Category: news

News stories. Especially crazy news stories.

The Balloon War

Last week a giant spy balloon from China passed over Canada and the United States, collecting who-knows-what information about our military, and transmitting it to the Chinese military.

Many argue we should have shot it down before it had the chance to spy on us, and have claimed we are idiots for not downing it over Montana. But we have nothing to worry about. Because we’re such idiots, the spy balloon couldn’t have detected any intelligence, anyway.

The president claims he worried about falling debris striking and killing innocent civilians. He has explained that because of this worry, he gave the order to his general to shoot it down “when appropriate.” Having been in the military, I think I know what happened. The order, as given, was wishy-washy, and fashioned with classic principles of CYA (Cover Your Ass) in mind.

It left the general in a difficult position. If he shot the balloon down over Montana, and it injured anyone on the ground, the president’s ass wouldn’t be in any trouble. The general would be the one in hot water because obviously, it would not have been the “appropriate” time to shoot the balloon down. So his safest choice was to let the balloon spy on us, and leave it unharmed as it passed over our land.

By waiting until the balloon had spied on many of our strategic military bases, before shooting it down over the Atlantic Ocean, the general protected civilians from potential harm, and his own ass from being fired. Such is the mentality of military bureaucracy.

Just yesterday another object was shot down, over the frozen waters of northern Alaska. It was likely another balloon. Nobody knows yet if it was a spy balloon, or if it was even from China. Who knows, perhaps it was an escaped promotional balloon belonging to a used car lot owner in Beijing, named Tu Hai.

Nonetheless, the shooting down of this balloon made headlines for the consumption of a jittery public. Tensions have never been higher between the United States and China, and these balloons have only heightened our fears of war with that nation.

All of this reminds me of a war that erupted over balloons nearly 40 years ago. In 1984, a large amount of red balloons were released over West Germany by two German civilians just having some fun. The balloons floated over the border into Soviet-occupied East Germany. A Soviet general thought they were UFOs and scrambled fighter pilots to investigate. The pilots intercepted the balloons and destroyed them in a spectacular display of firepower.

Generals on both sides of the border witnessed the aerial explosions and worried an attack was underway. The alarm was sounded, and both sides gave the order to launch their nuclear missiles. Global thermonuclear war ensued, and the world was reduced to ash.

But of course this didn’t really happen, or you wouldn’t be reading this post right now. This was a fictional tale told in the lyrics of a hit song in 1984, entitled 99 Luftballoons. It was performed by the German band, Nena, and enjoyed worldwide success that year. In the United States, the song rose to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100, becoming one of the most successful foreign language songs in U.S. history.

All the international tensions lately over balloons has reminded me of Nena’s hit song. I sure hope it wasn’t prophetic. Perhaps it would be a good idea to revisit this tune, and let it serve as a warning to us, to tone down the rhetoric and ease our fingers off the trigger.

Here’s Nena’s one-hit wonder of 1984, with English captions for those who don’t speak German:

Canceled Wiz

Never strike a woman, because they bruise too easily. Hey I didn’t say that, the Wiz did. 88-year-old Ian Brackenbury Channell was the official Wizard of New Zealand, until just recently.

That’s right, New Zealand had an official Wizard. In 1990, Channell was invited by Prime Minister Mike Moore, to perform magical duties for New Zealand, Antarctica, and “relevant offshore areas.” This led to a contract in 1998, with the city of Christchurch to perform “acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services.”

And apparently he was a whiz at his job, given that his contract seemed immortal up until a few months ago. His duties included casting spells, blessings, and curses. He also performed rituals to make it rain during droughts, and was met with thundering success.

But alas, Channell’s sorcery was not all-powerful. It could not protect him from cancel culture. Earlier this year, he got on TV and said a few unfortunate things about the fairer sex.

For instance, the Wiz quipped that women use cunning to get men who are dumb. And then he had all the gall to jest, “I love women, I forgive them all the time, I’ve never struck one yet. Never strike a woman because they bruise too easily is the first thing, and they’ll tell the neighbors and their friends . . . and then you’re in big trouble.”

But big trouble was what The Wiz got into, for joking about those things. He realized he’d made a big mistake. He had not yet turned the politically correct crowd into toads, and some of them happened to be watching TV that day. They felt mortified, and proceeded to rent their clothing and gnash their teeth. They raised a stink over his “sexist” jokes about the gentler gender, and the city council of Christchurch responded by firing Channell.

Christchurch spokesperson Lynn McClelland was nice about it, though. She thanked him for his service and told him he’d “forever be a part of history.”

However, The Wiz was not so easily appeased. He stewed about this for awhile, while stirring a boiling cauldron of hummingbird tears and lizard tails, and considering occult messages that rose from the steam. Finally he issued a statement saying that he believed he was being canceled for being a “provocateur,” and because a Wizard no longer “vibes” with the city.

“It implies,” he continued, “that I am boring and old, but there is nobody else anything like me in Christchurch . . . It’s just they don’t like me because they are boring old bureaucrats and everyone likes me and no one likes them . . . They are a bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination . . . They are not thinking of ways to promote Christchurch overseas. They are just projecting an image of bureaucrats drinking lattes on the boulevard.”

So cackled The Wizard. And none dared argue.

He’s an interesting old fart. If you want to learn more about this eccentric visitor from the shadowlands, here’s a blurb about his life, and the woman of his life. It was produced last March, about seven months before he was commanded by Christchurch to vanish:

Man Gets Pride and Prejudice

Twenty-year-old Ben John was arrested in January 2020, for violating Britain’s Terrorism Act. He was caught with 70,000 extremist documents on his computer, including material on how to build a bomb.

Much of the extremist material on John’s computer promoted the ideology of white supremacy, Adolph Hitler, Nazis, and fascism. In the United States this material would most likely be protected by the First Amendment. But in Great Britain such documents are illegal, and John faced up to 15 years in prison.

John’s attorney claimed there is no proof he was actually preparing to plan a terrorist attack, and that his client is simply a confused man. Judge Timothy Spencer bought this argument and last month gave John a two-year suspended sentence, plus one year on probation. But in addition, the judge ordered John to do some reading.

From the bench, Judge Spencer declared, “You are a lonely individual with few if any true friends. Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.”

John will have to deliver oral reports on his reading every four months for two years. And on January 4th he’ll have to report to the judge on Pride and Prejudice, and the judge will test him on it. If he fails the test, the judge has promised he will suffer.

One can only wonder what the judge would do. Throw the book at him?


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