99 Surveillance Balloons Go By | Crooked Media
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February 12, 2023
What A Day
99 Surveillance Balloons Go By

In This Episode

  • After the U.S. military downed a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean last week, three more “unidentified aerial objects” have been shot down in North American airspace since Friday. While we don’t yet know what they were – or where they’re from – lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they want answers from the Biden administration about its response.
  • And in headlines: the death toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquake reached over 33,000 people, the EPA said a major railway could be liable for cleaning up the train derailment in Ohio, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is expected to announce that she’s running for president.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, February 13th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What A Day, where we picked the exact wrong week to launch our official WAD weather balloon. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We are trying to replace the groundhog and let the groundhog retire. And so we thought we’d try this out. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s going to be six more weeks of winter. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, Turkish authorities have arrested building contractors as the death toll from last week’s earthquake continues to mount. Plus, a former Trump appointee is expected to run against her old boss for the Republican nomination. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a quote unquote, “unidentified aerial object”. And for the record, I’m not talking about the suspected Chinese spy balloon we mentioned on the show last week. Over the weekend, there were reports of at least three other floating thingamajigeys that have been shot down out of North American airspace over the last week or so. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I don’t love this personally. [laughter] It’s not my favorite thing. Can you tell us what is happening? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, inquiring minds definitely want to know, but the details are kind of slim here. And I should say that many headlines have been using the acronym UFO to describe these floating items. UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object. But when I think of UFO, you know, I think of alleged life on Mars or something, little green people that I’ve been told are UFOs. And so for our discussion today, I’m going to use thingamajigey and thingamabobbin interchangeably here. Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Love it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Because that feels more appropriate. Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I could not agree more. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] So on Friday, there was another object that was floating over northern Alaska that President Biden order to be destroyed. It had a car sized payload and was flying at just 40,000 feet, which is roughly the same altitude that regular commercial flights fly at. The Pentagon noted that it does not resemble in any way the surveillance balloon from China that was shot down last week. But that’s all they’re kind of really saying about it. And then later that same night, another thingamabobbin was detected over Alaska after that thing drifted into Canadian airspace. President Biden and Canada’s Prime minister, Justin Trudeau, jointly agreed to shoot that one down, according to Canada’s minister of defense this one was described as similar to the Chinese balloon, though it was smaller in size and cylindrical. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay, so that’s two thingamajigeys, in one day, by the way, in addition to the balloon from last week. So what was the third thingamabobbin? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So yesterday, right as the Super Bowl was beginning, reports surfaced that yet another entity had been shot out of the air, this one over Lake Huron in Michigan. Turns out that the object had actually first been detected on radar on Saturday over Montana, but it disappeared, leading officials to conclude that it was an anomaly. But on Sunday, a blip appeared once more over Montana, then Wisconsin and Michigan. And once military officials had visual confirmation, it was shot down. Now, the question still remains here, right? What the hell is going on with all the stuff that y’all are spotting in the sky? And there really is just a lot of uncertainty here. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But in light of what we now know about the original spy balloon, the Chinese, you know, surveillance balloon, people are concerned. And that’s because officials have officially linked that first balloon to a massive surveillance program run by the Chinese government that has involved aircrafts that have been spotted over five out of the seven continents. So we can’t confirm yet whether these latest thingamajigeys and thingamabobbins are also part of that Chinese scheme. But people are worried. We should though talk about the political reactions to these various thingamajigeys. What were some of the reactions after the first thingamabobbin on Friday, Josie? 


Josie Duffy Rice: As you may remember, after last week’s balloon gate, the Republicans were fairly upset. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton always extremely reasonable. That’s sarcasm if you didn’t catch it. [laughter] Uh went so far as to suggest that Democrats secretly don’t care about Chinese spy balloons, saying the Biden administration would have, quote, let it go on its merry way, not tell Congress, not tell the American people, and certainly not shoot it down if it hadn’t been spotted. On Friday when unidentified thingamabobbin number one was shot down. Again, that was one over Alaska, Republicans were not satisfied by the fact that the Biden administration had apparently changed their approach due to the fact that this second balloon, while smaller than the first, was flying at 40,000 feet and therefore a risk to planes, according to the administration, quote, “I’m trying to understand why this much smaller, by their own admission, much less capable balloon with a much smaller payload was deemed such a threat that the other one wasn’t,” Representative Michael Waltz of Florida said, “and it can’t just be the altitude”. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s always so interesting when people who don’t have an expertise in a certain area start talking about the motivations for decisions. You either want them to shoot the balloons down or you don’t like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Pick and choose. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What’s going on. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Right. Yeah. So everybody’s kind of playing politics and nobody totally knows what’s going on. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right? So now what? We’re on unidentified Balloon UFO thingamabobbin number three, all told, what are the two sides of the aisle saying about that? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, well, Tre’vell there’s been a fair amount of confusion these past few days. So here’s Senator Jon Tester of Montana, interviewed on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. This is before thingamabobbin number three was shot down. 


[clip of CBS Face the Nation interviewer] Late Saturday. NORAD and NORTHCOM said there was a radar anomaly over your state, which is why airspace was closed. Was it a false alarm or is there an object over Montana? 


[clip of Jon Tester] Well, I think the investigation is still going on as we speak. The truth is, is that there was an anomaly and they’ve investigated. I think it got dark last night, so they couldn’t fully check it out, I’m sure well, as we speak, it’s being checked out right now. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I got to say, I’m going to need my senators to know a little bit more. It’s just not giving confidence. Though Tester was hesitant to say he knew exactly what was going on above Montana with thingamabobbin three. He expressed some confidence that China was involved with the object shot down in Alaskan airspace, i.e. thingamabobbin one. 


[clip of Jon Tester] Uh. 


[clip of CBS Face the Nation interviewer] You think this was China? 


[clip of Jon Tester] I don’t know. I don’t know– 


[clip of CBS Face the Nation interviewer] Okay. 


[clip of Jon Tester] –that it’s China. We will find out later on uh if in fact, it was affiliated with the Chinese communist government or not. But the bottom line is, is that I think we need to take these things seriously. I think the president and I think more importantly, the military are taking it very, very seriously. And to back that up, I think through the appropriations process and the defense committee, we’re going to make sure that they’re taking it seriously so uh the checks and balances will be there as we move forward. But like I said, this has been a phenomenon that we haven’t had recently, where we’ve had other countries that have went into our airspace for the purpose of trying to gather information on what we’re doing here in the United States. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And look, this seems to be an area where Democrats and Republicans likely agree. They share concerns that China is involved in more than just the balloon from last week. But regardless of whether China is responsible for all or just last week’s balloon. That’s enough for many Republicans, especially as you can imagine. So here’s Texas Representative Michael McCaul. He was also on Face the Nation on Sunday. 


[clip of Michael McCaul] When I saw the sights that it was flying over, it was very clear to me this was an intentional act. Uh. It was done with provocation to gather intelligence data and collect intelligence on our three major nuclear sites in this country. Why? Because they’re looking at what is our capability in the event of a possible future conflict in Taiwan. Uh. I think it was very much an act of belligerence on their part. And perhaps they don’t care what the American people think about that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Ultimately, the bottom line is that politicians on both sides seem to be mainly suspecting China at this point, not aliens. I mean, I’m still worried about aliens, but apparently they’re not. It’s important to keep in mind, like this is all over one weekend. Right. But it doesn’t actually seem to be the first time that we’ve had these unidentified flying objects over American airspace. According to The Hill, quote, “a senior Pentagon official told reporters last week that Chinese government surveillance balloons hovered over the continental U.S. at least three times during the Trump administration”. Officials from the Trump administration have denied that. But it certainly seems that this is not a totally unprecedented event. So we will keep you updated on this developing story, but that is the latest for now. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: More than 33,000 people are now confirmed dead across Turkey and Syria following last week’s catastrophic earthquake and aftershocks. Though some survivors have been pulled from the rubble over the past few days, officials with international rescue teams say the likelihood of finding more people alive is quickly dwindling. Rescuers themselves continue to grapple with extreme cold and growing fatigue. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have issued over 100 arrest warrants for contractors linked to buildings that collapsed in the quake. At least a dozen people have been taken into custody so far. But critics of Turkey’s president are calling the investigation a distraction. They say that widespread corruption and the rush toward development in earthquake prone areas contributed to the disaster. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The aftermath of last week’s train derailment in Ohio continues. The EPA said this weekend that the train’s operator, Norfolk Southern, may be on the hook to pay for the cost of cleaning up the disaster. Several cars on the train were carrying toxic and extremely volatile chemicals, forcing emergency officials to release it into the air to prevent an explosion. Though people living near the site have since been allowed to return home, questions remain about whether the toxins are still lingering in the air and whether any of it has leached into nearby waterways. The company has not yet responded to the EPA’s findings, though it has offered to cut a check for $25,000 total to help the 5000 people impacted by the incident. Meanwhile, federal investigators say the derailment was triggered by a mechanical issue on one of the train’s rail axles. A union representing Norfolk Southern rail workers said it was, quote, “years in the making and accused the company of skipping out on maintenance and overworking its employees in order to cut costs.” It seems worth mentioning that this was the main subject of the railway strike just weeks ago. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And speaking of the EPA, the agency announced it will start cleanup projects at 22 federal Superfund sites. From environmental standpoints, Superfund sites are the worst of the worst and require the most intense remediation and resources. The agency announced on Friday it’s getting another round of funding thanks to last year’s massive infrastructure bill to tackle those projects, including a cool $1 billion dollars to clean up lead contamination in Atlanta. The money will also be used to help speed up 100 other ongoing projects across the country. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Donald Trump’s sleep paralysis demon just got a little more powerful. Florida lawmakers passed a bill on Friday giving Governor Ron DeSantis more control of what used to be a Disney special tax district in the state. After the company came out against the controversial don’t say gay law last year. DeSantis revoked the company’s privileges to independently operate in the area known as Reedy Creek, which encompasses the land surrounding Walt Disney World. For decades, Disney had been allowed to run there as a self-governing entity. Which explains why Donald Duck never had to wear pants to work. In a statement, Disney said it won’t fight the bill and that it’s, quote, “ready to work within this new framework.” I’ve got to say, don’t like why Governor DeSantis did this. Also, don’t think Disney should be running its own small city inside of the state. That’s not what corporations are supposed to do. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Nikki Haley is expected to be the first announced challenger to Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries. The former governor of South Carolina and Trump appointee to the United Nations is set to announce her presidential bid this Wednesday in my hometown of Charleston, as her team plans stops in battleground states New Hampshire and Iowa in the coming weeks. While Haley will be the first since Trump to announce their candidacy, she certainly won’t be the last, with governors Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp expected to join the Republican primary. Or, as we like to call them, our nightmare blunt rotation. So stock up on your comfort foods and coping mechanisms. The 2024 presidential election is shaping up to be really, really, really foolish. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m just picturing a clown car. [laughter] And they are all climbing out of it. Or into it.


Tre’vell Anderson: There’s more coming. I already know it. It’s like a who’s who of– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –GOP foolishness. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yep. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we better buckle up. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Great. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to confirm what we were all wondering during the Super Bowl halftime show. [music break]. 




Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Monday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re talking about Rihanna’s long awaited Super Bowl halftime performance. While the opener took a little longer than we may have hoped, the Fenty beauty founder performed a markedly straightforward 12 song medley of hits levitating on a platform and surrounded by a fleet of dancers in her first live performance in seven years. That’s such a long time. No cameos, no quick changes, just hits. And while there was no big album announcement, with a single rub of the belly, Rihanna clued us in on what you could call a new project. Shortly after her performance, her representatives confirmed that the singer is pregnant with her second child. So Tre’vell, did you tune in? What were some of your favorite moments? 


Tre’vell Anderson: I did. I watched. My thoughts where before we had confirmed. Right, that she was pregnant. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’ll just say that the halftime performer does not get paid. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And the type of performance that Rihanna gave us was the performance of someone who doesn’t get paid. [laughter] I’m just going to leave it there. Like the hits were hitting, don’t get me wrong. But it left a lot to be desired. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. I have to say. Okay, so before we confirmed that she’s with child. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I was like, this is okay. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Her music’s great, but the performance itself, fine. Now I’m like, this is the best performance of all time, [laughter] because you have, like, a nine month old at home, and you’re pregnant. You should be on the couch, like, [laughter] as we discussed. She’s fully growing another brain right now. Like, if you are doing a performance at all, much less like the most watched musical performance of the year easily. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. I mean, and we should also note, right, that, like she’s pregnant pregnant, right? Like it wasn’t– 


Josie Duffy Rice: She’s pregnant pregnant. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It wasn’t a small belly. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: She’s like– 


Tre’vell Anderson: It was very obvious. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: A pregnant woman, you know, strapped to– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –these floating– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: These floating stages. Okay. Maybe she tore, right? Maybe she ate that–


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –performance up, actually? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right, right. You know, context is everything. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The last thing I will say, though, is the performance just kind of reiterated how many hits Rihanna has. Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my gosh. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Like despite the lukewarm performance itself. I was sitting on the couch singing all the songs. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I had forgotten about some of them, too. It’s just hit after hit after hit. And it wasn’t even all of them. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And it wasn’t even all of them. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Number one hits were left out. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Also shout out to the little cameo of her, you know, Fenty beauty makeup– 


Josie Duffy Rice: That was cute. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –moment. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That was cute. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s how you– 


Josie Duffy Rice: That was cute. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –do your promo. Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Get your free advertising. We love to see it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This was Rihanna once again reminding us she’s a musician second these days. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: She is a entrepreneur first.


Tre’vell Anderson: And now we’re really not getting the album. Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. [laughing] Right. That was it. Just like that. We’ve checked our temps, my temp was like pretty hot. Now that I know she was pregnant, it was tepid before I would say. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll take it. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, have Rihanna’s money, and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just Super Bowl halftime ad QR codes that you will never scan with your phone like me. What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And please let our weather balloon live. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. Don’t get all trigger happy military. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. We need this. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.