Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Science Fiction and UFOs

Recently I have seen some discussion about UFOs and science fiction and that the fans of science fiction, who you would expect to be sympathetic to the idea of alien visitation are actually hostile to it. I have to disagree here, and I speak as a fellow who has been to many science fiction conventions, spoken at many, and have interacted with the "hardcore" fans for decades. My experience is that everyone will say that they don’t believe in UFOs and alien visitation, but they are fascinated by it. When I have lectured on UFOs at science fiction conventions, those lectures are always well attended with a respectful audience (which, I think, is a comment that can be made in general of science fiction fans).

Often the conventions have multi-track programming, which means the fans have selection of which program they wish to attend. My UFO lectures are often at the best times and in the largest of the lecture rooms and are frequently standing room only. The questions and discussions that follow are always reasoned and intelligent.

The problem faced here might be that many science fiction fans are well-versed in the problems of space travel and the size of the galaxy. They understand the problems with the concept of interstellar flight, but they also know that what was impossible yesterday is routine today... who would have though, twenty years ago, I could sit in my office and access all the information I might need to investigate a scientific question (such as why some mutilated cows had a lack of copper in their blood)? Who would have thought we would have instant communication with friends through cell phones that fit into our pockets...but I digress.

On the other side of the question are the science fiction pros. These are the people who write science fiction and while they might not be hostile to the idea of alien visitation, they certainly aren’t big fans of UFOs. A number of years ago I was invited to participate in a debate about UFOs. It was going to be science fiction writers (of which I am one) against a team from the Center for UFO Studies. When it came time for the debate, there were four science fiction writers teamed up against the lone voice from the Center.

Yes, I was going to be on the side suggesting that there had been no visitation but when I saw the lopsided panel, I switched sides. A debate is about presenting one side of an issue, regardless of personal opinions and I knew enough about UFOs that I could argue either side. In fact, I stumped the other side when they said there is no evidence by pointing to a wide array of evidence from the radar cases to landing trace cases to the photographic evidence.

Of course, like anyone with an open mind, I’m free to change my opinion about the reality of visitation and have done so based on the evidence I have seen and collected over the years, but again, I digress.

My experience has been that science fiction fans (who, BTW, object to the term SCI-FI, the SCI- FI Channel notwithstanding... SCI-FI is all that is wrong in science fiction such as Plan Nine from Outer Space), are interested in UFOs, but like our pals in astronomy, look for high standards of evidence. Like everyone else, they have varied standards of evidence, but they are also more open-minded to the concept of alien visitation.

So, it’s not fair to claim that science fiction fans are hostile to the idea of UFOs and alien visitation... they are hostile to the idea of embracing all aspects of UFOs without critically examining the evidence. They simply will not accept the idea that some people have been selected for journeys to other planets by benevolent space brothers without some sort of evidence other than their descriptions of the alien home world. They will not accept the idea that UFOs are mutilating cattle without some better evidence that there are not terrestrial causes... in fact, at the World Science Fiction Convention held in Denver, Colorado in the 1970s, there was a panel discussion about cattle mutilations.

The interest is there and the scientific understanding is there... all we have to do is provide the proper evidence to sway the opinions of many of the fans. Solid evidence built link by link and we’ll have a huge base of intelligent and rational supporters. But the evidence has to be solid and properly gathered, otherwise we’ll be stuck with opponents who are smart enough to rip apart feeble and ill-logical arguments. They are a tough audience but a fair one.

Friday, May 08, 2009

General Ramey and His Memo

Let’s talk about this idea that Brigadier General Roger Ramey, a career officer who had spent his whole life dealing with classified information, would allow a civilian photographer to accidently photograph a classified document. This is the idea behind attempts to read and understand what is now known as the "Ramey Document."

First, let’s note that if it can be accurately read, and if the interpretations put on it by those who have studied it are correct, then this is the smoking gun. Here is a document with a known provenance, held by a general, and dated to July 8, 1947. We have everything we need to prove that the document is real. Something that can’t be said about so many of the documents circulating in the UFO community today.

Let’s now ignore the various interpretations put on the document because they are unimportant to this discussion. We’ll agree that some of it can be easily read and other parts of it require a great deal of interpretation to make anything sensible out of them.

Instead, let’s look at what we know about this and see if we can’t, if not come to a consensus, at least understand the other side of the argument.

We know that the photographs were taken by J. Bond Johnson, who, at that time, worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We know that he went out to the air base and made his way to Ramey’s office. I would suggest that he was escorted but only because I can’t see them allowing a civilian to wander around the building unescorted, especially if he was going to see the general. In other words, he would not have been left alone in the office, but that too is an argument for another time.

According to Johnson he posed Ramey and took a picture or two of him. Johnson said that he handed a paper to Ramey so that he had something in his hand, though I don’t know why he would have done that (Ramey, holding the document, and DuBose sitting in the chair seen here). If that is true, the message on the paper is irrelevant because it would be the preliminary newspaper story and we all know what that was about. It would have provided the original information about the find but nothing that had been confirmed.

At other times, it was suggested that the paper was something that came from Ramey’s desk. If that is true, then the message might be of great importance, though I suppose you could make the same argument, that is, that the information contained is preliminary and of no great importance, especially since Ramey allowed himself to be photographed holding it. Again, that should be left to the interpretations which is another discussion altogether.

This is the point where we begin to argue that Ramey would not have breached security in such a fashion but in today’s world, we are subjected to a number of stories of important government leaders inadvertently revealing highly-classified information to cameras. One of those cited is McGeorge Bundy, who, while a member of the Johnson Administration was photographed carrying a top secret document and revealed the code word (UMBRA) that went with it.

Recently a British minister visiting No. 10 Downing Street was photographed carrying a document that was clearly classified. Inspection of the photograph revealed some of it’s classified message.

But in both these instances, neither man was a military officer. They were of what I think of as the political elite and both had the attitude that the rules didn’t apply to them. They couldn’t be bothered with most common of rules about classified material, which was a simple cover sheet.

So, had this document been classified, it would have been under a cover sheet when taken from the message center to Ramey’s office. When Johnson came into Ramey’s office, Ramey would have covered the document (if it was not already covered) so that someone without the proper clearances couldn’t have seen it.

The next question should be, where was Ramey’s aide. The aide would not be very far from the general, and one of his jobs would have been to ensure that such a breach of security didn’t happen. True, there is no mention of Ramey’s aide in any of the discussions, but then the aide is pretty much like furniture... you don’t mention the desk or chairs, but you know they were in the room.

We do know that Ramey’s Chief of Staff, Thomas DuBose, was in the room and I wonder, if the document was classified, why he didn’t say anything about it. I remember any number of incidents, while I was in the military, in which one officer, or even enlisted man, suggested that we all be careful with the classified material, making sure there were cover sheets on them to prevent inadvertent revelation and exposure. Both Ramey and DuBose would have been trained in dealing with classified and I find it difficult to believe that they would have made this mistake.

Which is not to say that they wouldn’t have made such a mistake, only that it is extremely unlikely and citing examples from the civilian world doesn’t really make the point.

What we are left with here, in this specific argument, are the facts as related by Johnson... or rather, the statements made by Johnson, one of which is that he had brought the paper into Ramey’s office with him.

Forgetting that, we have no evidence of Ramey’s aide in this little adventure, but he shouldn’t have been far from the general’s side, and he should have stopped Ramey from holding a classified document while the civilian photographer was in the office. This is, of course, speculation based on no testimony that the aide was in the office at the time.

DuBose, as Chief of Staff, should have stopped Ramey from holding a classified document during the photography. He would have recognized the document as classified but he said nothing about it in any of the interviews conducted with him.

There should have been a cover sheet on it, based on the procedures for dealing with classified documents and there is no evidence, in the photograph of such a cover sheet.

Where does that leave us? In this argument, to this point, all examples of highly classified documents that have been inadvertently photographed are of civilians making the errors. And we have seen them making some incredible mistakes. But we have nothing to show high-ranking military officers making similar mistakes, and even if we find those, it doesn’t prove that Ramey made such a mistake.

In the end, all we know is that J. Bond Johnson took photographs of Brigadier General Roger Ramey and Ramey was holding a piece of paper. We can read some of the document easily but not other parts. There is nothing on the document to suggest that it was classified, but the way the paper is held and the angle of the photograph might have precluded those images from being photographed.

And that is really all we know about this. We could argue interpretation. We could argue relevance. But all we know is that Ramey was holding a document. Johnson said it was his idea to put something into Ramey’s hand. And we can read some of what is on the document. Other than that, we are into speculation and interpretation.

For those interested in more information, just type Ramey Memo into your search engine and take a look at David Rudiak’s interpretation.