Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Kinda-Wikipedia: Unidentified Flying Objects, an Interview (of Sorts)

Because it's Halloween, I've decided that I must come clean concerning an off-again-on-again hobby of mine, looking at the perpetual "what the f@*k WAS THAT?" factory that is the UFO and all the interrelated subphenomena attached to it. The trick is, I can't do it by just ranting at the reader, and only I know the questions to ask and the answers to give, so here we are using the interview format.

So when and how did you get involved with this bizarre stuff?

Well, I grew up in the glory years of "weird crap" television, re-runs of That's Incredible!, new episodes of Ripley's Believe It or Not, OMNI: The New FrontierIn Search of.... when it was both new and in reruns at the same time, a fate it shared with MASH. It did not hurt that I had a few relatives who were also interested in the topic. To me the idea of looking out a second-story house window and seeing a "ship" just hanging there is an image both absurdist and utopian at the same time. Until the Internet came along, most of my sources for UFO "case narratives" were books checked out of the library. I've never gone to a UFO conference, and I wasn't a big listener of Art Bell's AM radio show.

When did you start dealing with the skeptics?

When I was a grade-school kid my mother and I were at a certain local library that has since changed location and we were talking to this guy and the topic was brought up and the guy was adamant that I needed to read Philip Klass' books on the subject, that they would "explain everything." I was skeptical, and I avoided reading the books for years. I began reading them after thumbing through back issues of Skeptical Inquirer in the community college library while at the same time reading James Moseley's Saucer Smear newsletter which was being retyped into html on the Internet. Klass' ideas about the phenomenon are complicated, revolving around the theory that ball plasma was being produced from a variety of sources (high-power lines, aircraft vortexes from jetliners flying though the air, etc.) and that the UFO is just ball lightning. My problem is that I grew up in a dry area with heavy aircraft traffic and power substations every few miles, and we never saw electricity arcing, plasma balls forming, or general UFO activity. I saw more hot air balloons, Pink Floyd blimps, and military aircraft than UFOs.

I can understand why the skeptics went on their 40-plus year crusade against everything from astrology to Immanuel Velikovsky - the professors and scientists had a very hackneyed view of historical forces, and they were certain that the 1970s paranormal boom might lead into some sort of reversal for science and technology, even though scientific improvement and technological systems were (and remain) intrinsic to modern living. Meanwhile, the stage magician contingent was involved mainly because most of them saw various psychics appearing on TV talk shows as honing in on their business; later CSICOP skeptic James Randi was infuriated with the sudden rise of Uri Geller in 1973 - that was the straw that pushed Randi from being interested in odd things to being a critic, and quickly a debunker. At this point in 2019, what I see is a fear of disrespect by STEM graduates and STEM wannabes.

So what is the phenomenon?

I truly do not know.
What I can say - after reading a load of books including the 1969 "Condon Report" (Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects), watching witness videos of mostly marginal quality on YouTube, and seeing documentaries - is that I am highly skeptical of ETH, the "extra-terrestrial hypothesis." If you look into this massive blob, you will notice that witness descriptions of the "ships" varies from case to case, as do the "aliens" - everything from giants to tiny glowing figures walking on a shelf inside a "ship" (witness was taken on board) to "robots" of various shades of an android body type, to creatures who were just basic shapes bouncing around, to things that would be described as ghosts or "psychic imagery" if there wasn't a UFO as part of the narrative.

That's what makes me leery of ETH, the variation of creatures and crafts - if it was one or two different groups of "aliens" and ships that seem to follow a family design language (or is that too human?) I could possibly buy ETH. But there is just too much variation.

Can you rattle off the counter-explanations to the phenomenon?

There are many: hoaxes (and there have been a number of faked photos, videos, "debris", etc.), high-altitude reflections (astronomer Donald Menzel's pet theory), misidentified aircraft or satellites, "mass hysteria" (official US Air Force explanation in the 1950s), other misidentifications. The less skeptical would be time-travellers using androids or artificial beings, projections from other realities, projections from a mass unconsciousness that is riddled with sci-fi imagery, glitches in the holographic universe that we actually "live" in, and the more New Age ideas of "astral projection", angels in disguise (some people in the Pentagon were firm believers that UFOs were demons in disguise, a hint at how many American military personnel hold Christian Fundamentalist beliefs), ley line weirdness, and probably many more. There may be some sort of force out there that makes the human mind hallucinate sci-fi imagery, though OMNI magazine before it died in the early '90s was doing their own "Blue Book", and one of the things they uncovered was that heavily Catholic countries have a higher occurrence of seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary in the sky during UFO flaps than non-Catholic countries. It would explain why extremely isolated communities still have sightings of fairy-tale creatures like pixies and dwarves.

So where does Wikipedia fit into all of this?

Because investigators of UFOS, ghosts, and whatnot make their money from producing books, they are loathe to dump it all online to be read for free. The skeptics of the last twenty years are a younger lot, coming at this from college/university, and willing to put things on YouTube - but before YouTube was a mass thing, they were there on Wikipedia. A lot of this merges into the Scientology wars of the Bush II years, but we know that for years there was a group called "Guerrilla skeptics" run by Susan Gerbic (who has her own Wikipedia page) that fought anybody who wanted to edit UFO/paranormal articles away from being party-line CSICOP-approvable content. Rome Viharo took loads of abuse for editing the Rupert Sheldrake article, in fact, thanks to RationalWiki he's still being abused.

....And once again we have non-experts in the main telling people who may be experts that "no, you are wrong" calling them "woo-woos" and other nonsense. It's because en.Wikipedia has developed "wiki-lawyering" and this idiotic "old-boys club" that keeps the arguments from happening. Wikipedia will unfortunately have to be dead and buried (the files sold on thunbdrives in souks in the Middle East) before the other side will get a chance to post a balanced article on some online encyclopedia, mark my words.

I've run out of questions.

And I've run out of answers. Goodnight!


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Kinda-Wikipedia: Charles E. Dederich University?

CEDU. Sometimes "CeDu", other times "cedu", always pronounced "see-do." The basic facts can be read about on Wikipedia, but nobody is screaming the truth off rooftops: CEDU took Synanon's "The Game" and unleashed it on teenagers and adolescents, and that CEDU was the prototype for the "troubled teen" industry, which is run entirely on a profit basis, and has been for nearly fifty years.

The Roots

CEDU sprang from a short family tree: the 1930s "Oxford groups" that became Moral Re-Armament  gave birth to Alcoholics Anonymous in the early 1940s, and Charles Dederich, Sr. (founder of Synanon, 1958) was an ex-AA member. What Dederich did differently was concoct a group "struggle session" or "attack circle" called "The Game" wherein the group would sit in a large circle and all take turns talking about themselves then being verbally attacked by the group for their statements, though sometimes the sessions would be about anything or anyone if Dederich thought they had run out of targets. And then they would have dances or social events as a treat after ripping each other or the world to bits. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous has a five percent success rate (which is the number of people who successfully spontaneously remit), Synanon barely cranked out cured heroin addicts, so it became a utopian communial society by 1966 and then a "religion" by the early 1970s. It didn't end well - the cult collapsed in the early 1980s after one of their "Imperial Marines" stuck a de-rattled rattlesnake in lawyer/anti-Synanon activist Paul Morantz's mailbox in early October of 1978. And it turned out that Chuck Dederich, Sr. was still a drunk after TWENTY years of running "The Game."

The Furniture Salesman

Mel Wasserman was the owner of a furniture store in Palm Springs in the mid-1960s, and did not like that the youth protest culture had come to that desert community. He was a supporter of Synanon and figured that he could be doing similar work, so he sold his store and set up shop in Running Springs, California, which is sixty miles north and in the Angeles National Forrest east of LA. That was in 1967. When it started, CEDU (motto: "See Yourself As You Are, and Do Something About It") was there for teenagers who wanted to get their act together, then it quickly morphed into a drug rehabilitation center as the Nixon administration began it's "war on hippies" which they sold as a "War on Drugs." CEDU's large rambling ski-lodge was packed with pot smokers, needle drug users, and other William S. Burroughs characters, all keeping the place spotlessly clean for presentations (to the parents of future enrollees)  under the direction of Brigitte Wasserman (née Steinnman), Mel's German wife - when they weren't in circles screaming at each other in "raps", which were the teen (and later pre-teen) version of "The Game." These sessions were the alleged "key" to getting teenagers off drugs, or shaming them into diets, or keeping them from masturbating, or whatever else parents were unhappy about - CEDU didn't use them for anything but drugs and "antisocial behavior", but the later CEDU knockoffs like The Seed, Straight, Inc., the KIDS chain, and a bevy of others would go that route, throwing drug addicts (alleged or confirmed) into raps with girls that were "too fat" for their mothers' taste.

Of course the locals were unhappy with CEDU from the moment it started, so much so that local radio stations KDES-FM and KGEC-FM ran an interview between some of the internees and a journalist on the Face to Face show - the tape and the name of the presenter are lost to history, but we know it happened in 1969. At that point, CEDU was less drug-rehab, and more of an encounter group to get frazzled young people back toward equilibrium. That would quickly change into a two-and-a-half year drug rehab program where kids got high school credit for shoveling horse manure out of stables.

                                                     Stolen from that Medium article.

The Story of "Medium Anonymous" the CEDU escapee

This post began as a series of emails with Eric Barbour over the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass. - it's a school for a large swath of "special needs" kids, and they use electric shocks to reform behavior on many of the student inmates. I heard about it years ago through a Mother Jones article, which has spawned a number of updates, because the powerful shocks dished out by overseers are not liked by the State of Massachusetts, and the FDA wants to shut down the practice sometime this year. I brought up Synanon, and all the spinoff "tough love" organizations that Mother Jones listed in 2007. Near the top of their chart was CEDU.


I'd heard about CEDU before I read Medium Anonymous' Running My Anger: The Legacy of the CEDU Cult (link here), and how they did this odd ritual of "smoshes" lying on the floor in one room, and that certain people used it to have quiet masturbation sessions under blankets. What I didn't realize was that how much of a non-religious cult CEDU was - they even had their own complicated jargon shared between staff and inmates, and a woman whose job title was "family liaison" but who was really paid to keep the parents on edge and willing to keep little Jimmy or Jane "in therapy" for the full 2.5 years. This was a stunt also carried out by Art Barker of "The Seed" and Miller Newton of the "KIDS" chain (and probably every other "troubled teens" school or program operating under modified 12-step rules), though Barker and Newton used tent revival-like meetings to keep parents willing to pay for the salvation/reform of their children. The actual author of the piece is a nameless Jewish North Shore Chicagoan who was sent to Running Springs because he was considered a "suicide risk" by his parents for "generalized anxiety disorder" - their pharmacologist had the kid on Kolonpin (!) He knew it was a two year stay, but he thought he would be out in "a few weeks" - he was nearly there for a year and a half. That was 1999-2000.

By that point CEDU had been expanded to seven other sites and had been sold to another "troubled teen" outfit, Brown Schools, in 1998. It is not clear if the Wassermans still controlled the Running Springs campus or the places they had set up in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho (Rocky Mountain Academy, Boulder Creek Academy); the Casacade School in Whitmore, California; the two sites in Naples, Idaho (Northwest Academy, Ascent Wilderness Program), the CEDU Middle School on the Running Springs site; or the "location unknown" site of the Milestones Transitional Program, for whom Wikipedia claims that the "property is in litigation." Why the Wassermans had sold out at the height of operation was pretty simple - running CEDU was a daily headache of dancing around litigation, dealing with California state investigators who knew full well the place was more of a group home than a psychiatric reform program with a grade and high school attached, dealing with similar investigators in Idaho, dealing with a staff who were mostly not trained psychiatrists nor therapists of any kind, and of course trying to minimize the fallout when "students" escaped (constantly), committed suicide (July 1994) vanished (1993, 1994, 2004), or the great Northwest Academy riot of 1997 which resulted in five injuries between students and staff.

In the middle of the piece, Medium Anonymous quotes a 2013 article from Cabinet magazine on Synanon ("Shaved Heads, Snipped, Tubes, Imperial Marines, and Dope Fiends: the Fall and Rise and Fall of Chuck Dederich and Synanon") by George Pendle, wherin the author relates how "The Game" actually went:

The Game consisted of a dozen or so addicts sitting in a circle. One player would start talking about the appearance or behavior of another, picking out their defects and criticizing their character. But as soon as the subject of the attack tried to defend him-or herself, other players would join the barrage, unleashing a no-holds-barred verbal onslaught. Vulgarity was encouraged — “talk dirty and live clean,” said Dederich — and so the other members would accuse the defendant of real and imagined crimes, of being selfish, unthinking, of being a no-good, ugly, diseased cocksucker who was too weak to go straight and was too much of an asshole, junkie, cry-baby motherfucker to admit it. Faced with this unrelenting group assault, the recipient would eventually have little choice but to admit their wrongdoing and promise to mend their ways. Then the group would turn to the next person and begin all over again.

The difference between The Game and the "cedus" that were renamed into "raps" were that the alleged counselors started the verbal reamings, let the inmate/students attack one poor member for a period, stop, then let into another person, repeating the cycle until everybody was crying or frothing at the mouth - and all of it was lies, concocted to get the group and the "counselor" off the attacked person's back. What none of the inmates knew was that the counselors were taking mental notes and passing along tidbits to the family liaisons, who would call the parents to throw gas on the FUD ("fear-uncertanty-doubt") cycle they kept burning as long as the child or children were in the system.

                          Taken from the Medium post, this was from a 1973 CEDU brochure, which is all in sepia.

Enter Serial Killers and Child Molesters, Stage Right

Remember the disappearances we mentioned a few paragraphs above? Psychiatrist Burnell Forgey would travel up from Costa Mesa to Running Springs and his assistant was a man named James Lee Crummel. Dr. Forgey allegedly was a child molester, while Crummel was a serial killer of teenagers.
John Christopher Inman, who vanished in 1993, and next year's disappearee, Blake Wade Pursley, were allegedly Crummel's victims.








[post under construction]

Saturday, October 5, 2019

More annoying Wikimedia-ops IRC logs: Christmas Day 2008

Christmas Day 2008, no rest for the nerdy on Wikimedia-ops' IRC channel. Charles Dickens would be horrified.

Session Start: Thu Dec 25 11:06:55 2008
Session Ident: #Wikimedia-ops
[11:06] * Now talking in #Wikimedia-ops
[11:06] * Topic is 'Welcome to the home of the Wikimedia chanops | Ops in various Wikimedia channels are voiced here | dircbot: [[m:IRC bots/dircbot]] | ASM: [[m:IRC bots/AntiSpamMeta]] | [[m:IRC Group Contacts]] | If you have a private message for ops, please /join #wikimedia-ops-internal | [[m:IRC/wikipedia/Channel operator guidelines]] '
[11:06] * Set by Rjd0060 on Sun Dec 14 16:05:44
[11:06] -ChanServ- [#wikimedia-ops] Welcome to the home of the Wikimedia chanops. Questions, requests and the like can be filed here and we'll try to help. To find an operator for a particular channel, type "/quote chanserv access #channel list".
[11:09] * pill (i=pill@wikimedia/Pill) Quit ("-" )
[11:11] <PeterSymonds> Ionas_Freeman: I have a couple of questions about some of your comments from the log
[11:11] <PeterSymonds> PM coming
[11:16] * Dferg (n=Dferg@Wikimedia/Dferg) has joined #wikimedia-ops
[11:16] * ChanServ sets mode: +v Dferg
[11:16] * Majorly (n=Alex@wikimedia/Majorly) has joined #wikimedia-ops
[11:16] * ChanServ sets mode: +v Majorly
[11:17] <DanielB> Britishman, please stop randomly selecting active Wikipedia administrators on IRC and PMing them asking for them to overturn your block. You were blocked because checkuser confirmed that you were a sockpuppet of Chris19910; this cannot and will not be overturned except by the checkuser or the Arbitration Committee
[11:17] <Majorly> my ears were burning
[11:17] <Ionas_Freeman> For once, I concur with DanielB.
[11:17] <Majorly> I am/was being duscussed here?
[11:17] <Ionas_Freeman> Majorly: Yes.
[11:18] <Majorly> oh phew
[11:18] <Majorly> it's only Ionas
[11:18] <Ionas_Freeman> You banned me yesterday, when I was doing nothing wrong.
[11:18] <DanielB> And now I slink back into darkness...
[11:18] <Majorly> I thought I was in trouble :)
[11:19] <Ionas_Freeman> Majorly: You had no reason to ban me. I think you banned me based on a disagreement. Nobody except SwirlBoy said anything when you asked if I was a 'net negative'.
[11:20] <Ionas_Freeman> SwirlBoy is unreliable. You disagree with me on certain things, and because of that, I think you banned me.
[11:20] <PeterSymonds> I was busy, but I am also concerned by some of your comments
[11:20] <Ionas_Freeman> My comments?
[11:20] * DanielB will throw his support behind whichever side gives him the most chocolate.
[11:21] <PeterSymonds> your "healthy dissidence", as you would like to call it, is sometimes just abuse
[11:21] <Cream> Merry Christmas!!!
[11:21] <Ionas_Freeman> Examples please?
[11:22] <Ionas_Freeman> Proper word form is 'dissent' by the way. Cognitive dissonance is something altogether different.
[11:22] <PeterSymonds> Oh, thanks.
[11:23] <Ionas_Freeman> I criticize Wikipedia, and I think that it is good to foster dissent, listen to critics if they have legitimate points, etc. Whitstable is not a legitimate critic of Simple Wikipedia, by the way.
[11:23] <Majorly> unfortunately I can't remember the specific thing that made me ban you (again). Do remember I unbanned you, and I asked you to stop that kind of discussion. You failed to stop
[11:24] <Ionas_Freeman> I did not fail to stop, I thought that I was doing fine. I don't know what I did that was a repetition of that behavior.
[11:24] * DanielB reminds all onlookers that this only applies to the -simple ban, not any others, some of which have been confirmed by the high governance of those respective channels
[11:25] <Ionas_Freeman> Since I cannot think of anything that would be considered abusive, or saddening, or anything like that, I must assume that you did it because of the disagreement about the Pakistan editor, that we had by PM, not in the channel, or that you and SwirlBoy were conspiring secretly.
[11:26] <Ionas_Freeman> My main issue is with the fact that SwirlBoy is a net negative to the whole project.
[11:26] <NotASpy> that sounds perilously close to being a vindictive personal attack on another user. 
[11:26] <PeterSymonds> We shouldn't comment on other users like that, please don't.
[11:26] <DanielB> NotASpy, nothing unusual from this camp...
[11:27] <Majorly> Ionas_Freeman, many think the same thing of yourself
[11:27] <NotASpy> the exact sort of behaviour we really need to try and reduce on Wiki AND on IRC. 
[11:27] <Ionas_Freeman> Majorly described me as that.
[11:27] <Ionas_Freeman> Majorly: I don't think 'the whole project' is what they think that I am not valuable to.
[11:28] <Ionas_Freeman> But SwirlBoy played some pranks on me, and his self-nomination, and the way he interacts with powerful figures, make me think that he just wants power. 
[11:28] <Ionas_Freeman> I don't want power.
[11:28] <PeterSymonds> He's played pranks on me as well; it's not aimed at you directly 
[11:29] <DanielB> PeterSymonds, oh? I thought the entire Wikimedia community was after him...
[11:29] <NotASpy> Ionas_Freeman: dude, it's a project to write stuff, we're not talking about SwirlBoy getting into The Oval Office or something. Keep things in perspective, please. 
[11:31] <Ionas_Freeman> He wants power. This is failing. It is clear, based on his actions, that he wants power.
[11:31] <PeterSymonds> Who cares? Not the issue, even if it was true.
[11:32] <Ionas_Freeman> PeterSymonds: I didn't know that. but it is still clear what he wants.
[11:32] <DanielB> Irrelevant and inappropriate for this venue.
[11:32] <NotASpy> so what if he wants power, it's only Wikipedia. He can't shoot you, arrest you, give you a criminal record or fire you. 
[11:32] <Majorly> so what if he wants it?
[11:32] <Synergy> Ionas_Freeman: its best to leave all of this behind you and focus on the matter at hand
[11:32] * Majorly is off, Wallace & Gromit!
[11:33] <DanielB> Majorly, enjoy your xmas
[11:33] <NotASpy> walkies Majorly 
[11:33] <NotASpy> :p
[11:33] <DanielB> see you soon, if not before NY, have a good one
[11:33] <Ionas_Freeman> Alright. He's a cabal suckup. You don't care that he wants to infiltrate the Wiki, because he seems to be 'on your side'. In a minute, he'll act like he sympathizes with me. He only has selfish motives in mind.
[11:34] <DanielB> "infiltrate"? wtf?
[11:34] <DanielB> this isnt about him
[11:34] <DanielB> this is about what you said
[11:34] <DanielB> stop using this venue to launch attacks on him
[11:34] <DanielB> or you will lose your ability to appeal your -simple ban in this venue
[11:35] <DanielB> focus on your comments and yours only
[11:35] <NotASpy> Ionas_Freeman: infiltrate, it's not the CIA, all we do is write about stuff we know about. There's nothing worth infiltrating. 
[11:35] <PeterSymonds> Agreed.
[11:35] <DanielB> NotASpy, there are some areas worth infiltrating - you and I both work on them - but SwirlBoy doesnt have access to that.
[11:36] <NotASpy> indeed DanielB, but the important areas we work on don't give us any direct control over content or other editors. 
[11:36] <DanielB> indeed
[11:36] <Ionas_Freeman> Alright. I didn't realize that this was completely unrelated, I was explaining, or rather presenting something that, on condition, would make the whole thing make sense, the thing with SwirlBoy trying to ban me, and climb the ranks.
[11:36] <Ionas_Freeman> I shouldn't have said a word.
[11:36] * Majorly_ (n=Alex@wikimedia/Majorly) has joined #wikimedia-ops
[11:36] Clones detected from wikimedia/Majorly: 8 Majorly Majorly_
[11:36] * ChanServ sets mode: +v Majorly_
[11:37] <Ionas_Freeman> I just don't see what I did in the channel that was wrong.
[11:38] <Synergy> this
[11:38] * JulianC93 (n=chatzill@wikipedia/Juliancolton) Quit ("ChatZilla 0.9.84 [Firefox 3.0.4/2008102920]" )
[11:38] <Synergy> this is what you do, in the channel
[11:38] <NotASpy> Ionas_Freeman: there's no "ranks" as you put it. All that happens is the more you're trusted, the more work you get to do. 
[11:38] <Synergy> NotASpy: pack mentality 
[11:39] <Synergy> "ranks"
[11:39] <Synergy> Ionas_Freeman: just take this time to self reflect 
[11:40] <Ionas_Freeman> notaspy: But the unwritten rules say the more you act like you are on the side of a powerful group, in this case Wikipedia-policy-enforcers, the more you get accepted as 'one of them'. I know, this sounds like something ridiculous, but it is true.
[11:41] <PeterSymonds> I've got better things to be doing right now; back later.
[11:41] * PeterSymonds (n=Peter@wikipedia/PeterSymonds) Quit ("ChatZilla 0.9.84 [Firefox 3.0.5/2008120122]" )
[11:41] <Ionas_Freeman> Goodbye. I'm leaving.
[11:41] * Ionas_Freeman (n=ionas_fr@wikipedia/Swusr) has left #wikimedia-ops
[11:41] <Synergy> DanielB: it took a pm, and all of this but i guess i did my best
[11:42] * Majorly (n=Alex@wikimedia/Majorly) Quit (Read error: 60 (Operation timed out) )
[11:42] <DanielB> yay.
[11:42] <DanielB> thanks
[11:43] <Synergy> force feed O.O
[11:43] <NotASpy> that's the sort of attitude we really need to deal with on Wikipedia, it's putting people off from standing for admin if people go around accusing them of being power hungry. 
[11:43] <Synergy> swirlboy isn't an "innocent" in this situation 
[11:43] <Synergy> so i wouldn't worry too much about an RfA
[11:44] <Synergy> but in general, its the way things go
[11:44] <NotASpy> no, there's also the problem of wannabee admins thinking the role is something far more glamorous than it actually is. 
[11:44] <Synergy> i had the same thing happen at one of my RfA's
[11:44] <Synergy> i'm not as bitter as some might think
[11:45] * DanielB likes his adminship for banning annoying users
[11:45] * Synergy doesn't like the term *wannabe admin*
[11:45] <Synergy> ;p
[11:50] * Cyrius (n=t-bone@cpe-68-201-127-8.gt.res.rr.com) has joined #wikimedia-ops
[11:50] * ChanServ sets mode: +v Cyrius
Session Close: Thu Dec 25 12:01:23 2008