An airplane con(spiracy)trail

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Feb. 23 2011 11:30 AM

An airplane con(spiracy)trail

"Senator Bob" Smith was a US Senator of New Hampshire for 13 years, a NH Congressman for six years before that, and served on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee for two years.

Which means exactly nothing when it comes to not buying into ridiculous conspiracy theories.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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la_missile_contrailFor evidence of this, I direct you to an OpEd "Senator Bob" wrote for the Orwellianly-named Accuracy in Media website where he claims that we still don't have answers about a supposed missile launch off the coast of LA last year. It has all the usual hallmarks of a breathless conspiracy theory: a total of 16 rhetorical questions most of which have nothing to do with the actual topic, accusations of coverup at the highest levels, an off-handed mention that Obama might not be an American citizen (seriously), and a lot of self-aggrandizement.

All this over a contrail?

Yup. The deal is, last November a news helicopter pilot got some pictures of an airplane contrail over LA, and people -- especially the media -- went nuts covering it, speculating it was a secret missile launch. However, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear it was just a contrail, and in fact was clear to reality-based folks pretty much from the start. Of course, the media mistake Jupiter and Venus for UFOs, so I wouldn't trust them very far.

But "Senator Bob" was an actual Senator! And he says stuff like this:

The truth is this. I do not know the truth, but I do bring my own credibility to this subject...

Senator, I think you misspelled "credulity". But at least he didn't claim it was a chemtrail. Maybe that's next week's OpEd.

Anyway, the point here is that credentials mean nothing when out of context -- his serving on the Armed Services Committee is meaningless when it comes to image analysis, for example -- and not to belabor the obvious, but politicians are not always the best source of information on a topic. Or a lot of topics.



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