Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Modern Snake Oil and Contempt for the Ethics and Morality of Scientists and Doctors

I get enraged.  Over and over I hear people say that you can't trust science but should trust some new age truism or conspiracy theory instead.  Why does this make me so angry?  Because I have several close personal friends who are research scientists and medical doctors.  One of my cousins is a medical doctor and research scientist with dozens if not hundreds of published studies credited to his name, a friend of over 30 years is the head of two major medical departments and oversees hundreds of researchers, and yet another friend of nearly 40 years is a scientist working at JPL.  I studied research psychology for several years at Tulane (dropped that second major because it wasn't the type of psychology I was interested in) and have an intimate knowledge of scientific ethics, methods, and motives.  I'm going to limit this discussion to medical research in particular (though the same accusations are levied against aerospace scientists, climate scientists, or even my friends who attended the funerals of Sandy Hook children they knew personally) because one particular blithe and insulting comment keeps coming up in the context of "western" medicine v. "traditional" medicine:  "All doctors are in the pocket of 'Big Pharma.'"

The most common infuriating statement I hear is that "herbal supplements" or "natural cures" are superior to modern medicine.  This belief is based on a series of logical fallacies including anecdotes, appeal to nature, confirmation bias, and arguments from antiquity.  Scientific studies are dismissed because they're "all funded by 'Big Pharma'" which explicitly accuses the tens of millions of research scientists and doctors performing long term studies and collecting billions of data points for analysis of being unethical, corrupt, and untrustworthy.  This opinion is based on the false idea that all or even the majority of peer reviewed studies are underwritten by pharmaceutical companies and that all these studies are manipulated and falsified by those companies.  Again, this is insulting to all these scientists that do the work of conducting the studies, running the experiments, crunching the data, and reaching conclusions.  It ignores that these studies, once complete, are then examined and re-examined by other scientists and doctors, that the data is sifted through by people whose sole goal is finding fault with the study.  Most of the time fault is not found or, when it is, it is because a larger study or experiment has been conducted that shows the original findings were not as significant as the data of the smaller study showed.  There is also a huge confusion in the minds of laymen and media that report on these studies as to what statistically significant means.  For instance, if a study shows that the effect of ginkgo extracts is statistically significant that does not mean that anything has occurred other than a measurable change when compared with placebo.  It does not mean that spending $50/month on ginkgo tablets is justified, it means that in this particular study they found an effect that rose above the baseline noise always found in a statistical study.  Subsequent larger studies can show (and in this case have shown) that the effect is so small as to be insignificant and in the smaller study was a fluke of the population involved.  Science moves forward and self corrects.  Belief is stagnant and entrenched.

As far as "Big Pharma" underwriting studies of their own drugs there is no doubt of this.  They have a LOT of money and they must have these studies for the FDA and international regulatory bodies to approve their use as medicine.  There have even been very rare cases of companies hiding data or cherry picking, the most prominent example that comes to my mind is Viox.  The study results were manipulated unethically so that the product's lethality was concealed.  So how was this fraud discovered?  Through the scientific process.  The process of peer review eventually brought out the truth, the drug was recalled (largest in history), and criminal charges were pursued.  This does not happen in the world of herbal supplements and "natural medicine."  The $60 billion/year herbal supplement industry does not underwrite independent peer reviewed examination of their products because they don't have to and because they're well aware that most of their claims will be disproven.  The herbal/dietary supplement industry spends fortunes on lobbying and have several major politicians in their pockets (most notably Senator Orin Hatch).  The industry wrote and pushed through Congress a bill in 1994 that exempted them from the same oversight as medicines.  The only time the FDA can do anything about their products is if they are found to be contaminated, they actually poison people, or the companies make explicit medical claims (which can be skirted by adding the simple statement "this product is not a medicine").

When you buy an herbal supplement you have no way of knowing that it is what it says on the label, much less knowing how much active ingredient is in the pill, or whether or not that herb has any real effect regardless.  But somehow intelligent people who should know better are willing to trust this unregulated and demonstrably fraudulent industry over the entire scientific medical field, impugning all the scientists and doctors involved as being unethical liars.

[A little side note:  so called "boner pills" that claim to be herbal aphrodisiacs are constantly found to be spiked with Viagra.  As soon as they are found out the company folds, the product is pulled from the shelves, a new company is started by the same players, the same spiked product is repackaged and continues to be sold (usually for prices equivalent to or greater than pure, unadulterated Viagra).  Ancient Chinese secret?]

One last point about Big Pharma v. Big Dietary Supplement:  the largest owners of herbal supplement companies are Big Pharma.  Why would companies like Pfizer buy dozens of "dietary supplement" companies?  Because they can make a ton of money with little or no regulation.  Dietary supplements are an out of control cash cow for these mega-corporations.  Those racks of pills at your local health food store are not being made by a conscientious mom & pop company working diligently next to their little garden, they are the same people that make the pills that line the shelves of your pharmacy.  They know they can stuff dried grass into a pill, sell it as St. John's Wort and there will be no consequences but if they sell a tablet of ibuprofen that is full of sugar they'll face huge fines and criminal liability.  The "Big Pharma" argument is in and of itself moot as "Big Pharma" is running both sides of the equation.

So yes, it makes me furious to hear perfectly intelligent people call my friends and relatives liars and frauds while claiming that proven liars and frauds are more trustworthy and honest.

related sources:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Another Teabagger Analogy

Let's say a group of people decides they want to buy a car together.  They work very hard to find something that they can afford if they all chip in and that comes the closest to being what everyone needs.  There's one guy that hates the idea, hates the process, and hates the car even though he'll be able to use it just like all the rest of the people in the group.  That guy then spends the money saved for the car and blames the plan to buy the car, he goes to the dealership and keeps tearing up the paperwork to buy the car, he lets the air out of the tires, but when the car is finally delivered to the group he uses it more than everyone else, and every time he gets a chance he runs it into a telephone pole or drains all the oil and then blames the broken car on everyone but himself. 

The Desperate Lies of the Extreme Right

The GOP claimed "Americans don't want Obamacare."  GOP governors in many states refused to set up their insurance exchanges or otherwise undermined the roll out, all the while claiming Americans were against it and didn't need it.  They spent millions on ads trying scare young people out of signing up.  But so many people didn't want it that the Federal system was overwhelmed and the state systems that were set up were sluggish at first.  Now the GOP is screaming about the website not working (so it's a failure).  Guess what, you lying bastards, in the states not controlled by you traitors it's working just fine and people are relieved and happy to finally have access to reasonable (and in many cases free) health insurance.  I hope everyone remembers this come next November.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

News Release from the Bat Shit Crazy Club

Just so you know, this quote is from a satirical site.  The best part is it isn't surprising to anyone.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

An Analogy of Teabaggers' Approach to Any Social Program

"Captain!  We've found a stow away!"
"That does it!  Burn all the lifeboats and sink the ship!"

Sunday, August 25, 2013


A "Christian Bible Camp" passenger van is driving south on Preston St. 
Just after passing Broadway a smallish 90's American "luxury" car driven by an elderly man with wife next to him pulls out too close in front of the van. 
The van's driver has to apply the brakes. 
 Preston right here is very wide and two lanes in one direction. 
 What did the "Christian" do?
A. Calmly change lanes after slowing to avoid the offending vehicle.
B. Honk his horn once and then change lanes and pass the offending vehicle.
C. Hold down the horn and tailgate the slowly accelerating older couple's car for at least two blocks.
Additional information: The van was packed full of young children.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Little Argument for Changing the Filibuster Rules in the Senate

"From 1949 (when Senate rules were changed to provide for cloture on nominations) through 2008, cloture votes were forced on only 20 executive branch nominations. However, in just the first four and a half years of the Obama administration, there have already been 16 such cloture votes...That's an increase of more than 1,000% in the rate of forced cloture votes on nominations - 20 nominations on which cloture votes were forced in sixty years compared to 16 in just four and a half.  Republicans are on pace to force 28 cloture votes by the end of the Obama administration - more than under all previous presidents combined." via

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Griffy on Conspiracy "Theorists"

Though this is an oversimplification (I think many believers are intelligent but confused or crazy) it still would be nice if there were fewer people completely out of touch with reality.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rand Paul Skips Briefing on NSA Activities So I Write Him a Letter

Mr. Paul,

So you can shout loudly about how offended you are by the NSA's activities but you know so much you can't be bothered to stay for an extensive briefing on the subject?  You are a disgrace to the Senate and to this nation.  http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/305765-senators-skip-classified-briefing-on-nsa-snooping-to-catch-flights-home

Alan Miller

More Unbelievable Spam - Who Responds to this BS?

(Got this one twice)

Winning Notification 2013©

22 Garden Close, Stamford,
Lincs, PE9 2YP, London
United Kingdom
Dear Winner,
This is to inform you that you have been selected as a winner for a cash prize of ?450,000.00 (four hundred and fifty thousand Great British Pounds) and a brand new BMW 5 Series Car from International programs held on the 28th of May 2013 in London Uk.
Description of prize vehicle;
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Color (exterior): Metallic Silver
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Options: Cold weather package, premium package, fold down rear seats w/ski bag, am fm stereo with single in dash compact disc player .
The selection process was carried out through random selection in our computerized email selection ballot system from a database of over 250,000 email addresses drawn from all the continents of the world which yours and nine others were selected as the winners.
The BMW Lottery is approved by the British Gaming Board and also Licensed by the The International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR). This promotional lottery is the 3rd of its kind and we intend to sensitize the public.
To begin the processing of your prize you are to contact our fiduaciary claims department for more infomation as regards procedures to claim your prize.
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Contact him by please providing him with your secret pin code X7PWYZ2005 and your Reference Number BMW:2551256003/23. You are also advised to provide him with the under listed informations as soon as possible:
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Please you are to provide him with the above listed details as soon as possible so he can begin with the processing of your prize winnings.
Congratulations again from all our staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.
Mr. Norbert Benard




I am Mr.Micheal Driver board of members and executives in American Libyan
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Both of us shared a Private account where I do move funds around for him
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Bunch of Links and Wisdom from @AlanEvil

Just in case you're not following Alan on Twitter here's some highlights of things you should read (or simply hysterical thoughts from) the last week:

REPORT: Swept Up In "Scandal," Network Sunday Shows Drop Coverage Of Economy

It is OK to call Laura Ingraham a stupid fucking cunt, right?  

Self delusion isn't just a river in Egypt anymore... or something: Straight from the moron files.  

It appears not everyone in North Carolina is batshit crazy.

Sen. Collins: I Was Never Briefed On PRISM  

Cartoonists see more clearly. What a curse.  

When you say "terrorist acts" doesn't that mean it's terrorism? I just don't get this wingnut linguistic confusion.

's piece on Reagan was fucking awesome. Hopefully that will show up on YouTube so I can send it to certain people. 

Congrats on leading in Michigan Senate race!

I'm getting the feeling that right wing trolls like to bombard opponents with insults and then block them so they can't reply. Is that fun? 

HAHA! And you're obviously a Very Important Person. Gotchya. People "off the grid" defending Fox News always are. 

Liberty v Safety? I think we may have given up way too much for too little. SMBC - June 10, 2013  

Have a drink before you drive. Less ALL CAPS that way.

I wonder what (GOP) is keeping us from making welfare have no cutoff points (GOP)?

Got blocked by a Faux Noise moron after over a dozen ad hominem and abusive attacks I didn't answer. Way to go, dick.

And as Fox does backflips telling its legion of morons Obama ordered the IRS investigations there's this:  

The GOP in action! RT Fed index ranks Wisconsin 49th in economic outlook  

Yeah, I think I subscribe to one of those: Toothpaste For Dinner: least popular podcasts  

Don't forget: Guns make you safer. Right?  

TX jury says it's ok to shoot a woman if she won't have sex. We've got to fix this  

Why Homeless People Don't Use Shelters  

What a maroon. RT Rush Limbaugh: "We are in the midst of a coup taking place"  

Ricin doesn't kill people, gun nuts sending it through the mail kill people... with it.

So horrible. I love you so much comic blasphemy! "Caring For Your New Puppy"  

"It would embarass us and you would hate us if you knew so it's secret." Nothing new with this admin, just more. 

a) find picture of shocked Richard Nixon, b) create meme: "Fags eat what?"

Facism, it's here, it's now, it spreads like a disease...  

I will be making puppets and causing them to speak the seven words that break the boundaries between earth and hell.

I don't think it is unfair to scrutinize"Taxed Enough Already."aand the one application denied?  

They called themselves Teabaggers to begin with. And yes, I have utter contempt for those morons. 

Here's what happens when you turn things over to "The Market": (and yes, we're getting there, thanks to capitalism).

I can remember when God just spoke to me. Now he tweets at me. What's next? Facebook friend poking me?

Rules fuck dogma grammar is.

Why does anyone question the decision to grill the fuck out of groups whose raison d'etre is hating taxes?

This IRS BS is not a scandal. The Teabaggers deserved close scrutiny. You want a real scandal?  

That sound? Conservatives' heads exploding, even though they're usually really good at cognitive dissonance.  

Are you aware that more progressive and liberal groups applying for 501(c)(4) status were targeted? F* the teabaggers IMHO

When the truth just doesn't do it for you: FOX NOISE.  

Remember: guns keep you safe. via  

It's because the criminal rich are always finding better ways to steal our wealth at every point in life.

Health care, student loans, credit cards, payday loans: It's how the criminal rich steal our wealth. They write the laws, not us.

Boy, talk about a lesson in how f*ed up this Congress is: via  


Monday, May 27, 2013

"Thank 'God'" - Tom Tomorrow

The assumption by the Main Stream Press of the goodness of Believers as well as the assumption that the exception in a disaster is somehow the sign of a beneficent deity has always bothered me.   What kind of asshole thinks they're extra special pets of their master in the sky because they didn't die and everyone around them did?  How can you worship a monster that destroys elementary schools but saves your sorry adult ass?  What kind of cunt deity wipes out an entire city but blesses one lady by saving her dog or one woman by not killing her child while killing dozens of other people's children?  Believers are full of shit and the news media that panders to them is as well.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Married to the Sea - Goddamned Government

My dad is a life long hunter and I've hunted a bit as well.  My shotgun is a full choke 20 gauge single shot shotgun.  We also have a 20 gauge pump that holds three shells and my dad prefers a double barrel 12 gauge.  As far as rifles go we only had a single shot .22 because we only ever used it for "varmints" or to pepper unwelcome dogs with so called rat shot which is pretty much a little tiny shotgun shell for a little bitty rifle.  My brother has a bolt action 30.06 sniper rifle from WWII that he has for deer and I think it might hold six rounds.  There really is not a good reason for anyone to have the kinds of gigantic magazines the NRA is so desperate to defend, unless you consider murdering as many people as possible as quickly as is possible a "good reason."  Guns are not toys and should never be treated as toys.  The only other reason for extended magazines would be for people that treat their firearms as toys to have fun with.  In my opinion there is no good reason for extended magazines.

Tom the Dancing Bug - "Nixonian"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tea Party Butt Hurt - Matt Bors

Seriously, your entire rhetoric and even your fucking name is based on your hatred of paying taxes and you get upset that you get extra scrutiny from the taxman?  Idiots.

This is the scandal that simply isn't a scandal.  There may have been some clumsiness and bumbling at the bottom but trying to make this out as if it were ordered by that Kenyan Muslim in the White House is silly.

Drunk on Power - Clay Bennett


You can follow me @AlanEvil on Twitter.  Because I'm awesome.

Who Answers These Things?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mother Jones With Some Gun Facts

The ten most common piles of bullshit thrown at you by gun nuts.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Chemtrails": The Silliest Conspiracy Theory?

The "Chemtrails" conspiracy theory began to appear in the 1990's.  The theory is that "The Government" is conducting some kind of mind control experiments or procedures by mounting spraying equipment on jets and then spraying chemicals of some kind at high altitudes.  The reasons why this is silly (at least) are myriad and the actual explanation is simple and mundane.  Sadly, people that believe are not easily convinced by evidence, science, or common sense, instead they believe in something fantastically convoluted and impossible to pull off because it fits their paranoid belief system.  The basis for this paranoia is not illogical, however when this paranoia is extended to occurences that are easily explained by basic laws of nature it enters into a realm that distracts a person from actual scandals that are actually occurring.  So, let's look at why this particular conspiracy is fantasy and impossible and hopefully keep the paranoid from continuing to waste their energy and time on something that is so obviously imaginary.

There are more than these three reasons that the notion of jets spraying something on the world is silly but you can find all these reasons in massive amounts with dozens of links to dozens of independent scientific sources at this one site but I only feel like venting about these three:
  1.   There would need to be a fleet of aircraft operating day in and day out flying long routes with the sole purpose of spraying some kind of chemical drug or something. 
  2.   There would be tens of thousands of people covering up the operation to the point where noone infiltrated long enough to take pictures or provide any concrete proof this was happening.
  3.   There would be no other explanation for those trails in the sky.

The reasons ordinary commercial aircraft cannot be performing these clandestine activities are pretty simple:  commercial jets fly prescheduled routes from one big airport to another and everything to do with their maintenance and preparation between landing and the next take-off is readily observable by the public and is performed by a large group of employees.  For commercial jets to spray chemicals continuously as they fly thousands of miles they would have to have tanks for the chemicals and the lines and nozzles to spray them.  As anyone that has dealt with spray equipment can tell you nozzles need to be cleaned and replaced regularly.  Also these tanks would have to be filled.  But most importantly these tanks would eliminate large amounts of cargo space in the hold and would drastically increase the fuel requirements for each flight.  There would have to be some secret crew handling the chemicals, maintaining the spray equipment and the extra fuel, etc. would have to be paid for by someone.  Ask any pilot, they know how much weight is on their plane before they taxi to the runway.  They have to know because it tells them the take off speed of the aircraft, how long of a run they'll need to reach that speed, and how rapidly they will consume fuel in flight.  Airplanes do not carry large reserves of fuel because every pound of weight decreases the efficiency of the flight.  But more importantly, for commercial flights to be used for this purpose it would mean that hundreds of thousands of mechanics, baggage handlers, in flight suppliers, and other ground crew would all be keeping this operation secret.  I don't know about you but do you really think every single person that works at an airport can be kept in the dark about an operation of this magnitude?  Someone would have taken pictures of this unusual extra gear on jets.  All mechanics and maintenance personnel would have to be keeping secret that the aircraft they take care of have this additional machinery and storage tanks.  On top of all that, simply using a telescope to look at aircraft producing contrails at high altitude will show you the airline and then tail number of these craft.  Believe it or not you can track any aircraft anywhere in the world with these identifiers.  You'll know where it took off from and where it lands.  Surely someone would have observed something out of the ordinary while these planes were on the ground and they haven't because there is nothing out of the ordinary going on.

But it's the government doing it!  Right?  Well, that seems just as unlikely.  When the air conditions are right for contrails to form there are literally thousands of them in the skies over the world (that's right, it's not just over America that contrails form!) so that would mean there would have to be thousands of aircraft flying these missions.  So where are they and how are they being paid for?  A single new airliner costs around a quarter of a billion dollars and, if you use your telescope to look at the aircraft producing high altitude contrails you will see that they are newer craft (and you will also see that most of them are commercial aircraft and both they and military craft have wing and tail numbers you can trace).  More on that when I get to the real reason for contrails.  So, if "The Government" is making these planes and flying them all over the world (I guess it must be the Illuminati or the U.N. since contrails appear everywhere airline routes cross) how are they paying for it?  Where are they being produced?  Where are they taking off and landing from?  How many tens of thousands of people are involved in this conspiracy and are somehow keeping it secret?  Isn't it amazing that the strongest believers in this silliness are also the ones that will, without a hint of irony or hesitation, tell you that government can't do anything right.  Amazing.  They can't balance taxes and spending but they can keep an enormous conspiracy costing trillions of dollars per year secret.  They can't oversee the Pentagon budget with any kind of reason or sense but they can hide the production of thousands of large jet aircraft.  They can't agree on pretty much anything but they can maintain secret airbases all over the world and all the personnel to run them and all the other basic infrastructure that goes with keeping thousands of aircraft in the air day after day and somehow nobody has printed an anonymous account of this dastardly undertaking and there are no pictures of the bases or aircraft and they're so talented you can't even find any of them with satellites (though you can see what Area 51 looks like on Google Earth). 

I have never heard any conspiracy theorist address just what is being sprayed from these planes.  What is the "chem" in "chemtrails"?  How is an aerosol mist sprayed at 35,000 feet supposed to have any effect on the ground?  Do the Believers think that something sprayed at that altitude is going to fall straight down to the earth below where it is sprayed?  It's supposed to be some kind of mind control substance but I doubt that something as powerful as LSD would have any effect by the time it reached the ground from the cruising altitude of the jets producing contrails.  There is almost no UV or IR protection from the atmosphere at those heights and most complex chemicals break down rapidly from that combined with the extreme cold and low atmospheric pressure.  And in reality a fine mist sprayed at 35,000 feet above your town, if it did make it all the way to the ground, is probably going to do so on on the ocean somewhere or another continent.  There is a science to the way the air moves in the atmosphere and we know a great deal about it.  But if you ask a Believer to learn the basics of atmospheric science they won't because obviously scientists have been publishing lies for the last two centuries to cover up this conspiracy that started in 1995 or so.

So what is the real explanation for high altitude contrails that the Believers call "Chemtrails"?  Let's start with your car.  You may have noticed that new cars drip water out of their tailpipes.  On cold days there is a cloud of white vapor coming out of the tailpipe that hangs around.  Anyone older than 20 should remember when cars did not do this.  As a matter of a fact, up into the late 70's cars were more likely to blow out visible smoke rather than steam or dripping water.  What happened?  It's very simple.  Engines have become more and more efficient as they've been redesigned.  As engine design has progressed more and more of the hydrocarbons in fuel is burned through recirculation of exhaust, catalytic converters, and computer controlled fuel injection and ignition.  As a result most of what comes out of a modern tail pipe is water vapor and warm air.  The old suicide method of locking yourself in the garage and running the motor simply will not work anymore with a well tuned small car.  You will run out of gas and get a headache.  So what happened in the 1990's to spark the "Chemtrails" conspiracy you ask?  A new design of jet engine.  There ya go.  A simple, logical, and documentable explanation.  The efficiency of newer jet engines dramatically increased how efficiently fuel was combusted leading to more water vapor and less particulate pollution.  You can hear the difference between older an newer jet engines.  Newer engines are quieter and have a different tone to them.  Here's a picture of a 1991 Airbus A340 (introduced in 1991) flying next to a Boeing 707 (1957) at 33,000 feet.  Notice anything?

I should also point out that there are more jet aircraft flying at high altitude than there were 20 years ago.  The worldwide fleet of passenger and cargo jets is slightly lower than it was before the economic collapse of the late naughties but there are still hundreds of thousands of flights every day and fewer and fewer of the craft in service use the older engine designs (though it is kind of surprising to see how many still fly in and out of Louisville's airport).

So which explanation is more believable?  That there is some mind boggling worldwide conspiracy that is flying these mystery planes with their sinister payload around the world or that the contrails are just that produced by more efficient jet engines?  Occam's razor says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and there is none.  There is a ton of basic science that would have to be disproven for the extraordinary proof to be believable so you decide.  You get to choose between imaginary and science. 

Most of this article was pulled from my memory but here is a staggering set of resources about this, the silliest of conspiracy theories:  http://contrailscience.com/how-to-debunk-chemtrails/#more-948