Denver voters get a chance to waste money on UFOs

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2009 7:30 am

denver_ufoHey, remember the reality-impaired guy in Colorado who claims to have a really amazingly cool video of an alien peeping Tom but won’t show it to anybody and also claims that Aliens Are Among Us and that we need To Take All This Very Seriously?

No? Well, maybe this will remind you, or this.

So yeah, Jeff Peckman is in the news again: he’s collected enough signatures in Denver to get a ballot initiative up for vote, enabling the creation of a Denver Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. Yes, an actual commission to investigate UFOs.

Now, I’m not going to say this would be a complete and utter waste of money… oh wait! Yes I am.

Sadly, since he did get enough signatures, this will go to the citizens of Denver to vote on. He claims he can fund this 7 member commission using private grants and it won’t cost the government anything, but that’s ridiculous: just having them testify to the government, heck, just setting up the vote, will cost money ($100,000 according to the article linked above). Not to mention the colossal waste of time.

Oh wait! I mentioned that too!

Anyway, my mocking here is complete (unless Denver actually votes this thing up), so I will relegate you to the tender mercies of one Karen Stollznow, an ex-pat Australian Skepchick who is far less polite than I am about all this, if you can imagine.

But, I wonder: if this commission does get set up, will they take people from Boulder? Hmmmm.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience

Comments (47)

  1. Gus Snarp

    Oh if it does pass you just have to get yourself on that commission. What fun.

  2. I wonder who would decide who is to be on the commission. You’d be a great commissioner, Phil!
    Where does this guy Peckman live? Not that you’d want to go visit him or anything, but he might not be a Denver resident either…

  3. Spectroscope

    Thinking of wasting money & political stoopidity – did you hear the head of the CRU has resigned, BA?

    Will you deign to cover that massive Science scandal and skepticism related story on this blog? Do you still think the ClimateGate scandal is a “non-issue” Dr Plait?

    Now I know this is very much Off Topic for this thread but, whether you like it or not BA the question is a burning one & if you won’t give us a dedicated post on the matter ..

    I know, I know. Yes, this is your blog & thus your rules & choice & I respect that, but just ignoring this ClimateGate issue which is right in your key science & skepticism area isn’t going to make this go away. I really do think you need to discuss it and 360 plus comments on the last thread on this matter* indicate that this is what people really wish to discuss.

    & I’ll leave this issue here for now before I’m accusing of trying a “threadjack” again – I don’t want to derail this thread & don’t plan to comment on this thread again but I do think this new ClimateGate development calls for a specially dedicated BA Blog thread .. Perhaps even one titled “Sorry I got it wrong – & the CRU Alarmists got it even wronger!”?

    After all, I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong – are you also man enough to do the same? Are the Alarmists?

    (No, I’m not leaving the blog or anything silly like that, I’ve other things to do & may not post for a while but I’ll be back. Assuming I’m allowed & I don’t think I’ve done anything worth being banned. I promise I’ll try and restrain myself more.)

    * BTW. BA did you read any of those over 360 replies here?
    ( http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/11/30/the-global-warming-emails-non-event/ )

    Have you reconsidered your position on ClimateGate any more? Surely thats a fair question to ask in light of recent developments?

  4. JG

    I’m going to start a citizen initiative to end citizen initiatives. Also, I thought boulder was supposed to have all the nutcases, not Denver ;)

  5. All right. Spectroscope, stop being a friggin’ troll. Keep your posts on topic or shove off please politely remain quiet.

  6. Petrolonfire

    Waste my money buying a UFO … Yeah, I’ll take one!

    Oh wait, that’s not what this is about .. ;-)

    Hmm .. Still y’know a commission on UFO’s? I’d be tempted to sign up for that & compared to some things the govt wastes money on it’s not quite so bad! ;-)

  7. John Baxter

    Well, San Francisco voters recently refrained from naming a sewage treatment plant after a (now–but not during the vote) former President. With luck, the good people of Denver will see through this one.

    The frightening thing about this is that the commission–if established–might actually do something rather than just collecting pay.

  8. Spectroscope, Phil Jones has not resigned, he has stepped down — temporarily — while the investigation goes on. I have seen several global warming “skeptics” saying he’s resigned when it’s clearly not true, so the spin on this is in full force.

    I have at least one followup post planned. Please don’t put comments in threads where it is off-topic.

  9. Flying sardines

    Hey, remember the reality-impaired guy in Colorado who claims to have a really amazingly cool video of an alien peeping Tom

    Just a thought but would a genuine alien peeping Tom have a legitimate excuse for “schler”* actions in simply being curious and not knowing human customs or anatomy?

    Fictional characters (eg. Spock, Delynn, B’lana Torres, etc ..) aside there’s no way human and alien species can be interbreed and thus no reason why an alien would have sexual desires for humans any more than humans do for gorillas or tarsiers. (See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarsiers )

    I can see the makings of an interesting legal case here:

    “Yes my client admits to examining the naked humans but only out of dispassionate scientific motives – no, the anal probe was not his your honour!” ;-)
    —————————

    * Today’s gratutious ‘Futurama’ reference. ;-)

  10. Spectroscope

    @ 8. Phil Plait: Okay, good, I will try to keep on-topic in future. THX.

  11. Jeremy

    It seems to me that whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on who is on the commission. If it’s ordinary citizens or real scientific minds it’d be OK. There are tons of “unidentified flying objects” up there. Even if all they find is nothing at least they’re looking up. The problem is the commission will probably be loaded with nut jobs like him.

  12. Nigel Depledge

    It’s not as big a waste of money as spending $3 million on an “overhead projector” for a planetarium, is it?

    Oh, wait. The planetarium actually does something useful, so that wasn’t a waste!

  13. Chad

    Maybe this can spawn a “Denver: Doomed” picture at least if the vote passes?

  14. Flying sardines

    @ 11 Jeremy :

    The problem is the commission will probably be loaded with nut jobs like him.

    But .. wait a second , given that “teh allieennes are umong ous” how can we be *sure* that the “people” selected for this commission are really *people* and not (V-style or Changleling type) aliens themselves? ;-)

    I know – we’ll need a commission into the commissioners possibly being disguised aaaliens … & then a commish into the commissh into the commissh being alieens … & (repeat steps until crazy!) ;-)

  15. Flying sardines

    @ 12. Nigel Depledge Says:

    Oh, wait. The planetarium actually does something useful, so that wasn’t a waste!

    Has it ever! http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/12/02/adler-planetarium-unleashes-2-5-gigapixel-image-of-the-galaxy/ :-D

    (It *was* the Adler planetarium that McCain was doing his “overhead projector” rant about wasn’t it?)

  16. Maybe I’ll try to get on the commission if it passes. We’ll start with a two-year-long study into the case for extraterrestrial life, and come out at last with a pronouncement that, until we learn what kind of life we might meet, there’s no real point in preparing further.

    Then I will then use the rest of our funding to buy beer.

  17. Isn’t this an Immigration issue? They’re the ones who are supposed to be keeping illegal aliens out…

  18. People of Denver if you have extra money to get rid of please contact me through the Bad Astronomy Universe Today forum. :D

  19. Mark T.

    As my wife said when I told her about this one: Don’t we have enough to do minding our own affairs without worrying about the affairs of extraterrestrials?

  20. RAF

    I’m trying to imagine what kind of TV commercials this will spawn.

  21. He claims he can fund this 7 member commission using private grants and it won’t cost the government anything,

    Even if he can get private grants, how many of those are going to be grants that have matching contributions from some part of the government?

    He also claims a lot of other things that are not true, so why believe him on this?

  22. Beasjt

    NUTS! Are taking over the world.

  23. Petrolonfire

    @ 16. Oroboros Says:

    Maybe I’ll try to get on the commission if it passes. We’ll start with a two-year-long study into the case for extraterrestrial life, and come out at last with a pronouncement that, until we learn what kind of life we might meet, there’s no real point in preparing further.

    Then I will then use the rest of our funding to buy beer.

    I’d *start* by spending all the money on beer then I’d ask for more funds – to buy more beer!

    Hey, everyone knows the best way to see a UFO is to get really drunk right? ;-)

    (Hmm .. a little peyote may help as well.) ;-)

  24. This is reason enough that ballot initiatives should never NEVER be allowed.

  25. Nemski the people in my state have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with ballot initiatives.

    We had Amendment 2 that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as being “motivated by animus to homosexuals”.

    We still have Amendment 43 which ought to be struck down for the same reasons.

    Then there was TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that capped government spending. Unfortunately, the voters later passed contradictory funding mandates for education.

    The Denver voters did approve a measure decriminalizing marijuana. The same group failed to get state-wide approval. So Denver votes much more liberally than the rest of the state, and I’m not sure what to make of that with regard to this initiative. If the proponents are slimy, they’ll run an ambiguous campaign making this look like an immigration issue. The proponents of marijuana decriminalization ran a sleazy campaign at one point that tried to confuse voters into thinking it was about a domestic violence initiative (and there was one on the ballot that year). Their rationale was something like “stoned people don’t beat their wives like drunk people do”, which might have been an acceptable argument if they hadn’t done it so deceptively as to hide the fact on billboards that it had anything to do with pot.

  26. tacitus

    Alien conspiracy theories aside, there is an argument to be made than if we are not the first intelligent technological species to arise in this galaxy, then the odds are that whoever came before us (if they survived to expand out from their solar system) is already aware of our presence. Even at 10% of light speed, it would only take a couple of million years to spread probes across the galaxy, and two million years is nothing given that the galaxy is likely 13 billions years old itself.

    Of course that begs the question, where are they? If they do exist, then we have to conclude that they are either

    (a) uninterested in our existence, or
    (b) have applied their own version of the Prime Directive

    So perhaps they are monitoring us while leaving us to fend for ourselves until the time when we head for the stars ourselves. But that should doesn’t mean the UFOlogists are any more correct. If they are monitoring Earth, it’s most likely from long range using almost undetectable means of remote sensing, not by whizzing around in spacecraft and sticking probes up people’s backsides.

  27. JWG

    No one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American Public.

    My political wonk friends change the end of that to American Voter. As dumb as this is, I can see this getting passed. I guess I should be glad I live in Jeffco, because that means I won’t have an aneurysm when I see this on the ballot.

    I don’t care what he says about it being funded by private grants, this will cost the city money. Here is a better idea, spend that money on science education so people can actually understand how ridiculous this sort of thing is.

  28. Daniel J. Andrews

    Skepchick refers to you (Phil) as that infamous pseudoscientist ‘Dr’ Phil Plait. Now we know she’s joking (right?) but others might not. Perhaps a disclaimer at the end, or a smiley face next to Phil’s name….?? (I’d mention this on her site but I need to log-on to comment).

    Or have I missed a big joke here?

  29. 14. Flying sardines Says:

    I know – we’ll need a commission into the commissioners possibly being disguised aaaliens … & then a commish into the commissh into the commissh being alieens … & (repeat steps until crazy!) ;-)

    There was an episode (clip show) of the new Outer Limits that had just about that… the ‘witness’ who was presenting the evidence believed the head of the commission was an alien… though he was wrong.. partially.

    J/P=?

  30. BILL7718

    <>

    They’d take Mork.

  31. Are you sure thats a ufo?It looks like the Jupiter 2 to me . They are wasteding tax payer money for nothing but thats what goverment dose . by the way I don’t think aliens would reproduce like humans do rember they would have formed in a diferent evorment then we have they probilty won’t be a thing like us the late Carl Sagen said this

  32. molzim

    “But, I wonder: if this commission does get set up, will they take people from Boulder? Hmmmm.”

    As in take people from Boulder and accuse them of being aliens?? Yes, they will, and it would probably be a great place to start! ;)

  33. I will tax my astrophysics friends from Boulder with their neighbors. Maybe they can make it statewide. Lord helpl us.

  34. James Wright

    Hell, I could use a cushy job! Where do I need to apply? Maybe I could get a subsidy if I claim to BE an alien. Klaatu Barada Nicktu, suckas!

  35. Steve in Dublin

    But, I wonder: if this commission does get set up, will they take people from Boulder? Hmmmm.

    You mean ‘take’ as in ‘abduct’, right? :-)

  36. Dave B.

    If he really has private funding, what is the proposed purpose of the ballot measure?

  37. Ismael

    Oh wow, a big whopping 100 000$.

    How much have world governments spent on CERN’s LHC????

    That’s not a big failure, or waste of money either.

  38. llewelly

    … the creation of a Denver Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission.

    I hope they investigate William Shatner.

  39. Paul M

    Yeah Ismael, you’ve never seen one single benefit from high energy physics research right? Open your eyes a bit, do a bit of research… even if it is only with Google.
    Cancer treatments, medical imaging, synchrotron (all sorts of applications in everything from biology to engineering), x-ray lithography – hey they use that to make the chips in the computer you are using. The list goes on and on. Where should we stop? You want to decide? Should we have given up on this sort of research in the 50s? Who knows what the LHC will find… that’s the whole point.

    So you are right – the LHC is not a failure or a waste of money.

  40. Dave B.

    Regardless of Ismael’s point about the LHC, we can probably all agree that typical government waste regularly dwarfs the $100,000 figure. It’s fairly childish to suggest that this justifies further wasteful expenditure, however.

  41. Mark Hansen

    @ 8. Phil Plait: Okay, good, I will try to keep on-topic in future. THX.
    Sure you will Spectroscope:
    Yes, don’t worry I will take this up on the pitifully few and pitifully pro-Alarmist slante dthreads here that theBA provides.
    That look familiar? You can’t stick to your word for even a few threads.

  42. Spectroscope

    @ 41. Mark Hansen Said on December 3rd, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    That look familiar? You can’t stick to your word for even a few threads.

    Check the dates & times there Mark, the post you are quoting from the “Australian skeptics cheer David and Toni McCaffery” thread was :

    14. Spectroscope Says:
    December 2nd, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    … You any relation of James Hansen Mark? Yes, don’t worry, I will take this up on the pitifully few and pitifully pro-Alarmist slanted threads here that the BA provides.

    This is much older than post 8 – now 10 – here which was posted on December 3rd, 2009 at 8:28 am after the BA’s reply and promise that he would cover the latest developments in ClimateGate notably Phil Jones stepping down “temporarily”.

    Like other Alarmists, it seems Mark Hansen just can’t get the facts to fit his claims.

    So Mark you are wrong and BTW. you never did answer my question there.

    Oh & in post three here my asking for a new thread on the ClimateGate scandal and pointing out that this issue is of major interest to many people & explictly stating:

    [Quote]
    & I’ll leave this issue here for now before I’m accusing of trying a “threadjack” again – I don’t want to derail this thread & don’t plan to comment on this thread again but I do think this new ClimateGate development calls for a specially dedicated BA Blog thread ..
    [Unquote.]

    is hardly threadjacking or trolling but rather is merely making a reasonable request.

    Oh & you did ask, Mark Hansen. You got to expect a reply. ;-)

  43. Mark Hansen

    No, I’m no relation. Was there any point in asking? Does it mean anything in relation to off-topic posting or is that just your way of dodging? You know well what this thread is about and yet, whether or not you posted it before or after what you said, you still go off-topic. So I still would take what you say with a grain of salt.

  44. Did you have to use the Jupiter 2 in that illo? Sheesh. At least you could have used an alien saucer. I’ve always liked the ones in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks” since they’re an homage to Harryhausen’s EvtFS.

    - Jack

  45. mike burkhart

    I have to admit a bias I spent money on ufos video games with ufos and aliens maybe Denver going to do the same thing .By the way is the robot in there ?

  46. Kevin

    And while Denver is slowly sinking into insanity, it looks like Great Britain has had enough with the UFO wackos.

    MoD department that investigated UFO sightings ‘closed’

  47. Damon

    Oh Phil, always hating on the paranormal.

    While every state should have a UFO call center to report sightings, this “Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission” stuff sounds a little far-fetched. It’s a fluke, and that’s fine, because, as with climatology, it doesn’t discredit the actual investigation of UFO phenomenon, which is and always has been a legitimate course of action– no matter how far some crazies choose to take it.

    Oh, and Phil: Uncle Sam called, he wants you to pick up your paycheck.

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