News Briefs 16-06-2017

”Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Quote of the Day:

“Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.”

Winston Churchill

News Briefs 15-06-2017

A beginning is a very delicate time…

Thanks to Diana.

Quote of the Day:

"What do you despise? By this are you truly known."

˜Frank Herbert

The Fall of a New Age 'Star': Sean David Morton

Sean David Morton on History Channel's 'Ancient Aliens'

Sean David Morton first rocketed to New Age superstardom (he has been a regular interviewee on Coast to Coast AM over the years) in the early 1990s, organizing bus tours out to Area 51, one of many 'scene makers' who glommed on to the mania associated with Groom Lake, Bob Lazar, and reversed-engineered ET craft from another planet! To this end, Morton portrayed himself as an Area 51 insider while coming across as an all-knowing used car salesman with a line of mumbo jumbo a mile long and several feet deep. Morton credited his insider status to knowledge passed on to him from his father, Gerard Morton, who (purportedly) was one of the original members of the Apollo Astronaut program!

The only problem, though, is that Morton seems to have made up the whole bit about his father being a member of the Apollo program - just one of the many of spurious claims exposed over the years by Royce Meyers at UFO Watchdog, who long ago got a bee in his bonnet about Morton and decided to debunk his constant stream of BS. Meyers checked with NASA about Morton's father, and received the following response:

We have no records of this person's name in our database of files in the Headquarters Historical Reference Collection.

Whatever the case, none of these debunkings ever seemed to faze Morton’s hard core fans, who probably believed that the Illuminati or The Deep State (insert creepy organ music here) were making up ‘fake news’ about their hero.

I first caught wind of some of Morton’s sketchy shenanigans back in the early 2000s from a friend who lost her life savings in a Morton-engineered scheme, during the period when he had moved on to apparently having 'psychic powers' to presumably predict the stock market under cover of his 'investment firm', Delphi Associates.

A few years later, Morton wound up in the news again with similar allegations swirling that he swindled investors using the old psychic-readings-to-predict-the-stock-market-routine while laughing all the way to the bank. On March 7, 2010, Morton and his partner-in-crime wife Melissa were charged with securities fraud for having fleeced a large number of starry eyed believers to the tune of $6 million dollars between 2006 and 2007. Apparently the bulk of this money was siphoned into shell accounts operated by Morton and the Mrs. In a February 2013 ruling, Morton was ordered to pay $11.5 million to the Securities Exchange Commission, although it’s unclear if he ever made good on this court order.

And yet, not long after, I heard him on the Art Bell show again. It was completely baffling to me that this guy had been involved in so much sketchy shit, yet always seem to come up smelling like a rose — or, at the least, never spent any serious time in the slammer, or paid any noticeable price for his transgressions.

But as with all bullshit artists, Morton’s luck finally ran out when he and and his wife Melissa were arrested by Treasury Agents last summer after disembarking from the 'ConspiraSea Cruise', where he had been one of the featured speakers.

(It seems like the ConspiraSea Cruise was awash with swindlers, including a curious character named Winston Shrout who soon after the cruise was also wearing an ankle bracelet after being charged with "13 counts of making, presenting and transmitting fictitious financial instruments and six counts of willfully failing to file income tax returns…accused of making and issuing more than 300 fake "International Bills of Exchange'' on his own behalf and for credit to third parties. The government contends Shrout falsely claimed the bills had value and purported them to be worth more than $100 trillion".)

As for Morton and his charming wife, they were rung up on fifty-six counts of fraud and conspiracy, which included filing a false tax return to the tune of $2,809,921. Apparently — according to ace court reporter Greg Bishop who attended the recent early April trial — Morton and his wife also forged U.S. Treasury checks out of whole cloth (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) which they cashed at banks in the greater Los Angeles area.

On account of the Illuminati no doubt, things didn’t go well for the Mortons in court, and a jury found the duo guilty on all counts. The piper will officially play the Morton’s tune when sentencing takes place on June 19. According to Royce Meyers, “prosecutors in the case are recommending Morton serve 87 months in federal prison. Morton's wife/co-conspirator, Melissa Ann Morton, is scheduled to be sentenced July 24th and she was also convicted on numerous felony charges of fraud and conspiracy.”

For more on the seemingly never ending Sean David Morton sh*t-show, visit UFO Watchdog, and also check out my recent Radio GoGo podcast on “The Sean David Morton Chronicles”.

News Briefs 14-06-2017

Seasons roll on by...

Thanks to @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

Werner Heisenberg

Being a Better Conspiracy Theorist

Conspiracy

In yesterday's news I linked to an article in the New Republic, "The New Paranoia", that I wanted to pull out and put some focus on. I think it's an important piece for picking apart the deep level of conspiranoia we're currently living with across the political spectrum, from Pizzagate to Russia collusion.

Now if you're a conspiratorial thinker leaning hard to either side of the political divide, there are probably some things in the article that will rile you. While its focus is on how the left has started partaking in conspiracy theories, its criticisms range from Alex Jones on the right through to Louise Mensch on the left (yes I know Mensch is nominally right-wing, but currently she has a lot of followers from the left kneeling at her feet on account of her anti-Trump/Russian collusion screeds). As such, I can see plenty of readers not reaching the end of the piece due to it upsetting one of their closely-held beliefs.

But it's definitely worth reading through the entire article - not only to perhaps critique your own beliefs and assumptions, but also because towards the end it is clear that the writer is not simply 'anti-conspiracy'. Instead, they offer up some very clear thinking on the matter that is usually absent in discussion of the topic:

Just because you’re paranoid, of course, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. History has had more than its share of false flags, fifth columns, and Reichstag fires. We are not living in Nazi Germany in 1933, but there are enough echoes to be a cause for concern... It may yet be the case that conspiratorial thinking will have a place in our arsenal of resistance. Viewing coincidences skeptically and connecting seemingly random dots is precisely what exposed the conspiracies of Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal...

...In other words, it is not the methodology of conspiracy that’s the problem. When paranoid thinking opens up possibilities, it can serve a useful function. The danger comes when conspiracists remain wedded to their theories in the face of conflicting information, when they refuse to do the hard work of confirming and substantiating their own assumptions and beliefs. Woodward and Bernstein did not simply point to a trail of shady campaign contributions and tweet that Nixon was behind it all. They followed the facts, step by painstaking step, all the way to the Oval Office.

Goertzel, helpfully, casts conspiratorial thinking as either “monological” or “dialogical.” The former is invested in a single, preordained understanding of the world; every scrap of evidence, no matter how inconsequential or contradictory, is marshaled on behalf of the monolithic perception. Mensch’s ever-growing list of suspected Russian agents is a textbook example of Goertzel’s monological thinking: There is nothing that can’t be twisted to fit into her preexisting matrix. Dialogical thinking, by contrast, is open to ambiguity and conflict. It looks for unexpected angles, new approaches, and unexplored nuance; hypotheses are tested and conclusions are discarded when they are contradicted by the facts. “The key issue is not the belief in the specific conspiracy,” Goertzel observes, “but the logical processes which led to that belief. As with other belief systems, conspiracy theories can be evaluated according to their productivity.” There’s nothing wrong with conspiracy theories, in other words, if they provide illumination. Looking for hidden clues is essential to bringing secrets to light.

It can't be stated enough, though, how difficult it actually is to "do the hard work of confirming and substantiating you own assumptions and belief". Your brain does not like to be wrong, it likes to find things that agree with the original assumption, and it likes to discard inconvenient facts. It is hard work, and painful to the ego sometimes. But it's essential that we all try and be as brutally honest with ourselves as we can, critiquing our assumptions, what part our own biases and assumptions might be motivating us, playing devil's advocate, truthfully assessing the credibility and trustworthiness of our sources, being clear when we are speculating, and in the end, staying humble and always ready to admit mistakes.

Link: The New Paranoia

News Briefs 13-06-2017

My daughter is Wonder Woman IRL...

Quote of the Day:

It is not the methodology of conspiracy that’s the problem. When paranoid thinking opens up possibilities, it can serve a useful function. The danger comes when conspiracists remain wedded to their theories in the face of conflicting information, when they refuse to do the hard work of confirming and substantiating their own assumptions and beliefs.

Colin Dickey (in "The New Paranoia")

Was the Legendary "Wow!" Signal Caused by a Comet, Rather Than ET?

Radio Telescope Scans the Sky

If you ask a scientist if there's any evidence of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, you'll likely get the answer "none", but also with the caveat of "although there is the 'Wow!' signal, which hasn't yet been explained". This anomalous radio signal was detected just once, forty years ago, by Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope, and got its name from the annotation that astronomer Jerry R. Ehman scribbled on the computer printout when he noticed it: "Wow!"

Beyond simply being an anomalous signal that stood out from the usual background noise, the other important facet of the Wow! signal was its frequency: at the beginnings of SETI, it was theorised that any signal sent by E.T. might be located around the natural emission frequency of the most common element, hydrogen, which is 1420 megahertz. The Wow! Signal frequency was 1420 megahertz.

But now the media is trumpeting that "the Wow! signal has officially lost its wow factor". The alien-killing headline is based on a new paper, "Hydrogen Line Observations of Cometary Spectra at 1420 MHz", authored by Professor Antonio Paris. Building on his 2016 paper arguing that a comet and/or its hydrogen cloud might have been the cause of the Wow! signal, Paris now claims to have found actual examples of similar signals emanating from comets, based on 200 observations conducted between November 2016 and February 2017:

This investigation discovered that comets 266/P Christensen, P/2013 EW90 (Tenagra), P/2016 J1-A (PANSTARRS), and 237P/LINEAR emitted radio waves at 1420 MHz. In addition, the data collected during this investigation demonstrated there is a well-defined distinction between radio signals emitted from known celestial sources and comets, including comet 266/P Christensen.

We speculate that the strength of the original signal in 1977 would have been accounted for by the size of the Big Ear Radio Telescope (when compared with Site B) and/or the potential loss of mass from comet 266/P Christensen, which would have been considerably larger 40 years ago. In addition, while neutral hydrogen clouds have been observed around other comets (mostly from Lyman alpha spectra), determining the physical extent and density of the clouds around comets 266/P Christensen, P/2013 EW90 (Tenagra), P/2016 J1-A (PANSTARRS), and 237P/LINEAR were not the purposes of this investigation. To dismiss the source of the radio signal as emission from comet 266/P Christensen, we repositioned the telescope away from the comet and conducted clear sky observations when the comet was not near the coordinates of the “Wow!” Signal. During these clear sky observations, we detected no significant radio signal at 1420 MHz.

These results led Paris to the conclusion that "cometary spectra are observable at 1420 MHz and that the 1977 “Wow!” Signal was a natural phenomenon from a Solar System body".

So is that the end for the legendary Wow! signal? Apparently not, as a number of astronomers have already responded to the paper with serious skepticism. In a post at r/astronomy, radio astronomer Yvette Cendes explains multiple reasons why the new paper "screamed bullshit to me" - from the obscure journal it was published in, through the strange choice of units used to measure the signal, to the lack of important details about the methodology. In the end, Cendes suggests there might be a very good candidate for what caused Paris's signals (though not the Wow! signal): the Sun:

There is something really radio bright that was within 20 degrees of these comets during the observations- the sun! The sun is the brightest radio source on the sky- it can be thousands of Jansky at these frequencies, if not more, and is frankly bright enough that you can even observe it with one of those little one foot satellite dishes if you know what you're doing. With such an incredibly bright source so incredibly close, it is very, very possible (if not probable) that a bright signal on a telescope of this size is not a genuine source, but the signal from the sun picked up in a side lobe. Hell, you would likely have side lobe issues observing that close to the sun on the best radio telescopes on Earth. Does this paper mention the possibility of this, or how he dealt with observing so close to the sun to make sure he wasn't just picking the sun up in a side lobe? Of course not.

You'll find further skepticism on this new comet theory in this post at Discover ("the signal isn’t bright enough or rapid enough to be a good fit to the Wow! signal"). Additionally, In the comments to the Reddit piece there's much concern about both Paris 'inflating' his reputation, and the fact that he has used Kickstarter to collect money for his research.

Astronomer Chris Lintott has assembled a list of questions that he, and other astronomers, have regarding this new paper that supposedly debunks the Wow! signal. As far as I know Paris has not answered them publicly yet (from his tweets it appears he is currently travelling, so understandable).

The irony of this story is that Paris is also a ufologist (he is the founder and director of Aerial Phenomenon Investigations), and he's the one debunking the Wow! signal while orthodox astronomers are defending it as an ongoing mystery.

Related stories:

News Briefs 12-06-2017

Holy St Peter's gates Batman!

Quote of the Day:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

Jane Goodall

News Briefs 09-06-2017

”One flew east, One flew west, One flew over the cuckoo's nest.”

Quote of the Day:

“I'd rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.”

Ken Kesey

News Briefs 08-06-2017

I AM THE MACHINE!!

Quote of the Day:

"I am being driven, somewhat reluctantly to the feeling that many UFOs are caused by our own psychic energy somehow interacting with matter"

~J. Allen Hynek, in response to Iris Owen, leader of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research, after they conducted the Philip Experiment.