The Political Downside to the Apocalypse

May 5, 2000
Stephen Bassett

Planets align and unalign. The galaxy turns around a center composed of a nightmare. In an outer portion of a spiral arm this planet swings along with its inhabitants in deep contemplation.

They contemplate the Drake equation with all its tight little variables attempting to calculate the prevalence of sentient life. Recently a mainstream (he can get on Nightline) scientist endeavored to update that equation. Paleontologist Peter Ward along with Astronomer Donald Brownlee published Rare Earth making the case for extreme rarity of life in the universe to the point of our uniqueness.

It’s a message the top-tier talk venues, under siege by a host of UFO/ET researcher/activists for airtime, find quite attractive. Ah, if only it were true, and all those deluded, sleep paralytic, obsessive, cult susceptive, sleep walking, hoaxers would then just go away and leave us alone. Ward is doing the full circuit. He’s killing coast to coast.

Deep within the Drake equation is one of its most provocative components, a variable which attempts to take into account the propensity of sentient life to turn the laws of physics on themselves and the biosphere they shepherd and wipe it out. Apocalypse – wrath of God stuff; mayhem; dogs, cats sleeping together; total chaos.

Humans, of course, don’t have to participate. The galaxy has a host of methods by which it can convert a budding Eden into so much cosmic flotsam. Toasted, radiated, clobbered, pole flipped, flooded and frozen, or in a bad millennium, all of the above. Another of Drake’s variables takes into account the Galaxy’s contribution.

These variables are legitimate. The universe is a dangerous place, and somehow this fact is burned into our genetic engrams for we do so love to indulge apocalyptic expression. It has been prevalent since recorded history, and all of our technological mastery can’t diminish its allure.

You know the end is near, but did you know just how political that feeling is?

Being sentient has its drawbacks. All that mental power keeps dishing up more than you really care to know about the past, the future, and most disconcertingly, your place in the present. Non-sentient animals don’t have to put up with this.

Forget riding a planetary spec through an expanding and possibly infinite universe. Due to a lack of family planning going back to the flood, you now face life as one of six billion. The library system is the size of the Roman Empire. The lines at the supermarket show no signs of getting shorter. You feel small, you feel a modicum of control over events, you are absolutely certain life is not fair – and you live in the U.S.

There is real pain in this world, real suffering. If you were a fully telepathic being hovering about the planet, this suffering would rage in you like a fire in the brain. Much of that pain has no cure, no respite. It is a condition of a life in a place and it persists until the end.

The democratic system and the elevation of human rights to the level of constitutional law is intended to mitigate the realities of this world, and when embraced with sincerity and shorn of deceit, it helps. But for individuals in their own place, it is meaning that makes sentience tolerable. In a world of six billion, there is not enough meaning to go around.

Which brings us back to apocalypse. It is the ultimate expression of equality. In fire, in ice the world ends and all die together – rich and poor, black and white, beautiful and plain, smart and dumb, wise and unwise, female and male – a satisfying fantasy leveling of pain and joy into a singularity. Liberty has been made moot and there is justice for all.

That is political expression of the highest order. As the deadlines for this and that group’s endtime pass with no consequence, the skeptics feast on the obvious. They have no interest in political interpretation. They are in the business of being right.

Such interpretation, however, has significant lessons to teach.  At a time of information management, propaganda as art form, and of course, a global web of connected computers, apocalypse can be big medicine. You must beware its charm, its momentary respite.

It is so simple really. Why would someone struggle with the imperfections and inequities of this world when the end is so near?  To what purpose.  To accept the apocalyptic premise is to disempower oneself.  What better way for any center of control concerned about its cloaked station, then to leach into the stream of global discourse another endtime scenario. The Rapture, earth changes, meteor impact extinction, CME kill shots, pole flips – all have some substance as science. But as a means to quell new recruits into any activist scenario for change, it is sublimely Orwellian in its powers.

No finger is pointed here at any particular book or person or organization, only a cautionary reminder there is much greatness and meaning to be had in this life by anyone willing to seek a better world. The siren song of “the end” may soothe the embittered spirit for a time. It may be entertaining. But it also may be the drug slipped into your coffee to keep you still while the devil romps.

The Role of the President in the Politics of Disclosure – Part I: The Decline of the Executive

May 4, 2000
Stephen Bassett

One of the most important political trends in the second half of the 20th Century is the weakening of the American presidency – important because of its role in the intricate, constitutionally structured checks and balance system mentioned in the first column in this series. (See The Role of the People in the Politics of Disclosure.)

The principal targets of this counter force are the congress and the military. The judiciary is rarely in polarity with the executive largely because top judges are appointed by the president and each party knows they will get their turn. Abuse of influence would only result in retribution at a later time. It is worth noting here that the power and prestige of the Supreme Court has remained in tact during the decline of the executive office.

Congressional hyperventilation and malfeasance are restrained by the presidential veto forcing a two-thirds vote to override. This check is well known to the public. The check on the military rests in two principal areas.   First, the president was installed as the Commander in Chief atop the chain of command. Second, the president can bring power to bear quickly utilizing executive orders, nationalizing the guards, etc. These checks are less understood by the general public and often questioned. Nevertheless they are essential to the thwarting of a military coup or draconian act by a rogue officer, an event virtually unheard of in the United States yet commonplace elsewhere throughout the world.

As the presidency has declined in power, prestige and public esteem, its relationship to congress has been modestly affected. It is the balance between it and the military, and by extension the intelligence agencies, that has been warped to the threshold of danger. It is at this point the politics of UFOs/disclosure comes into play. But first, why the decline?

The temptation has always been to lay the weakening of the American executive off on the flaws in the character of certain modern presidents.   This misses the mark. The overwhelming influence has been the rise of a comprehensive, even ubiquitous, news media.   Intense coverage of any national leader to ever deeper levels of the personal breeds contempt. (This principle has worked in spectacular fashion as regards the British monarchy.)

Very large books have been written about this media effect. Let’s sum them all up – the President of United States lives with news media.   The White House is the home office of the first family. The entire west wing of that home office has been converted into a press facility. Hundreds of correspondents, photographers and video technicians come and go every day.   They operate, with benefit of tolerance and courtesy, in a beehive atmosphere in which dozens of tiny cubicles are crammed into little space, some of which once held the pool water. They are literally working in the deep end.

Want to get away? Out on the White House lawn are permanent camera platforms set up for correspondents to give commentary with the White House as background. Plans to move the media to new facilities outside the White House grounds with a secure, underground connection to the press offices have been floated. Not surprisingly, the press is reluctant to give up such extraordinary access.

To this author’s knowledge no other leader in any country anywhere in the world lives with the press operating permanently within the residence/office itself. In order to truly appreciate this setup, you have to be there – it’s quite amazing.

The great irony is that all of this access to the executive has reduced the power and influence of the office and made the access all that less valuable.   As the scrutiny grows, substantive press conferences become scarce. We seem to learn more and more about less and less.

Presidents have become just another character in a soap opera, stand up comedians delivering expected shtick at roasts, press dinners and talk show appearances. We want them to have the power to launch civilization-ending war but tell us their underwear preference on demand.

There is now a fundamental rule in American life that operates with increasing consistency – when any aspect of our society is not working to our satisfaction, we demand television and movies in which it does work to our satisfaction.   Crime on the rise and punishment/justice problematic? – TV and movie screens fill with police dramas with desirable outcomes.   The presidency is losing influence and respect? – movies and programs about the office pour forth.

When one part of the larger system loses power, another gains. This power didn’t go to the judiciary or legislature, it flowed to the military/intelligence complex . The mechanism of this transference – secrecy.

Open, accountable government became vaudeville in the case of the executive. While the presidents and vice presidents (and for that matter the candidates) were coming under ever increasing scrutiny, the military/intelligence complex slipped behind the secrecy curtain, dropped off the oversight radars, and merged into the background. It’s programs and agendas were not going to be picked apart by the press, its member’s private lives untouched, its actions unjudged, and its victims unknown.

If the military/intelligence complex does not give up this power, the executive branch must take it back. This will be difficult without substantial media and citizen support, and there are important governing limitations.

First and foremost, we do not have whistle-blowing presidents. Huh? Presidents do not leave office and blow the whistle on people, agencies and programs. If they did, they would be a legal activist gold mine.         Writing as a strong proponent of open government and secrecy reform, it is still not hard to endorse this practice.         If a president acted in such a fashion, the consequences would be grave. Access to information for future presidents would be substantially impacted – the office would lose even more power and become little but a figurehead.

Consequently, if presidents are faced with a major internal reform issue, they have to address it while they are in office. The UFO/ET cover-up fully qualifies as a major internal issue, but a sitting president takes that one on at extreme risk to short term political capital, future electability and to the party.

But, an issue of such magnitude is exactly the kind of measure that would pull power back from the military/intelligence complex to the executive. It may be the only lever big enough to do the job.

Which brings forward the obvious question, which of the two remaining candidates for President of the United States with legitimate prospects of winning, will be more or less likely to take on the UFO/ET cover-up, the decline of presidential power, and secrecy reform – Bush or Gore.

In-Q-It?  Screw it.

May 1, 2000
Stephen Bassett

Washington, DC – Complacency is a complex social condition. It is not easy to qualify, but you know it when you see it. For example, you know what constitutes complacency about your health. When you finally get that inevitable prostate cancer, it has already spread to the hair follicles on the top of your head and your doctor gives you 14 minutes to live. “Yes, son, that’s not much time, but try to make the most of it. Sign the bill.”

Complacency is subtle in its effect and a frequent component of sci-fi works, e.g., Zardoz and The Time Machine. Futurists have a sense of dread about this phenomena, believing an over stimulated, satiated human race is destined to fall into it with fatal consequences. They could be right.

Presently the American people are going through a protracted complacent period that has lasted a full generation, having begun around 1975.  There is deep suspicion that somehow disco is responsible for this.

If it were only that simple. The social theorists have attempted to carve the last 75 years into three distinct groupings. The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brocaw has come to call it, is birthed in the roaring twenties, weathers great hardship and goes on to defeat the Axis powers. Not wishing to stand on that accomplishment, in their middle age they wage the Cold War for twenty-five years and set the foundation for its successful outcome – just about the least complacent generation of humans the world has ever seen.

The third grouping is the Do-the-Dew Xer’s we have come to know and love, who have the natural complacency of youth, and appropriately so. Everyone deserves some time to just “be,” and their time is up.

But this column is about the Xers’ parents – wistfully called the “Baby Boomers.” Oh what a world-wide splash they have made. This author is one of them, part of a sub-set which might be titled the “nuclear children.”   The word went out to drop the atomic bomb in Japan.  Bomb drops, Japan surrenders, troops are gathered in transition zones, then mustered out, Dad sails home from Australia, travels by rail to the East Coast, meets up with Mom, and nine months later, voilà. No bomb, war takes a little longer, Dad gets back a little later, and some other squiggly rounds third for home. It is somewhat disconcerting to owe ones existence to a bomb (“I am Shiva, destroyer of worlds.”)

Tens of millions of soldiers came back from war and set off a population tidal wave like none before it.  This writer wasn’t just part it, he was riding the front of that wave, hanging ten over the nose, racing hell bent for the 21st Century, screaming like a banshee, drenched in fear, loathing and total confusion. If that sounds familiar, you were born between July 1946 and January 1947. Howdy brother.

The Vietnam War messed with our lives, the sexual revolution messed with our glands, the drug explosion messed with our minds and the economic boom messed with our values. Our minds closed, we got fat, we got rich, we got on the net, and oh yeah, we got complacent. Just why will be the subject of some very thick books you are never going to read, but will somehow have a great deal to do with the fact that along the way you lost the ability to distinguish the difference between real life and what you witnessed on a device born the same time as you – television.

There was a time when you had to be complacent for a couple hundred years for something really bad to happen. Now it takes a decade, tops. A virus turns up in Haiti among some young male tourists. Not to worry.  It’s a gay thing, it’s a third world thing, play it cool. Next thing you know half of southern Africa is infected and millions of Americans have three letters and a arithmetic symbol after their name.

Last year the Central Intelligence Agency announced it was creating a venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley in order to cash in on the high-tech start-up boom and get closer access to all that geeky talent they badly need. A simple concept, they would use your tax dollars to buy in on the ground floor. It would be called In-Q-It.

Articles appeared in the Washington Post, NY Times, Wall Street Journal. Brocaw, Rather and Jennings reported this splendid idea with bemused enthusiasm. Finally the government is wising up and going private. More bang for the buck.

The idea that the nation’s leading intelligence agency would be a founding stock player in the world of clipper chips, backdoor software portals, telcom interfacing and God knows what else created nary a blink of the eye.  Exactly who would oversee the disposition of future capital gains and the influence of the agency on the management of potentially critical new technology companies was not even of mild concern.

One can only imagine the consternation on the faces of NSA managers as they looked around and sorrowfully bleated, “Where’s our venture capital fund?”

George Orwell would understand this, of course, but he’s dead. You’re not.   Think of In-Q-It as a tumor you just found in your armpit.   It’s the size of a golf ball, and you might consider moseying on down to the old HMO and checking that puppy out. Or you could go on a six-month surfing vacation to Maui. How complacent do you feel?

Your neighbors are either working very, very hard to pay for the new Lexus or watching their internet stocks go up and down until their eyes dribble like ping pong balls. You, on the other hand, have been following the UFO/ET issue for years and are well acquainted with the whole need-to-know, if-I-tell-you-that-I’ll-have-to-kill-you, don’t-ask-don’t tell, military industrial complex thing. You trust no one.

Think about letting your friendly, innovating Central Intelligence Agency know you would prefer they kept to the spying business and left the venture capital business to the Gordon Geckos of this world – very greedy, ambitious men and women who don’t have their own surveillance satellite system. You might also tell the press to reconsider their thumbs up review of this new release.

It is just possible the CIA would come to understand, after taking the time to re-intuit In-Q-It, they blew it.

The Role of the People in the Politics of Disclosure

April 24, 2000
Stephen Bassett

Congress in sessionWashington, DC – Sitting in the press room behind the House Chamber listening to President Clinton, the thought emerges, “this is the 53rd State of the Union Address delivered in joint session to the members of Congress since July of 1947, and like all others before, it will have no reference whatsoever to the most important circumstance in human history – the presence of extraterrestrial life forms in our world.”

The politics of disclosure is a call to citizens to step forward and assert their will upon their government at a time when many would see little justification to do so. Such an initiative has no chance to succeed unless the public is absolutely clear as to why.

Our constitutional republic has flourished for many reasons, none more important than the system of checks and balances embedded in its founding documents.  Three branches of government – legislature, judiciary, executive – in constant dynamic tension, each preventing the other from undermining the nation’s fundamental values to the point of irreparable damage.

That system was later enhanced by the emergence of the often-criticized two-party structure. Should ever the party in control attempt to take the nation off the deep end, the other party, fully constituted and equal in power, is always there to yank the nation back from the brink.

As Paul Simon wrote, “…we’ve lived so well so long.” So well the nation finds itself at the beginning of the 21st century and 3rd millennium as the preeminent political, economic and military power in the world. But something is wrong, terribly wrong. In an almost subliminal manner, the American people demonstrate that perception in a number of ways. Two are notable.

The first is divided government.  There have been 27 congressional terms since January of 1947. Of the first eleven terms, seven had the same party controlling the Presidency, House and Senate – 64%. Since January 1969, the peak of the Vietnam War, there have been 16 congressional terms. Only three have had unified leadership – 19%.

The second is more disconcerting. During a 30 years ascendancy of American wealth and prestige, polls have shown that, oddly, trust in government has decreased dramatically since 1970 from around 80% to as low as 20% in the last decade.

Is the reason for these two manifestations of public perception serious? Yes, and the populist UFO/ET research effort has opened a window into the heart the problem.

The founders of our political system were aware of large commercial (corporate) entities. After all, the British East India Company had been a major component of colonial empire building, exercising enormous and excessive political influence. They understood the ability of armies to influence government and that the two were not averse to combining forces.

And while they would have certainly been in awe of the extraordinary size of modern multi-national corporations and militaries, they would have understood. But what they did not, could not foresee was the rise of the “Secret Empire” – the massive, pervasive, interconnecting intelligence wing of what President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower termed the “Military Industrial Complex.”

It consists of billions of “black budget” dollars, millions of classified documents, hundreds of thousands of classified personnel, thousands of covert programs and dozens of intelligence agencies.      The crown jewel at the center of the Secret Empire is the management of contact between our world and extraterrestrial life forms, perhaps helping to drive the growth of such secrecy.

The checks and balances developed over 224 years that have served well, were not designed to properly control the activities of such a complex. As a result, it has evolved a mindset that bred abuse of power and warped the relationships between other components of government.

This set of attitudes views the public as an irritant to be endured rather than sovereign citizens to be served, the Congress as an interfering group of bumblers to be circumvented, the President as a transient civilian to be kept in or out of the loop at their discretion, and the media as a propaganda tool to be manipulated with misinformation and coercion.

Over time this mindset metastasized from the defense intel groups to the civilian enforcement agencies such as the FBI, ATF and IRS. New abuses took place, past egregious acts were uncovered, and distrust continued to grow.

The American people now face a most difficult task. With an intensity not seen since the Vietnam War movement, they must demand accountability from their government. There will be no body bags coming home to bury, no television coverage of battle, no immediate threat to life plans of young adults. Life is good.   Income is up, unemployment down, inflation down, and the pursuit of happiness is in full swing.

The UFO/ET movement has generated information relating to the intentions and methodologies of this Secret Empire. The interested public, now numbering in the millions, must take that information to their fellow citizens, command the audience microphones at the political debates and make the case for secrecy reform and open government. In the process the world will learn of the extraordinary truth surrounding extraterrestrial phenomena.

There are certainly those who do not accept this analysis. They see no reason to challenge their government in such matters. To them, some modest advice. Go to your local video store and become very familiar with two movies – one from the decade when trust in government began its long decline and the other from the decade in which the Secret Empire saw it greatest growth – Seven Days in May and 1984.

*    Disclosure as used here has specific meaning, that being “formal acknowledge by the  government of  the United States of an extraterrestrial presence in our world, now.”

[First published in the April 2000 issue of UFO Magazine]