Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Scientists periodically express concerns about a population at large which fails to trust the scientific method and those who practice it. Such dynamics are observable within the medical community and a segment of the public which resists vaccinations, for example. We are often told the blame lies in widely accepted yet irrational conspiracy theories and a general lack of education.

That is certainly accurate to some extent, but not entirely. At least partially to blame is the fact the intelligence community (IC) has a long and well documented history of exploiting the medical field and its unsuspecting patients.

Does that justify the public spreading measles around elementary schools? No, of course not – but that is not the point being offered for consideration.

The argument being put forth is that the environment created by collaborations between the IC, medical doctors and the professional research community propagates distrust and paranoia. The lack of public education has been used by the IC as an advantage at times, it is not always to its detriment, and to cite it as virtually the exclusive reason medical science is questioned is arguably hypocritical and disingenuous. It is true that rumors and inaccurate information fuel the public lack of trust of the scientific community, but it is equally true that the exploitation of the public shares some of the blame. Stick around a few paragraphs and you'll see one of the ways this ties directly to the UFO community.

The late Dr. Ewen Cameron served as president of both the American and Canadian Psychiatric Associations. He also received grant funds originating from the CIA and Project MKULTRA Subproject 68. While directing the Allan Memorial Institute, a psychiatric hospital located at McGill University during the mid 20th century, Cameron conducted some of the most heinous experiments attributed to MKULTRA. Exploited were individuals seeking care for or questionably diagnosed with mental illnesses. Courts awarded financial compensation to dozens of Cameron's victims, and hundreds more were continuing to seek legal judgments as recently as 2004. 

The Bronfman Building of McGill
McGill's history of covert involvement with the powers that be understandably resulted in student advocacy groups monitoring school research contracts, grant awards and related activities. In 2014 Demilitarize McGill uncovered evidence that a study and survey conducted by the psych department and funded by the Canadian military was misrepresented to its research subjects. Concerns of ethics were raised when some 80 Somali Canadians were interviewed about their interests and activities, but researchers failed to inform the subjects the study was funded by the military and designed to assist in profiling terrorists.

Earlier this month Demil McGill obtained documents and records indicating university personnel were involved in a scheme to deflect oversight and public scrutiny from their military-funded weapons research and development. The plan included professors using their home addresses as locations of businesses listed as securing contracts actually carried out at McGill. Those do not seem like the actions we should expect of administrators and researchers who wish to bury indiscretions of the past and prioritize having their work and statements accepted as high in integrity.

Among the more blatant known instances of medical professionals willfully deceiving and harming research subjects was the Tuskegee Study. Hundreds of African American men were allowed to suffer from syphilis in order to study its progression. Many were intentionally infected without informing either them or, obviously, their sex partners. The Center for Disease Control reports the 1932 study was originally projected to last for six months but went on for 40 years. The involuntary and inadequately informed research subjects were lured with promises of free healthcare, among other benefits.

In 1994 the Clinton administration launched an investigation into claims that human research subjects were intentionally and unwittingly exposed to radiation. The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments concluded that an estimated 11,000 Americans were treated negligently by their federal government during experiments, some of which were fatal. Records showed that, similarly to those exploited during the Tuskegee Study, some of the radiation victims were misled to believe the tests were harmless and they would be rewarded with free healthcare for their participation.

Next time you hear someone carrying on about how ignorant and irrational the populations are in countries that resist international medical aid and vaccinations, you might consider asking them if they are aware the CIA executed a bogus vaccination drive in 2011 in Pakistan. The ruse included recruiting a senior Pakistani doctor who was actually extracting DNA samples from children for intelligence purposes, not vaccinating the juveniles. He was later arrested by Pakistani intelligence services for cooperating with the American intel agency.

It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out that such operations do not foster public trust in the medical community, or that ignorance and paranoia are not the only hurdles to overcome. It's not just a matter of whether or not the public believes in the validity of the review process that approved a vaccination, it's also a matter of trusting the motives of those administering it. Obviously, such concerns are not entirely unfounded, and, even if the occurrences of betrayal are relatively rare, they still contribute to the challenges. The covert operations are part of the origins of the misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors. After all, they were intended by design to be misunderstood and exploitative in the first place. That's part of the culture that evolved.

And then there's this. If you've never heard of the anti-vax efforts of Retired Major General Albert Stubblebine III and his wife, Dr. Rima Laibow, it's not because they aren't trying to get your attention. The couple operate a nonprofit corporation, the Natural Solutions Foundation, and a closely related website, Dr. Rima Truth Reports. A more unsubstantiated bunch of dire conspiracy theories posted by a retired career intelligence officer on a single website you may never find.

Stubblebine and Laibow inform their following of such news as vaccinations are for the purpose of turning our children into autistic worker drones. Promoted is a stance of no vaccines, ever, under any circumstances. The couple also report that the powers that be are keeping secret an ebola cure, nano silver, because they want us all to die. According to Stubblebine, there is a major plot afoot to exterminate a high percentage of the human race, leaving the elites to enjoy the planet thereafter. And so on.

Before the couple was informing the public of such important news that Laibow claimed resulted in a "serious attempt" on her life, they were high profile members of the UFO community. Laibow, a psychologist, supported the use of hypnosis as an investigative tool for alleged alien abduction and was a speaker in Pensacola at the 1990 annual MUFON shindig when the Gulf Breeze Six came to town.

Stubblebine is one of 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' guys and was credited with the development of Remote Viewing, as well as heading up the CIA-funded exploration of it. More recently he's been raging about everything from 911 to chemtrails. Learn more about the couple and their ufology adventures by searching this blog or, of course, conducting an Internet search.

In March of 2012, Retired Colonel John Alexander was emailed by this writer. He was scheduled to speak at the Ozark UFO Conference, and permission was sought to interview him for a blog post during the event. He replied he would be happy to meet, and suggested to get with him at the conference.

Topics intended for discussion with Alexander, who presents himself as extremely anti-conspiracy, included the actions of Stubblebine, among other items of interest. Unfortunately, when approached at the conference, the colonel expressed that he had changed his mind and was declining to be interviewed. He suggested he felt 'The UFO Trail' was too conspiracy-oriented to entertain its questions.

The opportunity was taken, however, to ask Alexander how he and Stubblebine, a man he worked with directly, could have so many conflicting accounts of what took place. Alexander briefly replied that Stubblebine was his former boss, and added that he does not know why Stubblebine says the things he says. 

The rest of us still don't either, but perhaps some related issues deserve their share of attention. Among them would be the glaringly obvious: There are reasons in addition to ignorance and paranoia that people don't trust authority. If the government and its researchers sincerely desire to be viewed with more integrity, there are steps they can take to improve the situation other than condemning the public for its lack of respect. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Characteristics of Quality Research

"[I]t will be interesting to see how cognitive dissonance will work for this new episode of 'Roswell my love.' In any case I've enjoyed the witness who saw the man who saw the man who saw the man who saw the bear..."
- Rosetta, 'UFO Skepticisme'

There are different kinds of research. Some people and organizations conduct scientific research. Others do quality research that is not scientific but is still professional and credible. There are characteristics of professional research that can be easily identified as either present or absent.

Please keep in mind that the subject of a written work or presentation is not necessarily a primary qualifier of its value. That might be considered particularly important among those interested in such often marginalized subjects as UFOs and conspiracy theories. The topic one chooses to study and present is often not as relevant to the credibility of the finished product as are the manners it is studied and presented.

The professional research community recognizes certain protocols that include staples such as citing sources when making assertions. Such sources should be among those recognized as legitimate, which include, for examples, college websites, newspaper clippings, papers published by qualified experts and declassified government documents.

"Research holding the
torch of knowledge"
at the Library of Congress
Writer/researchers who are excellent at following such protocols include George P. Hansen and Annie Jacobsen. Please note their differing areas of expertise: Hansen has published a great deal of work on the study of the paranormal, while Jacobsen has delved extensively into the covert and often questionable activities of the intelligence community. Again: It is their standards of research and presentation that make their work professional, not their choices of interests.

Another characteristic that should be expected to be present in quality research, particularly when it involves a group or organization, is the accounting of various aspects of the project, such as personnel and funding. If researchers desire to be granted respect and offered our attention, we should never feel we are prying or asking overly intrusive questions when we desire to know who worked on a project. Similarly, how funds were acquired and allocated should always be presented overtly and prominently if groups received significant financial backing to conduct their endeavors. Once again, please note that such procedures are not necessarily related to the topic of the research project, but its execution and presentation.

Writer/researcher James Carrion addressed such issues during an appearance last year on the Paracast. Highlights of the interview were posted on 'The UFO Trail'.

"This whole subject is so muddied already," Carrion explained, "what you don't need is more cover up, more deception, more obfuscation."

Such cover up and obfuscation are leading indicators of poorly conceived projects. Prior to the 2013 Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, organizer Steve Bassett initially declined to disclose the financial compensation allocated to former members of Congress and described it as "private". He later indicated they were each paid $20,000.

Similarly, UFO researchers participating in the mock hearing repeatedly declined to discuss details of their compensation. Some went as far as to agree by email to field questions yet failed to reply when sent the actual queries. Another deferred to Bassett. None of those asked provided a direct answer about their financial compensation.

In their defense, the failure to be cooperatively forthcoming about financial matters could probably be much better described as an overall ufology shortcoming than an aspect of the CHD. There often seems to be a prevailing feeling that the less said, the better.   

Below par financial reporting and questionable project management were inherent to the disappointing Ambient Monitoring Project. Touted and much anticipated as a scientific effort to quantify environmental conditions surrounding reports of alien abduction, project director Tom Deuley repeatedly struggled to publicly explain key issues of funding, including sources and amounts, which were never conclusively disclosed. Board members of organizations involved in the AMP failed to provide direct answers about its financial and operational status for years, often contradicting one another. 

In bringing this post to a close, let us consider more of Carrion's statements on the Paracast podcast. Discussing the failed MUFON-BAASS relationship, Carrion said, "There very much has to be a large amount of transparency when you're going to be involved in something of this nature. You can't hide anything. So, for example, when Bigelow hid the source of his funding and would only reveal it to John Schuessler on the MUFON board, that lack of transparency really rubs me the wrong way. That tells me there's something being hidden for a certain purpose and I don't want to be involved in that."

Emphasis mine - and that's arguably the bottom line.

In the end, a very solid point could be made that dissecting the discrepancies and contradictions of questionable projects sometimes only pulls us further into the shell game. Perhaps the wise would tell us that when we identify the omission of characteristics of quality research, we've already learned all we need to know in order to assess the so-called work. When protocols are not followed, a great deal of skepticism is justified. 

On the upside, we are empowered to identify high quality research. Moreover, we might consider allocating proportionate attention.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's Not All Bad

The new year came in with some celebration at 'The UFO Trail' when it received a Zorgy award for best paranormal website/blog. The awards were designated by Paul Kimball. He discussed them with fellow guest Aaron Gulyas on Greg Bishop's Radio Misterioso

It's tough to chart a course once you've achieved the ultimate in blogging, but fans of the Trail should not despair. Fresh ideas and interesting topics for consideration remain on the horizon.

In all seriousness, the recognition is appreciated. 'The UFO Trail' is grateful for the comments and observations expressed by the three on Radio Misterioso. Thank you.

Paul Kimball is a filmmaker and longtime member of the UFO community. He posts periodically at his blog, 'The Other Side of Truth', and one of his videos containing footage of the late Dr. John Mack was recently the subject of a blog post here at 'The UFO Trail'.

Greg Bishop is well known for his book, 'Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth'. Bishop was subsequently featured prominently in Mark Pilkington's well received film, 'Mirage Men'.

Aaron Gulyas is a history professor and writer with interests in paranormal subject matter. His remarks on Radio Misterioso were refreshingly moderate and well conceived, and one would hope such examples would become more the rule than the exception within the genre.

The trio discussed Project Core in addition to the Zorgy awards. Project Core was a private research endeavor in which over 200 self-described paranormal experiencers were surveyed. The resulting data was professionally organized and presented. 

Project Core researchers included Jeff Ritzmann, Jeremy Vaeni, Dr. Tyler Kokjohn, Dr. Ellen Tarr and Dr. Kimbal Cooper. The team successfully identified areas of interest for possible future study while avoiding drawing premature conclusions that typically hamper such studies from earning legitimacy.

Keep looking forward, ufology. It's not all bad.