The origin and purpose of the Chinese balloon in US airspace is unclear

Nothing is understood about the “Chinese spy balloon” story—but that hasn’t stopped U.S. officials from using it to stoke anti-China sentiment and derail efforts to ease diplomatic ties.

Rights: A Chinese balloon began entering the US territory about 10 days ago. It first entered Alaskan airspace, then drifted over Canada, then returned to US skies, appearing over Montana on February 1. By Saturday, when US forces shot down the balloon, it was floating off the coast of South Carolina.

What the Chinese say: it is was “A civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes”—a weather balloon, essentially—that drifts off course due to westerly winds and “limited self-steering capabilities.”

What Americans are saying: It’s a spy balloon! It is an act of open hostility! US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken called it a “violation of our sovereignty” and a “violation of international law”. House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) declared the balloon a “threat to American sovereignty” and “a threat to the Midwest.” Mitt Romney used this as an opportunity Calls to ban TikTok.

Dangers: Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing last weekend, in a visit designed to help maintain cordial relations and keep lines of communication open between the countries. He even had a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But Blinken canceled the trip last week, because the Chinese balloon loomed large (literally and figuratively) over America.

Not only has the balloon derailed a diplomatic mission, it’s fueling excitement—and paranoia—in the States. NPR correspondent Michelle Kelemen said Saturday that the balloon was “more fodder for the China hawks in Washington.” Kelemen described the incident as sounding like a Cold War story, which “is exactly what it was [Blinken’s] Trip was supposed to be prevented.”

Absurdity: The balloon in question is absolutely massive, with “an undercarriage roughly the size of three buses,” as it were The New York Times Keep it up. It would be a totally unsavory way to spy on the US—especially since the pictures it takes are no better than those obtained by satellites. As a brief, a defense official said The Washington PostThat such images could be obtained by a balloon “would not offer much in the way of identification that China could not gather through spy satellites.”

Anyone on the ground can see the balloon in the sky without any special equipment. To believe that this was meant to be a covert spycraft, you have to believe that the Chinese authorities are just absolute idiots, which (whatever they are) is clearly not true.

Some have suggested, alternatively, that it wasn’t a secret—we were It’s supposed to look and feeling fear. This theory also makes little sense. Why would China deal with such a war while simultaneously trying to calm relations with Blinken’s visit? And why would the United States basically be scared by a hot air balloon? A hot air balloon, remember that China may have little precise directional control over it once in the air?

“National security and space experts said the craft appeared to share characteristics with high-altitude balloons used by developed countries around the world for weather forecasting, telecommunications and scientific research,” the report said. The Washington Post, which also notes that such vessels are wind-controlled. “These balloons navigate by rising and sinking to find the wind blowing in the direction they want to go.”

If the balloon could not be precisely controlled from a distance, it seems of little use as a spy balloon, but it would fit the story of a weather balloon in China that must have floated away.

This is the thread Read a healthy dose of skepticism about the idea that China wanted to send balloons to the US for espionage purposes from entrepreneur and commentator Arnaud Bertrand.

But but but…: there can New and special technology in balloons has made it easier to guide, some experts say. And some oddities – such as it floating so low and so easily detectable-can So we cannot completely rule out the possibility that this was a poorly conceived, poorly executed and oddly timed spy mission.

It is also possible that China launched it as a spy balloon but it was not intended to fly over the United States.

“The Chinese knew that sending a clearly observable balloon over the heart of the United States would be a provocative move, and they are unlikely to do it on purpose,” said Ars Technica. But this could be a scenario where “the termination mechanism, which is used to bring down a balloon at the end of its intended flight time, has failed… currents in the stratosphere The drifting balloon would seem to support this theory that the Chinese government has lost control.”

Now that the balloon has been fired, US authorities should be able to determine more, and perhaps we’ll get some more definitive answers in the coming days. If the authorities could say more definitively that it was atrocious, we would certainly hear about it. If the details are scattered and slow to come…well, I think that tells us something too.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, at least not yet. This did not spoil Blinken’s diplomatic visit. And it doesn’t have to become another step down the road to an American-Chinese cold war. But a deliberate spy balloon makes for a much sexier story than a research balloon run amok or “we don’t know yet,” and many politicians and the press couldn’t resist leaning toward the former framework.

free mind

“Wokism.” Thomas Chatterton Williams explores the fault lines of France’s struggle with the politics of social justice. He describes the scene at the Tocqueville Dialogue conference he attended in Normandy:

on stage with [Rokhaya Diallo] There was a political scientist and two philosophy professors, one of whom was the moderator, Perrin Simon-Nahum. Diallo is a well-known and polarizing figure in France, a telegenic proponent of identity politics with a large social-media following. He draws parallels between the French and American criminal-justice systems (a documentary of his called Paris to Ferguson), makes the case that institutional racism afflicts his race just as it does in the United States, particularly in discriminatory stop-and-frisk policing. In America his views would hardly be considered extreme, but here he is seen in some quarters as a truly destructive agent….

“The circulation of knowledge is the circulation of experience,” Diallo replied [to a question about shaping citizens in a democracy]. “Some minority experiences can become more visible” now thanks to social media. This poses a much-needed challenge to traditional “elite” knowledge production, which, he says, has “filtered out” certain perspectives in the past. This claim was undeniable. A few weeks after the conference, Emmanuel Macron will become the first French president to attend a commemoration of the 1961 massacre of Algerian protesters by police in Paris. Most French people I know have never encountered this event in school or in traditional media.

Diallo’s views were strongly rejected by other panelists and the audience, Williams wrote. He also said:

At the end of the discussion I sat a little shaken. On many isolated points, I tended to agree with the philosophers on the panel. I have made Paris my home for the past 11 years and have been raising French children there for nine of those years, which is to say I feel a true partner in the culture. I am convinced that it would be a terrible, perhaps even irreparable, loss to abandon the cosmopolitan, color-blind French ideal for the fractured landscape of American tribal identity.

And yet I felt that something fundamentally unfair had happened. Like America, France is constantly evolving. Any attempt to explain this must take Diallo’s arguments seriously. He tried to share an understanding of French life—one in which growing segments of the French population were excluded and condemned—that his interlocutors could not or would not accept, but their behavior seemed certain.

Wear it all here.

free market

Functions of the Department of Occupational Licensing

Tennessee will add a proposal “Providing eyelash services” — defined as “applying and removing a semi-permanent, thread-like, natural or synthetic single fiber to an eyelash” — is a cosmetology practice that requires a special license. a receipt”An eyelash specialist license requires “no less than 300 hours of classroom instruction and practical experience with at least eight hours of theoretical instruction.” Eyelash specialist license applicants must also be trained.”Acknowledgment[ing] Signs of domestic violence, how to respond to these signs, and how to refer a client to resources for victims of domestic violence.”

Quick hit

• President Joe Biden will deliver his 2023 State of the Union address Tuesday night

• A federal court has ruled a law allowing marijuana users to own guns is unconstitutional

• Quote, please:

• In the wake of losing an antitrust case against Facebook, the Federal Trade Commission is “preparing a potential anti-trust case against Amazon…that could challenge the tech giant’s business practices as anti-competitive in the coming months,” reports The The Wall Street Journal.

• Offices are still far less full than pre-pandemic.

• Proposed new nutrition standards for school meals will limit added sugars.