The Great American Balloon Panic of 2023

On 16th of February 2023 grave fears were expressed for the plight of a hobby balloon launched by the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB). Their balloon has gone missing. The fear is it was shot down by the USAF with a heat-seeking missile. Why the Air Force would have used a heat-seeking missile on a $12 hobby balloon is a mystery, because the balloon had no on-board propulsion or other technology that would emit heat. There must have been some really nefarious tech on-board that balloon. To their credit, NIBBB is not as yet pointing fingers at the USAF, but the disappearance comes on the heels of other balloons similarly shot down, if indeed their balloon was popped by the USAF. This is a developing story. For more, read on…

The NIBBB are a dedicated and motivated bunch, pictured below:

They have the following entry on their site:

“Pico Ballooning is a part of Amateur Radio also known as Ham Radio or Hams. We’re licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowing us to communicate to other Hams throughout the World. Pico meaning small, we send a small transmitter, with GPS tracking and antenna on a balloon filled with Hydrogen, rising to 47,000 feet, and travelling with the speed of the Jetstream. As we travel, our GPS is able to locate our current location, and other information is gathered depending on what chips we have on our transmitter while using other programs to gather other inflight information…Other Hams can receive our signal and are reported on a computer using WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporting) from anywhere through the internet. Our total package of transmitter, antenna, and balloon weigh less than an ounce, that is really small.”

The NIBBB made the papers with their story. The FBI has apparently spoken to them about their activities. There are some pretty shady-looking characters in the photo above. It’s the normal-looking ones you have to watch out for, you know? (sarcasm) In seriousness, ham radio was an interest of mine in my teenage years along with my interest in electronics and trains, the latter recently described. But the NIBBB is not the real story here, is it? (Sorry guys, but keep up the great work! You’ve made the Big Time! Respect.). No, for the real story we start with an old favorite of mine from those earlier years:

So, what is going down in America, then? From the 4th of February this year the US has sent F22 Raptors and F16s up to shoot down 4 ‘UFOs’ over American and Canadian territory (see pic below). The first object was a Chinese balloon, as large as the length of three school buses. It was a big boy! That had been tracked since it was launched on Hainan Island (off the coast of China), until it was finally shot down off the South Carolina coast. The folks at Myrtle Beach had a ringside seat for the fireworks.

The first balloon is what started the Great American Balloon Panic of 2023. The media does love panic. It’s great for ratings. That balloon also coincided with another train of events that happened on the 3rd. We’ll have more on that in a bit.

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So, let’s set the facts out about this Chinese balloon: It was launched from China (of course), and there was an item that caught the eyes of Americans that was hanging under the balloon – the ‘elephant in the sky’, so-to-speak:

“These balloons have cross like arms hanging below them with the two horizontal arms carrying solar panels. There are three gondolas at the ends of the horizontal and vertical structure. The gondolas could carry instruments, motors or both.”

Solar panels, instruments and motors, eh? Gondolas – maybe the Italians were involved! Marco Polo went to China, right? Sounds like a spy balloon, alright. This was a powered balloon! Who knows what sort of tech it had on it? Knowing the Chinese (which we don’t, really) there were probably all sorts of high-tech spying apparati hanging under that thing, transmitting all that data back to the CCP (as Americans do like to call the CPC). That’s pretty worrisome stuff. It’s best just to let it drift all the way across the US before we shoot it down, right, especially seeing it is being used to spy on us? And just what were the Chinese looking at? That’s right – our missile silos and secret military installations across the northern US.

Here was the flight path pre-programmed by the CCP. I guess they wanted to see Myrtle Beach:

The alleged Chinese spy balloon has sparked numerous reports of other balloon sightings around the world. (Lon Tweeten–TIME)

Trolling aside, there is a good reason why this balloon made it all the way across the United States. It’s called the jet stream. This balloon was caught by the jet stream over the Aleutian Islands. The wind tends to decide where balloons drift, in case one didn’t know. Apparently our media pundits don’t. But there was an anomaly in the jet stream at the time this balloon started its journey across the US. If one looks at a weather map with the weather fronts for the 3rd of February there is a long front that stretches down from Canada, dips deep into the US, forced there by the jet stream, and it has a path that looks suspiciously like the path of the Chinese balloon. Oops!

Perhaps the Chinese really can control the weather! Maybe they have their own version of the HAARP. OK, trolling again, but the point is, this balloon was a weather balloon, believe it or else. It did transmit some valuable data to the Chinese, though: It was sunny at Myrtle Beach on the 4th, relative humidity at 52%, 41° F, easterly winds at 11.9 mph, with atmospheric pressure at 30.6 inHg, altogether quite a nice winter’s day at the beach. Then, the transmission was abruptly lost.

OK. We aren’t having a go at the American people here, but instead at the media and the folks in DC who have stirred up all this nonsense. Most Americans have better sense than to believe this balloon was some sort of security risk, one would hope, though I have seen a few comments about this balloon by a few Americans who really should get out more.

Here is what we are looking at regarding shooting down these balloons, too: It costs $85,000/hr to keep a F22 Raptor in the air and that does not count maintenance costs before or after the fact. The balloons (or ‘UFOs’) shown on the incident map at the start here were shot down with $400,000 Raytheon ‘Sidewinder’ heat-seeking missiles. For the Chinese balloon (the first target) the first such missile missed – balloons don’t normally use jet propulsion or produce heat. So, to shoot down the Chinese balloon, the cost was upwards of $1 million. That was after it had traversed the US, across sensitive sites. Perhaps the USAF was just using these balloons as training exercises or for target practice.

If Washington was really that concerned that balloon was spying on the US and transmitting data to the Chinese then they would have shot it down before it even entered US airspace. Do we not think NORAD knew what sort of data the balloon was transmitting? But no, a big song and dance had to be made of the event with a blazing finale off the coast of South Carolina, in full view of one of the biggest tourist cities on the East Coast. It was not exactly a ‘Maverick’ moment (for the fanboys), though.

Very similar balloons were spotted over Japan and India in the last few years. Neither Japan nor India shot those down. Now, a new one has been spotted close to Honolulu, HI (on the 19th) by multiple commercial airline pilots. But there is more.  We’ll see about the one close to Hawaii. But it gets even more interesting, and gets us closer to the truth.

Around 2,000 pico balloons are sent up across the world every day. That’s a lot of UFOs. Those pico balloons go up into the stratosphere, with a flight time typically of about 4 hours, for checking atmospheric conditions. But it gets better. In an average year, the United States alone sends up 75,000 balloons, and these are just weather balloons. They typically rise to an altitude of around 20 miles (32 km) and have radiosondes attached. So, given all the preceding, what is really going on here? It is clear the balloons are not the real story. What gives?

His Nibs – Joe Biden and his coterie – along with the media would have us believe the Chinese are spying on us and that it poses a grave security risk. Well, they are. All nations spy on each other. We spy on them, too. But balloons? There is a simple answer as to why this Chinese weather balloon was not a Trojan horse spy apparatus, and the answer can be spelled out in one word – satellites. The Chinese have hundreds of them in orbit…overhead…now…watching us… Are we paranoid yet? Point is, we have about 6 times more of them doing the same thing to China, and Russia, and Iran, and everyone else. The US has blanket coverage of the world via satellite.

Paranoia strikes deep in the heart of Washington, though, and they like to keep us on tenterhooks, too. It’s good for business, you see, as in the MICIMATT – the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think-tank complex. The more fearful we are of attacks, the easier it is to gin up support for weapons, for ‘intelligence’, for media click bait, for academics to appear on TV and tell us their versions of reality (which they say we really must all accept, because they are ‘experts’) and for funding for Congressional races at election time. Regarding Washington’s paranoia:

“In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship, is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it has managed to survive at all.”

Very telling regarding the preceding pre-quote paragraph was what happened as soon as the balloon story burst on the scene: The Pentagon canceled Blinken’s trip to China, which was to discuss security matters with his counterparts in China, cancelled the day before he was supposed to leave. The administration probably knew it was a wasted effort anyway, but the cancellation made for good theatre. Somehow that cancellation was supposed to ‘send a message’ to the Chinese. It did. It showed the US claims about lowering tensions with China are not serious.

From day-one the media was calling the balloon a ‘spy balloon’. The Republicans seized on it to stoke more fears of China and to attack the Biden administration. They attacked Biden for waiting to shoot it down and then they attacked him later for shooting it down:

“Sessions also blasted the Biden administration, saying they are “slow to recognize dangers against American sovereignty and even slower to defend our borders or the things which we pride ourselves most in, and that is the ability we have to protect ourselves with the world’s greatest military.”

If we get the idea this first event was all for political theatre, we would probably be correct. The Chinese likewise trolled the Biden administration mercilessly, but for different reasons – as in Washington’s overreaction and political gamesmanship over the event – along with the shoot-down of their balloon, like the cartoon below. To the Chinese, the American reaction was “absurd and hysterical”.

Shooting down the Chinese balloon wasn’t enough for Washington, though. Three more had to be shot down, or so they thought. This brings in another side to the event – distraction from domestic incidents. The following events were taking place the entire time of this balloon hysteria:

What we see with the balloon scare is three-fold: First, it is a play to domestic politics. The election in ’24 is around the corner and the administration has to at least look tough on China, especially to Republican voters. It was a lost effort. Secondly, it was meant to stoke the anti-China sentiment in the US, which is not difficult to do. Thirdly, it was meant to manufacture consent and support for the defense and intelligence industries, which is has done:

“It is essential that we provide the military and intelligence community with the necessary resources to detect and monitor objects in near space,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.”

This is how bipartisanship works, you see? It isn’t just Republicans who are anti-China.

  • This last point is probably the biggest reason there is such hyperbole about the balloons – defense spending and the looming debt ceiling debate. These balloons are being put forward as a reason to spend more on protecting our skies against weather balloons, especially Chinese weather balloons. When it comes to discretionary spending it makes more sense to cut Social Security and Medicare than the defense budget (That’s sarcasm, too).

Why has the US gone bonkers over a few balloons? A quick look at the US chart gives us a few clues, below (bigger):

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The nefarious nature of the balloons is shown by the direction by semisquare of Neptune (nefarious and nebulous events) to the US Cancer Sun (leadership in general). The militant rhetoric and pot-stirring is shown by a Mars transit across the US Descendant (7th house of litigation and open enemies), preceded by the Mars transit over the US Uranus (accidents, disasters, fires, etc.). Of note here als is Mars has just completed the Mars return for the US and is out-of-bouds, heightening and making more unpredictable its effects. There have been many accidents and large fires in the US since the start of February.

But then the real deal pops up: A direction of Mars to the US Moon, the pair being transited by Saturn, triggering the direction. Transits of Saturn across the Moon in chart are some of the hardest transits to endure. The transit tends to give a dark and foreboding mood, the feeling the world is against one, all sentiments are challenged and the world appears as it is instead of how one would wish it to be.

The Mars direction points to quarrels heightened tensions (translate from Russian). Basically, the administration knows it is between a rock and a hard place regarding the conflict in Ukraine, for instance, and no plans by the neocons there seem to be working out. In fact, any attempts to push their plans through produce quite the opposite effects and tend to boomerang on the perpetrator. The Moon also represents the populace in a national chart and we see the need for paying attention to domestic issues instead of adventures overseas.

All this posturing against China is only going to backfire. It is a fool’s errand to be poking the eye of the one nation that supplies 80% of the base compounds going into our generic drugs, that has the lion’s share of facilities for processing rare earth elements (needed sorely in the defense, technological and aviation fields) and which produces the largest share of the world’s affordable consumer electronics, like iPhones for instance.

In their efforts to keep the hegemony of the US and the revolving door between Congress and the defense industries rotating, our lawmakers are cutting the cord that helps to keep the American economy buoyant. The whole episode has just ballooned out of control, much to the embarrassment of the United States. Finally, Joe Biden offered a sort of weak explanation that ended the affair, saying they didn’t really know what the other three balloons were. They were probably balloons tied to private companies or research institutions (like NIBBB and the National Weather Service).

Do tell.

Coming back to the lead paragraphs here, to the guys in NIBBB, I hope you eventually find out what happened to your balloon. One good thing to come out of this, at least for me, was a renewed desire to dust off my old radio equipment and at least listen to what is going on in your part of the world. And for the NIBBB, keep up the fine work. Hopefully there will be some sponsors to come out of this for you. And to our fearless leaders in Washington, I hear pigs fly, too. Take care of things at home instead. It is money far better spent.

We’ll leave this with this classic from the ‘80s that has made the rounds on a few blogs, but more than fitting for this post (English subtitles):

Featured pic from Pixy

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