Bursting Biden’s Balloon

The Great Balloon Panic of 2023 has mysteriously ended with no explanation for our actions, no details from the administration, and no curiosity from the media whatsoever about why the United States military might have fired a missile at a $12 amateur balloon.

It’s been over a week since the US military shot down an unmanned craft in American airspace, but the Biden Administration has not bothered to explain whether this is because we have not identified any new intruders or our policy regarding these intruders has changed again.  Nor have they provided any additional details on the three objects downed on consecutive days, less than a week after the initial Chinese spy balloon.  (For the record, I noted that I believe the President made the right call to wait until the balloon was outside of inhabited areas before shooting it down, though I certainly had questions about why he didn’t learn about it until it was over the continental United States.)  The lack detail was so complete that NORAD Commander General Glen VanHerck refused to say how the objects maintained flight, as if they might be levitating thanks to some never before seen technology, nor would he “rule out” that their origin was extraterrestrial, literally something out of Independence Day.  Meanwhile, the media and other prognosticators spent much of their time questioning what new malevolent force the President might be protecting us from, including everything from the actual space aliens alluded to by our own government, to some new world power, or a shady corporation bent on world domination.  As CNN’s Stephen Collinson put it, these objects could be China, “some other hostile power or group, corporate or private entity.”

The speculation was so extreme that multiple members of the Biden Administration were forced to state on the record that they were not, in fact, aliens and an invasion from another planet was not imminent.  Since then, however, they have preferred not to speak about it for what appear to be obvious reasons, though no one in the media seems concerned.  The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, an amateur ballooning club, believes the object downed over the Canadian Yukon Territory was, in fact, a silver-coated, party-style “pico” balloon that cost between $12 and $180, posing precisely zero threat.  They reported one of these balloons “missing in action” on February 15, but there is reason to think it was destroyed earlier because the balloon in question last reported its position off the west coast of Alaska on February 10.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s HYSPLIT model placed the balloon over the Yukon on February 11, the same day the United States and Canada announced that an F22 had destroyed an unmanned object.   The Northern Illinois group has not made a specific accusation, but others in the amateur ballooning community are asking questions given the publicly available description of these objects certainly make them seem to be simple balloons.  “I tried contacting our military and the FBI—and just got the runaround—to try to enlighten them on what a lot of these things probably are. And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down,” explained Ron Meadows, the founder of Scientific Balloon Solutions, a manufacturer of pico balloons for hobbyists, educators and scientists.  “I’m guessing probably they were pico balloons,” concluded Tom Medlin, a retired FedEx engineer and co-host of the Amateur Radio Roundtable show, who currently has three such balloons in flight in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Perhaps needless to say, these developments have been met with some amusement in conservative circles.  Donald Trump, Jr. noted, “Biden shot down some kids’ science project with a $400k sidewinder missile!”  “RIP to the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade’s ~$80 ham radio transmitter balloon, likely the victim of friendly fire by a $143,000,000 USAF F-22 firing a $485,000 AIM-9X Sidewinder missile during the Great Balloon Panic of 2023,” Republican Representative Peter Meijer said in a tweet.  Conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, noted, “Biden let an actual Chinese spy balloon cross 2,000 miles of American airspace untouched. Now he fakes being tough by shooting down a $12 science project from the (I kid you not) ‘Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade.’”  Even some more liberal journalists were not impressed.  “An F-22, which costs $85,000 an hour to fly, used a $450,000 missile to take down a $12 hobby balloon belonging to the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, all so Biden could prove his manhood to [Rep.] Majorie [sic] Taylor Greene,” tweeted Max Blumenthall.  Republican Senator Ted Cruz wrote, “To be fair, Biden is providing is [sic] powerful deterrence for any high school science clubs that might try to invade America….,” and demanded answers.   “President Biden needs to tell the American people whether this is true,” he added in a follow-up, but so far the administration has remained tight-lipped, neither confirming nor denying the story.  Aviation Week, which first broke the possibility the military had downed an amateur balloon, has tried to contact the FBI, NORAD, the National Security Council, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and received little in the way of a reply.  “The NSC did not respond to repeated requests. The FBI and OSD did not acknowledge that harmless pico balloons are being considered as possible identities for the mystery objects shot down by the Air Force.”  “I have no update for you from NORAD on these objects,” a NORAD spokesman told them. 

Otherwise, the Biden Administration appears to be vehemently defending these actions while refusing to discuss them.  National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that we may never know whether President Biden scrambled jets and panicked the country over a $12 balloon, but insisted it was “exactly the right thing to do” either way.  This is a bizarre way to look at the situation:  Using an F22 to take out a harmless $12 object is never the right thing to do under any circumstances; an analogy is hard to find, but something like a bazooka to swat a fly.  “I’d ask you to just for a second to put yourself in his shoes, certainly in light of the Chinese spy balloon and what was a very real, certainly very sizable and tangible security threat — surveillance threat — to the United States,” he insisted in a press conference last week without explaining why, if that were the case, it would be allowed to travel freely for thousands of miles, all while the insisted it was not a threat in the year 2023.  “In the wake of that … the military fine-tunes their radar parameters to see more and of course they’re finding more. And you got these three, and they’re unidentified, they’re not responding to any kind of communication, so we don’t know who owns them or what their purpose is,” he went on, as if actually going and taking a look at them to determine what they are before firing missiles wasn’t an option. Did they see Top Gun: Maverick? You can look outside of a plane and see what’s there. “They’re also at altitudes that could effect the safety of civilian air traffic, and based on the flight path and prevailing winds, potentially moving over sensitive military sites.”  Of course, it is the President’s job, duty to the country, and obligation to American citizens to make precisely these kinds of decisions and exercise maturity and wisdom of judgment, not to shoot first and answer questions later.  We expect a leader with the patience to not go off half cocked after a potentially embarrassing incident, and start firing at everything in sight.  Weather balloons are nothing new.  They have been floating in our skies for decades, but President Biden is the only one who has shot down three of them.  He is in fact the only President who has ever opened fire above American skies. Still, when pressed further, Mr. Kirby declared “No apologies here.”

Equally needless to say, the mainstream media effectively stopped covering the story as soon as it became obvious that the President recklessly overreacted.  I do not use the word “recklessly” lightly.  Firing a missile is never without risk, either a misfire or debris could easily have killed people, precisely the same argument they made when they refused to shoot down the original spy balloon.  The media likewise has no interest in sudden changes of defense policy followed by reversals fast enough to give honest observers whiplash, as if a policy of firing missiles in the continental US with abandon and then suddenly halting these efforts does not require an explanation.  They see no reason to question the absurdity of sending F22s after $12 balloons, and then claiming we might never know what happened.  They act as if there is no danger to firing powerful rockets over American airspace, or if there is no risk of starting unnecessary panic by turning American skies into a shooting gallery for no reason.  They are not at all concerned about how pathetically embarrassing and incompetent the entire fiasco must seem to our adversaries, either.  Does it not occur to them that China and Russia are likely enjoying a good laugh about the American President who loses Afghanistan and cannot end the war in Ukraine,  but is tough as nails on balloons?  Whatever your personal opinion, there is no avoiding the fact that President Biden has done what no other President has done, and he’s done it four times in barely a week, after promising a return to normalcy and that the adults are back in charge as the media is fond of parroting.  This alone demands an explanation, rather than insistence they are taking no prisoners and offering now apologies.  Adults don’t shoot down toy balloons with heat-seeking missiles and none of this is normal, so far from it there are no words to capture it except to say it’s a unique incompetence that no one has ever before seen.  If you doubt that, can you imagine what they would be saying if President Trump was the first in history to start firing missiles over US skies?


2 thoughts on “Bursting Biden’s Balloon”

  1. Hahaha! It’s impossible to say with either this President or this media. I am not exaggerating when I say they are celebrating the first anniversary of the War in Ukraine as if it was the first anniversary of winning it. Nothing makes any sense anymore!


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