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Final project

Music and the public sphere

-Alex Chin


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Presidential Nominee Herman Cain Uses Tobacco Platform to Gain Votes

Republican Presidential Nominee Herman Cain has recently adopted a new platform to secure a group of voters that he feels have long been neglected.  In a number of recent interviews, Cain has made it clear that he supports tobacco smokers and if elected will pass new laws that cater towards smokers.

“I feel that lately smokers have been getting a bad reputation; they are constantly ostracized and are in desperate need of a candidate that will make sure their freedoms are not infringed upon.” says Cain in a recent interview.

Although it seems unorthodox, Cain’s support of smokers may actually be a very smart move.  According to the CDC or Center for Disease Control, an estimated 46 million or 20% of adults in the United States smoke cigarettes.  This staggering number doesn’t even take into account pipe tobacco and cigar smokers.

On top of a large portion of voters, Cain’s tobacco endorsement has also gained the support of large tobacco corporations like Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris. In an interview with The Onion, Altria Spokesman, Greg Mathe, said “We are overjoyed that a candidate has finally acknowledged that our government has infringed upon the rights of Americans. They have passed a number of laws targeted towards tobacco smokers and controlling private businesses.”  Tobacco companies are among the biggest and most profitable corporations in the U.S., and their financial support of Cain could give him a huge advantage over other candidates.


( Presidential Nominee Herman Cain showing his support for tobacco companies by adopting the Marlboro Man look at a rally in Florida.)

Cain has stated that he plans to eliminate laws placed on tobacco companies that prohibit advertising and eliminate bans prohibiting smoking in public areas.  “These types of laws are what’s killing America, taking away people’s freedom that we have no right to take.” said Cain at a recent rally.

Cain has done very well since supporting tobacco smokers, despite what initially was considered a poor platform.  In a recent poll, Cain led Republican nominees by a staggering 15%.

Cain’s unorthodox platform doesn’t just appeal to smokers, non-smokers too have voiced their support.  Don Johnson, a 36 year old construction worker and non-smoker from Harrisonburg VA, told The Onion “I really like this guy, even though I don’t smoke or care for it I think he is headed in the right direction by supporting free enterprise and returning freedoms to the American people.”

Ryan Flanary, a 56 year old photographer and smoker from Amsterdam NY, told The Onion “Herman Cain will definitely get my vote, just look at what the other nominees are talking about.  Their all concerned with national security and unemployment; they don’t care about me and my right to smoke or that I’m treated like an outcast in my own country.  Cain gets me and what’s important for America; do I care about what’s going on half way around the world in Afghanistan?  Yeh a little, but I’m more concerned with what’s going on in my back yard and how the current government doesn’t care about me and is away taking my freedoms.”

Cain’s growing popularity doesn’t seem like it will slow down anytime soon; currently, he has more supporters than both Republican and Democrat nominees in 24 states and this number keeps growing.

If Cain is able to maintain this level of popularity and keep his momentum, we could be looking at the next President of the United States.


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Truth Controversy UFOs

UFOs: Real or Fake?

UFOs the Controversy:

            For thousands of years people have made claims of unnatural sightings in the skies; in ancient times these sightings were often attributed to Gods or religious omens, today many believe these sightings to be extraterrestrial beings and commonly refer to them as UFOs or unidentified flying objects.  UFOs have gained considerable popularity since ancient times and have sparked the interest of military personnel and civilians alike.  Hundreds of private organizations have popped up world-wide with the goal of discovering the truth behind UFOs and whether or not they truly do exist.  Even federal Governments have invested money and time into discovering the truth, hundreds of programs and studies have been conducted to investigate UFO sightings around the world.   Fueling the mystery is the general lack of information disclosed by Governments despite their extensive investigations.  As a result, a lot of the public’s questions are left unanswered leading to conspiracy theories and accusations of cover-ups.  UFO sightings are constantly disputed and quite often the, “UFOs”, are found out to be either the result of man-made aircraft or simply natural occurrences.  However, hundreds of sightings remain unexplained and are the basis for what appears to be a never-ending debate; to investigate the truth behind UFOs I’ll examine some of the most famous incidents of UFO sightings in the United States.


            One of the most famous incidents involving UFOs took place in 1947 near Roswell New Mexico where a reported UFO was discovered by W.W. Brazel, a local rancher (Harassed).  Brazel reportedly found a bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper, and sticks then informed a local Sherriff after hearing about a number of flying disk sightings in the area (Harassed).  The wreckage was taken by United States Air Force and later determined to be a weather balloon.  3 Years later on March 22, 1950, FBI Special Agent Guy Hottel sent a classified report to the Director of the Bureau regarding the Air Force’s findings in New Mexico. In the report Hottel states, “An investigator for the Air Force stated that three so called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico.  They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter.  Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture.  Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits worn by speed flyers and test pilots.” (Hottel)  Later in the report Hottel states that the Government had very high powered radar in the vicinity which likely interfered with the saucers controls, and that no further investigation was attempted (Hottel).  Many people see this evidence as proof UFOs do in fact exist, and it is difficult to deny given a FBI report admitted to finding UFOs and aliens.  Simply looking at this report it seems undeniably true that a UFO did in fact crash in New Mexico and the government did in fact find the aircraft with aliens inside.  However, the government released statements in the mid 1990s explaining their findings which denied UFOs or aliens were ever found.

In two separate statements they claimed that the supposed flying saucer was likely debris from a secret high altitude balloon program meant to detect Soviet missiles; and as for the, “aliens,” they were likely reconstructed by a combination of memories of test dummies used by the military and memories of past injured army personnel.  For me, this explanation does not seem too convincing.  Given the rancher, Brazel’s, description of the wreckage the Government’s explanation seems very logical, the materials Brazel found seem more likely to come from a balloon than an advanced spacecraft.  With only Brazel’s testimony I would be inclined to believe the Government that no UFOs were found, but the explanation does not convince me to dismiss Hottel’s report.  With direct knowledge about the Air Force’s secret balloon program why did the investigators assume the wrecks were flying saucers?  Even without knowledge of the program shouldn’t someone involved in the Air Force presumably have a decent understanding of aircrafts and the common sense to realize the wreck was not a flying saucer; what made the investigators come to their first conclusion?

As for the, “aliens,” I see no credibility to the Government’s explanation whatsoever.  I can understand that initially the investigators could have believed the test dummies were aliens, but again common sense would lead you to believe that they would quickly be able to recognize them as dummies with even the slightest amount of investigation.  Secondly, the Government’s, “test dummy,” explanation does not address the statement made in Hottel’s report that the beings in the saucer were only three feet tall.  The only way to get accurate results from a test which is replicating a real life scenario is to use identical factors that would occur in the scenario.  Looking at the Air Force’s claim that the, “aliens,” were test dummies in comparison to Hottel’s report I have a hard time believing the Air Force.  If they were truly testing a top secret military balloon using dummies to simulate actual army personnel, why would the dummies be three feet tall?  Is that an accurate representation of the average soldier in our Air Force?  If the answer to this question is no then what was the point of even using dummies; the size and weight of a person is a fairly substantial factor if you’re testing a vehicle.  Think of crash test dummies used by car companies; they don’t put child size dummies in the driver’s seat to test the airbag.  Because of this; I do not find the Government’s explanation to be plausible, the lack of evidence presented to dispute the Hottel report lead me to be skeptical about the truth implied in their statements.  Without personally being able to see physical evidence I am still slightly skeptical, but given the evidence we do have, I believe the claims that there was a UFO in New Mexico are more likely true than false.

Lights over Phoenix:

            Another famous case of UFO sightings took place on March 13, 1997, in the south-western states of Arizona and Nevada.  There, thousands reported seeing lights in a large V-shape shooting through the sky between 6:00 and 10:00 pm; the incident became known as, “Lights over Phoenix.”  Dozens of amateur video tapes and photographs of the supposed UFO sighting turned up prompting further investigation, however, none were of good enough quality to make out an object, only lights in a v-shape.  Skeptics attributed these lights to regular aircraft that appeared to be moving as one through the sky; such as Mitch Stanley who saw them with his telescope that night (Ortega).  This sighting is definitively harder to determine a likely truth than was the case with Roswell.  Here we have thousands of eyewitness accounts and even photo and video evidence to indicate an actual UFO sighting.  However, critic’s claims that the lights were human aircraft cannot be overlooked.

In our book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, Farhad Manjoo makes the point that amateurs often make claims when they have little to no knowledge regarding the subject, such as the pollsters involved in the 2004 Presidential election.  Thus, Manjoo reasons, the account of amateurs must be thoroughly scrutinized while investigating truth, otherwise you may fall victim to misinformation and false truths.  With this in mind it is hard to believe the lights were in fact a UFO, the only evidence to prove it was a UFO involves amateur sightings and poor quality footage, neither of which offers much credibility.  Similarly to the 9/11 controversy talked about in Majoo’s book, even with video footage there is no evidence that definitively proves there was a UFO.  The conspiracy theorist “saw,” a missile in the 9/11 tapes where as Manjoo saw a blurry object that required a great deal of imagination to be considered a missile.  In the, “Lights over Phoenix,” video footage there were lights in a v-shape moving through the sky but no distinguishable aircraft, leading some to conclude it was an optical illusion.  Illusory contours are visual illusions where the human eye corrects the absence of lines to form connections that aren’t really there, giving the appearance of a recognizable shape (Perceptual).  This is a very likely explanation for why so many people saw an object swooping through the sky while the video tapes and photos showed no signs of this.  If the people were to look up and see a number of lights in a pattern their brain might connect the dots and form a recognizable shape without the observers even realizing it.  This however may not be the case at all and the people really did see a UFO; I just don’t see enough hard evidence to support the theory that the v-shaped lights were a UFO.    Although claiming the UFO sightings were simply a result of illusory contours is a stretch as far as confirming truth; it does offer what seems to be the most logical explanation, leading me to believe it was unlikely the lights were an actual UFO.  That night in March of 1997, the v-shaped lights flying though the sky were not the only unexplained sights; in Phoenix a large cluster of lights were seen over the city.

The second sighting that night occurred in the city of Phoenix Arizona, where hundreds witnessed, “orbs,” hovering over their city, Lynne Kitei recorded the 6 orbs she saw using her video camera (Craven).  Later, in June of 1997, the Air National Guard came forward and said they were conducting nighttime exercises that night in March at the Barry M. Goldwater range near Phoenix (Craven).  Lt. Col. Ed Jones, one of the squadron’s pilots that night, stated that he and the rest of his squadron released left-over flares on their way back to base after doing maneuvers (Craven).  The flares themselves were attached to mini parachutes that would give the illusion of floating orbs to an on-looker, as they slowly fell though the sky.  Despite the statement made by the military many people are still skeptical over the use of flares such as Jim Dilletoso.  Dilletoso is a computer specialist who analyzed the footage and compared the lights to thousands of images in his database such as flares and planes (Craven).  Even with thousands of images of comparable data Dilletoso said he found no matches; concluding it doesn’t necessarily mean spacecraft but surely was unknown (Craven).

As with the first sighting we have no clear cut truth over the matter.  The military did explain that their flares were behind the sightings, but they waited four months to disclose that information.  Just as we discussed in class, we are at the mercy of our government when it comes to the information they feed us as likely they are our only accessible source.  On one hand the military told us what happened and we have no conclusive evidence to disprove their claims; we are almost obligated to view their statement as truth.  On the other hand, aside from their claims the military had no physical evidence to support their explanation.  It would be ignorant to blindly accept a statement as true without significant evidence to prove it despite the source.  In this instance I would be forced to say that the truth is inconclusive; the military’s explanation is the strongest evidence we have as we presumably trust our government, however, simple trust in a source is not grounds for determining truth.


These two apparent sightings had firsthand eye-witness accounts, military investigations, and accusations of cover-ups; demonstrating all the common aspects of the typical UFO sighting investigations, making them excellent examples of the controversy as a whole.  In nearly every case of UFO sightings, hardly any conclusive evidence is provided which makes it hard to definitively determine truth over claims that extraterrestrial spaceships have visited earth.  In the Roswell sighting the FBI documented that they found flying saucers and aliens in the New Mexico, and even though it was denied later by the Air Force their original findings still resonate due to the lack of persuasiveness in their explanation.  In the, “Lights over Phoenix,” sighting we had another military statement, this one more believable than Roswell’s, as well as a psychological explanation, illusory contours.  In Phoenix’s case I find it highly doubtful there was a UFO in the sky, evidence is lacking on both sides but more so with those who claim what they saw was a UFO.  However, in researching UFOs and these two sightings I believe there is truth to the claims UFOs have visited earth.  Surely not every sighting we hear of is real, but in considering the truth surrounding UFOs one good example, like Roswell, is sufficient to determine there is truth to UFO sightings.


Craven, Scott.  “Intrigue persists over lights in sky.”  The Arizona Republic. February 25,2007.  9/28/11 <;.

“Harassed rancher who located ‘Saucer’ sorry he told about it.”  Roswell Daily Record.  July 9, 1947.  9/28/11 <;.

Hottel, Guy.  “Flying Saucers Information Concerning.”  United States Government Memorandum.  March 22, 1950.  9/27/11 <;.

Ortega, Tony.  “The Great UFO Cover-up.”  Phoenix New Times.  June 26, 1997.   9/29/11 <;.

Perceptual Stuff. 9.28.11 <;.

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Rolling Stone: 2004 Election

Despite the strong statistical evidence in this article I definitely saw a bias by the author, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., he presented good evidence but neglected to examine opposing views on the issue.  However, this was not what stood out to me in this article.  Instead, I’m blown away by the fact that the presidential election can so easily be skewed.  Even with biased presentation of statistical evidence it’s still evidence, and I believe that if we were to investigate past presidential elections we would here the same stories from both Democrats and Republicans.  I don’t think that one party has necessarily contributed more to the corruption, if one party is able to drastically alter the votes like in the 2004 election then without a doubt both parties are capable of this and probably have done similar things in the past.  I think that this article should be viewed as a problem encompassing both parties not simply the Republicans.  Kennedy does seem biased so the information should not be seen without its flaws, however, I think this does bring an important issue to light, political corruption within both parties.

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true enough response

Personally, I really hate conspiracy theories; mainly because I get the impression that the theorists are to stubborn, but also because the theories tend to incorporate way to much imagination to be taken seriously.  I found Majoo’s point about how people see only what they want to see or what their mind will let them see very interesting.  I understand this to be tue; thinking of those blotter pictures where half of the people see one thing while the other half see something completely different, like the theorist who saw the missle on the plane.  However, it seems to me that theorists simply brush off any evidence that contradicts their view, in this case the earlier picture from underneath the plane where no missle was visable.

Manjoo made another observation that interested me and that was that the 9/11 theorist didn’t incorporate any of the pictures from 9/11 only his select videos.  Majoo called this tactic propaganda and I completely agree; the theorist is not seeking the truth of what really happened on 9/11.  Instead he is constructing this idea that the U.S.A is responsable and will use or not use particular evidence to prove his point.  In terms of the public sphere this is equivilent to media bias.  Because of people like this theorist and many others who use similar tactics, I think that it is essential that people at an early age be taught to properly analyse the constant flow of information and ideas they are exposed to.  Taught not to take everything they hear no matter who they hear it from be it a friend, or expert on a particular matter as truth without analysing the information.


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