject should be under Cults but it's actually included in Conspiracies or Secret Societies. He provides a list of topics in the front of the book so that you can scan and cross-reference a particular topic when it pops up in another entry.

For example, you're reading along about Area 51 and see the Trilateral Commission mentioned in bold print, indicating the subject has its own entry. It takes some page flipping to locate it in the List of Topics because you have to scan through each of the three main categories. Eventually you find Trilateral Commission under "Secret Societies."

A traditional index in the back of the book with everything listed straight from A - Z would've work better but there isn't one. Another way to save on searching would be to follow a bold print cross-reference with its page number in parentheses. Sorry, but I'm been spoiled using online hypertext links. And if this book is ever digitalized, it should offer links to the topics within its manuscript.

Despite that flaw, CC&SS is still a ripping good read, even with its occasional lumpiness.

Sometimes Goldwag might go off on a riff and lump some subjects under one entry. You'll encounter articles such as "Area 51, Stealth Blimps, Majestic-12, Alien Abductions, and Divine Revelations" and "Black Helicopters, Men in Black, Michigan Militias, Cattle Mutilations, and Liars' Clubs." Despite such rambling he ties it all together with his readable style.

Goldwag states in his introduction that his book is "exploratory rather than encyclopedic," meaning that he is more interested in finding connections between topics than just strictly itemizing the groups and theories he reviews.

His fair-minded approach reminds me of "Kooks," the classic book by Donna Kossy. Like Kossy, Goldwag doesn't engage in vehement attacks on fringe beliefs, unlike some militant skeptics who have covered the same territory with scorched earth campaigns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Matt Graeber: Knowing, Not Simply Believing

Time to set the record straight.

In a previous post, "Voodoo Skepticism," I talked about Matt Graeber's articles in the online magazine, SUNlite. Matt examined various UFO cases with a psychological slant, showing how the mindset and experience of the witness could connect symbolically with the details of the sighting.

While an interesting approach, I didn't really buy into Matt's angle, at least all of the symbolism. To me it was "voodoo" -- mainly because too much of psychology/psychiatry, the Freudian stuff, is voodoo.

But that's my opinion. I did screw up assuming that since Matt's article appeared in SUNlite -- Tim Printy's spiritual successor to the late Phil Klass's Skeptical UFO Newsletter -- that he was a UFO researcher who ended up becoming a skeptic as the result of disappointments along the way with his research. Thus my "Voodoo Skepticism" title.

Matt emailed me and through our correspondence I've learned that he's not an all-out skeptic, just a careful researcher. Let me quote from one of his emails:

"I haven't an answer for the UFO enigma, and my researches merely ask different questions about it. I think knowing what MAY have affected the observer(s) is something that has been long ignored, primarily because it is not exciting and is believed to be skeptical and restrictive to the ETVH. This is a bias which has long existed in UFOlogy. I would rather know that something may have influenced a sighting, than simply accepting anecdotal accounts and the word of shoddy investigations and embellished UFO stories as book fodder.

"I'd rather know than simply believe, because the enigma is not a matter of faith for me, it is something to learn about."

I have no argument with Matt on taking the psychological approach if it's used as a tool to dig out what may have affected witnesses. To me the human mind, the subconscious, is too messy to definitely break down into symbolic connections with any sort of certainty.

Once again, opinion. But getting back to the facts: Matt isn't a skeptic in the sense of a diehard cynic. He's a critical researcher with an open mind, unlike skeptics who completely categorize the whole field of ufology as garbage.

My assumption that Matt was a skeptic was voodoo reading-between-the lines.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Pod People Syndrome

Friend or foe?

They look like you. They act like you. But some of them are anti-you.

That creeping paranoia is the set-up of the SF novel, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney. It's a powerful basis for a story, so powerful that the novel has been adapted as a movie four different times.

The term "pod people" has become part of our language, referring to individuals who are only emotionless copies of real human beings.

In Invasion Of The Body Snatchers alien seed pods land on our planet and covertly invade by duplication and replacement. While a human victim sleeps, a nearby pod telepathically links to the victim, stealing his memories. The pod hatches and a duplicate of the victim is formed.

The duplicate replaces the victim, pretending to be him. But the physical and mental copying leaves out one important human factor: emotion. The alien has to fake his feelings; those closest to the invader can sense the difference.

The term pod people can also connote an enemy lurking among the "normals," someone who looks like you but is secretly plotting your destruction.

What I define as the Pod People Syndrome is when the public overreacts, suddenly seeing a particular group as the lurking enemy because of a dramatic incident by a few individuals identified with that group. Everyone in the group is tarred by the actions of aberrants who belong -- or appear to belong -- to their circle.

In the book, Geeks, by Jon Katz, the author describes the paranoia and overreaction to outsider teens after two students went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in April 1999. He describes the hysteria, some of it whipped up by the mainstream media looking for sensational headlines, as "geek profiling."

A kid wears a trench coat? He might be carrying hidden weaponry. Better search him.

Those kids who spend a lot of time on computers instead of trying to fit into the popular crowd at school? Instead of going to dances and attending sporting events, they must be plotting online, getting ready to strike at another school. Just like those shooters in Columbine.

Those kids who don't dress the right way, who don't act normal: pod people. Hiding among us, growing, spreading. Don't trust any of them. They look human but they're actually inhuman.

Humans are wired for pattern-seeking. At times they see patterns that don't exist.

One way to deal with abrupt uncertainty is to quickly categorize an entire group as a problem. It's easier to class everyone as the same instead of doing the work of figuring out friend or foe with each individual in the group. Example: the Japanese American internment camps during World War II.

Round them all up.

Us or them.

This convenient labeling and unreasoning persecution reveals who are the real pod people.

It's the persecutors, not the persecuted.

[Invasion Of The Body Snatchers cover from]

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Through A Mission Darkly

I'm skip-reading the book, "Dark Mission: The Secret History Of NASA," (2007) by Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara.

What do I mean by skip-reading? I jump around and read chapters or sections in my own sequence. For eXample, I'll read the last few chapters and then the first ones.

So while I haven't read the whole book, I've read enough to give some initial impressions. And I suspect if I ever finish the book, these impressions won't change.

Hoagland is known for fantastic claims about NASA and the great conspiracy to keep secret from the public at large the existence of ET ruins on the moon and Mars. He and other like-minded researchers take images from various space missions and then with special filtering processes -- plus highly subjective interpretations -- find the hidden details.

The detailed tech talk generally sounds reasonable but what makes his POV dubious are the photo examples of his research. A high contrast photo taken by an Apollo astronaut has some indistinct shapes in the background, probably lens flare or magnified scratches or some other defect. But to Hoagland those odd marking are evidence of an enormous glass dome on the moon.

Hoagland hasn't convinced me with any of his evidence in this book or at his website. Some of the images are so fuzzy that it's easy to find superficial similarities with man-made structures on Earth. It's like looking at clouds in the sky and seeing in the various shapes a bird or whale or even a flying saucer.

Hoagland goes on about dates and their "ritual" meanings related to Freemasons, Orion/Osiris and Nazis. He mentions different NASA missions that occurred on Hitler's birthday (pages 253 & 303).

Well, pick a date and you'll find all sorts of coincidences. Take January 30th. That's the birth date of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and former vice-president Dick Cheney. It's also the same day that Gandhi was assassinated. The "ritual" connection with this triad of historical figures is obvious.

I really have a problem with Hoagland's beliefs regarding some recent historical events. On page 463 he talks about President George W. Bush declaring a war on terror, why the primary target was Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Hoagland states: "...Saddam had sponsored and financed several attacks against the United States, including the first World Trade Center bombing. He was also strongly implicated in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building."

Where's the evidence? Did Timothy McVeigh -- who was linked to white supremacists -- work for Saddam?

Maybe. And maybe the Apollo 17 lunar module -- as mentioned on page 518 of "Dark Mission" -- had to carefully land and depart, avoiding the shattered remains of a gigantic glass dome built by aliens.

[ Revised, typos fixed: 3/8/10 ]

Voodoo Skepticism

I'm skeptical about true believers -- and skeptics.

I mean skeptical in the sense that I eXamine claims with a critical -- but not emotional -- eye.

For eXample, I have a problem with an article by Matt Graeber in issue V. 2 #2 (March-April 2010) of the "SUNlite" newsletter, a piece entitled "Twenty first century UFOlogy Part III." (SUN = Skeptical UFO Newsletter). You can download the PFD file of the issue at .

Graeber examines two UFO sightings using the traditional skeptical POV, i.e., UFOs aren't extraordinary objects, they're really misidentified everyday objects.

In the first case from 1976, a "Mr. Raefield" mistook birds (gulls) one misty morning as disc-shaped alien spacecraft. And in the second case (1977), a Mrs. Bailey confused an airplane with its lights for a flying saucer one night.

Graeber provides an added dimension to his examinations of these cases, the concept of "dynamic display." Each observer was sincere, believing he or she saw something truly unearthly, but what caused the misidentification was that individual's subconscious turmoil.

Graeber says that Mr. Raefield saw four UFOs, three to his left and a smaller one on the right. The UFO-gulls symbolized the stress Raefield was undergoing at the time, the larger three representing his estranged wife and two children, the smaller fourth one his girlfriend. The reason why the fourth one was smaller was because his relationship with his girlfriend was still growing.

Too Freudian for me. Voodoo psychology. When it comes to the murky subconscious and symbolism, all sorts of connections can be inferred. To borrow a line from UFO researcher James Moseley: "Whee!"

As for Mrs. Bailey, projected symbolism also played a role, turning an airplane into an UFO. Graeber writes: "It was at this point that the object [UFO] symbolically took on [for Mrs. Bailey] the great emotional significance, which was primarily kindled by a deep-seated fear she had long harbored concerning the potential of an incestuous episode taking place involving Mr. Bailey and their oldest daughter, Kathy."

Really. And conspiracy theorist Richard Hoagland claims that you can see glass domes on the moon's surface, structures built by aliens, when you look really hard at grainy NASA photographs. With both Graeber and Hoagland, one can say "That's one great leap for mindkind."

Check out the small print disclaimer at the end of Graeber's article that states the author "is not a trained psychologist and offers these data as speculation and opinion." I can agree with that, except "wild speculation" might be a better term.

To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a cigar-shaped UFO is just a cigar-shaped UFO -- not a symbol of penile inadequacy.

XR #70 (And Bill Gate's Rip Off)

It's up: the PDF version of my hardcopy zine, Ray X X-Rayer, the latest issue. A select collection of posts from this blog. Find it at .

As for the hardcopy version -- well, once again, a problem but not with quality. My computer printer does a good job of producing copies but it gets troublesome when I do double-sided pages, even though I carefully follow the on-screen directions. So some readers on my snail mail list got copies printed only on one side. And that's the way I'll probably keep printing out my zine. No more out of sequence pages and wasted sheets. Less chance of a paper jam.

I suspect my printer problems are related to the much-vilified Vista. I'm not spending one dime on Windows 7. Why should I pay for Bill Gates' mistake? He should be giving a free copy of W7 to everyone who has Vista. But why bother when he can charge for an upgrade? It's amazing how a company can stick people with a bad product and then make money by providing the good product it should have made in the first place.

Take a automobile company. When there's a public uproar about a defect, the car maker will try to fix the problem for free. It doesn't tell you to pay for an "upgrade," pushing a new model with the defects corrected. That's a money-losing proposition for the consumer who didn't get the full value of his initial purchase, even if he gets a discount for the new model.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gee, I Didn't Know That

Want jaw-dropping insights? Tune in with shortwave radio.

No, I don't mean getting info from broadcasts from other countries far away like China and Australia. There's plenty of enlightenment available right here in the United States via SW.

For years a group of ham radio superpatriots have been meeting every Saturday to discuss "issues of the day." Heard generally along the east cost in the 75 meter band, the Liberty Netters know what's going on with the Megaconspiracy to destroy democracy and enslave all free minds.

I thought the Liberty Net gang were the only ones to indulge in such deep probes into the Shadow Government until I stumbled upon another ham radio operator with his own take on the grand machinations behind the scenes. Apparently not affiliated with the LibNet, this guy claims that the source of all evil is the Pope. Yup, the Catholic Conspiracy is behind all the bad crap in the world.

Take this amazing fact: the Knights of Columbus -- a seemingly fraternal order known for charitable acts, a Catholic version of the Freemasons -- pick all the US presidents.

Who knew?