In his article on the Southern Illinois UFO flap, William Stage wrote that it is not often that four police officers report seeing a UFO ("Space Case," RFT, April 5).
Not so. The annals of UFO mythology are filled with examples of celestial objects misidentified by police officers as UFOs. In 1967, police in 11 counties in Georgia reported the planets Venus and Jupiter as UFOs. Police officers in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, New York and other states have reported planets and bright stars as UFOs. Police in New York reported the star Sirius as a UFO. Policemen in patrol cars have reported Venus as a UFO 500 feet away, chased Venus at 70 mph, chased the bright star Arcturus, chased the moon at 60 mph and chased an airplane at 60 mph. Police in Washington, D.C., sent up a helicopter to investigate Venus. Other police witnesses blamed Venus for interference on a car radio.
Hundreds of experiences like these provide no evidence that aliens are flying overhead -- but ample evidence that, as "witnesses" to allegedly mysterious things in the sky, police officers can be just as wrong, just as often, as any other group of citizens.
Anyone who does a little research on the subject of UFOs, whether it be talking to friends or family members who have seen unusual things in the sky or reading about the subject, will very likely agree that we have our communal head pretty deep in the sand.
There are an overwhelming number of reports, witness accounts, photographic and videotaped material to demonstrate there is more than "stars, planets, rare atmospheric phenomena or downright hallucinations" that account for what populations over the earth are experiencing.
Why our scientific and other institutions turn their collective backs on all of this probably has more to do with politics and policy than anything else.
One need only turn to the historical record and see how established institutions cloud rather than clear our vision. Galileo was a case in point, with his colleagues refusing to look through his telescopes rather than upset their ideas about the universe revolving around Earth.
Wilbur and Orville Wright were "wasting time and money" because it was clear to anyone with the least scientific training that "no machine that was heavier than air could hope to become airborne"; Thomas Alva Edison was a "hopeless dreamer" and Christopher Columbus a "fool."
It is time that our vision be squarely brought on what is in front of us in order to understand our universe. How the heck can we move forward if we won't take off the blinders?
LOCKED IN THE PAST
Jeannette Batz's "The Boys from Boonville" (RFT, March 15) was an extraordinary account of the oppression, cruelty and racism that has shaped the culture of Missouri's prison system and made, not corrected, criminal behavior and corrupted both inmates and staff.
Things have changed in the 23 years that I have watched Missouri's prisons go from the self-admitted grotesque violence and official law-breaking of the Wyrick years to the current lower-grade oppression that still erupts in willful neglect and occasional acts of violence.
Some things, however, have gotten worse. The system incarcerates six times more offenders than it did in the early '80s because of "the-hell-with-humanity" politics from both parties, which are aided and abetted by a frightened public, exploited by sensationalist media, job-hungry small towns and corporate entrepreneurs who sell stuff to the prison behemoth. Prisons have become the state's alternative to mental hospitals and social-services funding.
The Batz article offers a rare glimpse into Missouri's prisons. Readers should not think for a minute that it reveals a distant past.
Missouri Association for Social Welfare
Like most pro-gun folks, Mike Furey ("Letters," RFT, April 5) makes the mistake of invoking the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in his defense. But the Second Amendment has nothing to do with owning guns in contemporary America.
The Second Amendment is very clear -- it says that because we need a standing citizen militia, we should have the right to bear arms. But we don't need a standing citizen militia anymore. Today, we have professional armed services. The Second Amendment was written when the weapon of choice was the musket, not urban assault rifles and armor-piercing bullets.
It must be really tough for Ray Hartmann to get oxygen to his brain, considering his contortionist abilities and the location of his head ("Commentary," RFT, March 22).
As Hartmann stated, "Smith & Wesson didn't settle out of the goodness of its heart -- but it was still enjoyable to watch the NRA fumble with the embarrassment of a defection in its ranks." If Smith & Wesson is acting like rats jumping from a burning ship, you can rest assured it is only to leave their competition in the wake.
Do you really think it would be enjoyable to watch the news media fumble with their loss of freedom of speech? This is a very real possibility and just a few steps after the right to bear arms has been stripped from honest citizens under the pretense that you can fix stupid.
As for the gun manufacturers' recognizing the sovereignty of the government, check Webster's definition and you will find "supreme and independent political authority," which can be easily translated to "supreme political authority."