March Monthly Gathering — Flying for Air America, The CIA’s Covert Air Force

Zoom Presentation: 7:00pm (EST), Saturday, March 18, 2023

Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures via Zoom. Those wishing to attend will need to pre-register at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0323-Gathering . The event’s Zoom URL and instructions will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. 

Flying for Air America, The CIA’s Covert Air Force

In 1964, Captain Neil Graham Hansen embarked on a journey that was to be life altering.  He hired on as a pilot for the Air America- the CIA’s airline that operated during the Vietnam era and the ‘Secret War’ in Laos and Cambodia — officially neutral countries, but the scene of countless U.S. covert operations. He served as an advisor to the director of the 1990 movie “Air America” starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr. Gibson’s character in the movie was patterned after Hansen’s “antics” reported in the Christopher Robbins book of the same name. 

Air America’s operations were unknown. Its schedules were irregular. Its pilots were shadow people, whose personnel Hansen says “cannot be filed neatly under anything resembling normal sanity.” It was the world of spooks, covert air ops and adventure! Even though he had already been a pilot for more than half of his life, including working as Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa’s private pilot; Flying for the CIA’s secret air service was the pinnacle of Hansen’s career and a dream come true. But that dream eventually turned his life into a nightmare, with adrenalin addicted Hansen flying drugs for the Columbian cartels. 

Join us on Saturday, March 18, when Captain Neil Graham Hansen will take us directly into the cockpit, onto dirt mountaintop landing strips, into his most harrowing experience being shot down in Laos, flying the last plane out of Cambodia, just hours before it fell to the Khmer Rouge, down the road of self-destruction, and beside him as he regains a foothold on the path to integrity.

Neil Hansen is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a captain for Air America, He spent more than a decade in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era, accumulating more than 29,000 hours flight time, 9,000 hours in a combat zone. Hansen’s book “FLIGHT: An Air America Pilot’s Story of Adventure, Descent and Redemption” was published by History Publishing Company. His writing has also appeared in various other publications and he has been a frequent guest on the interview and speaker circuit. He makes his home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The Zoom room opens at 6:30pm (EST) for mingling. The program starts at 7:00pm (EST). Please remember that all attendees need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0323-Gathering .

February Monthly Gathering – The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age

Anthony Comstock, the infamous anti-vice activist, was one of the most important men in the lives of nineteenth-century women: The eponymous Comstock law, passed in 1873, penalized the mailing of contraception and obscenity, with long jail sentences and steep fines.

Join us on Zoom at 7:00pm (EST), on February 18 when New York Times–bestselling author Amy Sohn presents a narrative history of Comstock, and eight remarkable women, especially for their time. They were all charged with violating state and federal Comstock laws in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while opposing his war on women’s rights.

Ms. Sohn will bring these stories to life, including the first woman presidential candidate, Victoria C. Woodhull; birth control activist Margaret Sanger; the anarchist Emma Goldman, and more. Risking imprisonment and death, these women redefined birth control access as a civil liberty. Without them, there would have been no Pill, no Planned Parenthood, and no Roe v. Wade.

Amy Sohn is the New York Times-bestselling author of twelve books, including the novels Prospect Park West, Motherland, and The Actress. Her books have been published in eleven languages and on five continents. In 1995 Amy graduated from Brown University. She has written columns for the weekly New York Press and the New York Post, and was a contributing editor at New York magazine for six years. As a freelance journalist she has written for the New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Men’s Journal, Playboy, and many others. Amy is also a screenplay and television writer, including pilots for HBO, ABC, and Fox.

Sound interesting? Join us on Saturday, February 18, for a trip back to the turn of the 20th century, when American women endured economic and educational inequities, restrictive laws on marriage and property rights, and social and cultural norms that prevented them from enjoying all the rights and privileges of men. And, oh yeah, they also couldn’t vote. The Zoom room opens at 6:30pm (EST) for mingling. The program starts at 7:00pm (EST). Please remember that all attendees need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0223-Gathering .

January Monthly Gathering – The D.A.R.T. Mission: NASA Takes A Shot in the Dark

A giant space rock wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Could Earth be hit again? You betcha! Researchers were stunned in July, 2019, when a previously undetected “city killer” asteroid, that was up to 427 feet wide, came within 45,000 miles of Earth — less than one-fifth the distance to the moon. If the asteroid had struck the Earth, it would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon. 

To date, NASA has classified more than 21,000 asteroids and more than 100 comets as near-Earth objects. Of that group, about 2,000 are considered “potentially hazardous.” Congress has directed NASA to find and track at least 90 percent of the objects that pose a threat to Earth within the next 100 years. But so far, scientists have identified only an estimated 40 percent of near-Earth objects

The “Double Asteroid Redirection Test”, or D.A.R.T., was a NASA space mission aimed at testing a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects. It was designed to assess how much a spacecraft impact deflects an asteroid through its transfer of momentum when hitting the asteroid head-on. The D.A.R.T. probe was launched from Earth on November 24. 2021, and intentionally crashed into Dimorphos, the minor-planet moon of the asteroid Didymos on September 26, 2022.

To get a detailed, yet readily understandable explanation of the D.A.R.T mission, without first having to take a crash course in astrophysics, please join us via Zoom, at 7:00p.m. (EST) on Saturday, January 21. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Nick Moskowitz, a planetary astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.Dr. Moskowitz’s research involves observations and simple models of minor planets in the Solar System. He is particularly interested in exploring relationships between small body populations, such as the link between near-Earth asteroids and meteorites. This work has implications for topics ranging from the origin of planets to the exploration of small bodies by spacecraft. He received his PhD and MS degrees in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii and his BS degree in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of lectures via Zoom. Those wishing to attend will need to pre-register at the following link:  https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-0123-Gathering . The event’s Zoom URL and instructions will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. 

December Monthly Gathering – A Fraudulent Election? So you think there’s never been an election like 2020? Think Again!

Zoom Presentation: 7pm (EST), Saturday, December 17, 2022

Southeast Michigan Mensa will be presenting a series of Monthly Gathering lectures on Zoom through March 2023. To attend this month’s presentation, you must pre-register at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/SEMM-1222-Gathering . The event’s Zoom URL and instructions will only be sent to those who are pre-registered.

It was an election where:

  • Both political parties worked exceedingly hard to mobilize their base, and the election yielded the highest voter turnout in U.S. history.
  • Before the votes were even counted, Republicans claimed the election was being stolen. 
  • Democrats win the vote and lead in the Electoral College, but Republicans protest, contending their candidate would have won easily with honest voting.
  • Claims of fraud included, among other things, that some states reported more votes than eligible voters.
  • In several contested states party officials appointed dueling slates of electors and sent conflicting returns to Congress.

Sound familiar? Maybe so, but the year was 1876 and the winner of the election was Republican Rutherford B. Hayes.

The 1876 presidential election is the most controversial in American history. A dispute over the results led to a months-long battle that did not conclude until days before the inauguration. Historians have since debated over a potential “bargain” that took place in the final moments that settled the dispute in favor of Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, with assurances that the federal government would end its Reconstruction efforts. Since then, and especially recently, this election has been an important reference point for many politicians and political media personalities who use it to make pronouncements on the current political landscape. Comparisons to the 2020 election are inevitable, and the 1876 election has thus been subjected to both serious, well-considered study, and politically-infused analysis. This talk will explain the events that led up to the election’s conclusion, and provide thoughts on what we know and do not know about this pivotal moment in American electoral history.

Our speaker, Dustin McLochlin, has been the historian at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums since 2017. Prior to that he worked as the education coordinator at HPLM. His work has been featured in the Presidential Quarterly, Muster of the Journal of the Civil War Era, the Toledo Blade, and the Columbus Dispatch. He also manages a monthly series on “Hayes’ Evolving Views on anti-slavery and Reconstruction.” He received his Ph.D. in the field of Policy History in 2014, and Master of Arts in History in 2008, both from Bowling Green State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Indiana University Kokomo, in 2005.