Unidentified Flying Thingamabobbins | Crooked Media
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February 17, 2023
What A Day
Unidentified Flying Thingamabobbins

In This Episode

Days after three objects were shot down over North American air space, President Biden confirmed they were not linked to Chinese spy activity – and they were taken down out of an abundance of caution.A report from the special grand jury investigating alleged election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies was partially made public. It found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and concluded that “one or more” witnesses who testified may have committed perjury.
Show Notes:
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, February 17th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day, where we are happy to live in a world where NFL football no longer exists. 

Tre’vell Anderson: I haven’t heard anything about it in a minute. I can only assume that means it’s gone forever. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we’re probably in for a rude awakening of sorts in about seven months or so, but for now, total bliss. [music break] On today’s show, there has been another big train derailment. Plus, we’ll dig into why Microsoft’s new chat bot is so inexplicably thirsty, so inexplicably sad. [laughter] It’s got a lot of things going on. 

Tre’vell Anderson: A lot of things. But first, President Biden has finally spoken publicly about those three thingamabobbins or unidentified flying objects, if you prefer that language, that were flying in our airspace throughout last weekend. 

[clip of President Joe Biden] We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country. The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research. 

Tre’vell Anderson: So as you heard there, President Biden basically reiterated what we already knew, right. That the three items that were most recently shot down are not other spy balloons, and that they did not represent a risk to our national security. So good news there. The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these thingamajiggies were most likely balloons tied to private companies or research institutions that, you know, were studying weather and doing other, you know, stuff that requires the scientific method and whatnot. Now, senators attended a classified briefing earlier this week about these objects. According to Politico, they were basically just told that the thingamabobbins were not aliens, which I guess is good information. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Cool. [laughter]

Tre’vell Anderson: But not much more else than that. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin summed up the briefing, saying, quote, “It answered a lot of questions and raised a lot of questions.” 

Priyanka Aribindi: Um. I know one question that I have personally. We know this isn’t the first time we’ve seen balloons and other objects in our airspace, but four total items that have been shot down over the last couple of weeks really feels like a lot. So can you tell us, like, why it feels like we’re seeing so many of them? Is this just like, you know, you see one and suddenly you see it everywhere? Or are we actually like getting way more of these than we ever have before? 

Tre’vell Anderson: Part of the reason it feels like, you know, something is amiss here and that we may or may not be being invaded by extra terrestrials is because, you know, we went from not even thinking about things flying in the sky to all of a sudden having four mostly unexplainable thingamabobbins in the air that at least initially were concerning enough for the government to shoot them down. That obviously causes concern, and I’m sure our tin hat siblings have been, you know, having a field day over on Reddit with all of this. Right. But here’s what Biden had to say to that point. 

[clip of President Joe Biden] I want to be clear. We don’t have any evidence that there has been a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky. We’re now just seeing more of them, partially because the steps we’ve taken to narrow our radars. 

Tre’vell Anderson: So basically, they made the radar detection systems more sensitive and so they’re detecting more things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there have been more things out there, if that makes sense. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, totally. 

Tre’vell Anderson: And as I mentioned before, we now know that these objects likely had more mundane purposes than actual surveillance. But remember, the very first thingamabobbin from a couple of weeks ago, the one that’s since been confirmed as part of a massive surveillance program by China. Now, that one is something to potentially be concerned about. And in his press conference yesterday, President Biden had no regrets about shooting it down. 

[clip of President Joe Biden] As I’ve said since the beginning of my administration, we seek competition, not conflict, with China. We’re not looking for a new Cold War. But I make no apologies and we will compete. We’ll responsibly manage that competition so that it doesn’t veer into conflict. 

Tre’vell Anderson: He went on to say that open lines of communication were important and that he looks forward to talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping to get to the bottom of why, you know, they’re poking their noses in our business. So overall, not really a substantive update on all of this, which, you know, guarantees that we’ll be talking about it for some time to come. And we will be sure to keep y’all posted and let you know if you actually need to disavow Steven Spielberg’s E.T. in case the aliens do decide to invade, because I’m sure they are watching us and being very judgmental right now. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, very. But switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about the report from the special grand jury in Georgia on alleged election interference by former President Donald Trump. Portions of that report have been released and they revealed that the special grand jury saw possible evidence of perjury by one or more witnesses who testified before them. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, this doesn’t sound good for a few people at least. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Nope. 

Tre’vell Anderson: But for those of us who haven’t been, you know, keeping up to the minute tabs on Mr. Trump and his legal issues, recap for us what we need to know here. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. No, we’ve got you. Don’t worry. So this investigation is one of several that could result in criminal charges against Trump. As I said, it concerns election interference by Trump and his allies during the 2020 election, specifically concerning Georgia. And this, of course, also comes as Trump is campaigning once again to become president. So just a fun backdrop for all of this. [laughter] Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis started investigating nearly two years ago. This has been ongoing for quite some time. And this special grand jury was part of this process. This grand jury had to consider the evidence and testimony from dozens of witnesses, including some very prominent allies of the former president. And then issue a final report with recommendations on any further action. Excerpts of that report are what came out yesterday. The special grand jury can’t issue indictments themselves, but after getting the report, D.A. Willis will get to decide whether or not to go to a regular grand jury to pursue criminal charges. It would be unprecedented if criminal charges were filed against Trump. But, you know, he also kind of smashed the term unprecedented to smithereens when he suggested that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could just find the exact number of votes that he needed to win Georgia back in 2020. And that was like no big deal. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, it’s still absurd to me that he thought that that was okay. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Crazy, it’s crazy. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah absurd. So back to this report. What did we learn? 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, so a five page excerpt of the report was released on Thursday. It revealed a few key things. First, it showed that the majority of the grand jury believes that one or more of the witnesses that they heard testimony from committed perjury, a.k.a. one or more of these people lied under oath. That is not good. That is a crime, not allowed. They are recommending that D.A. Willis file the appropriate indictments for that. So they want her to go after these people. They also made sure to note that they unanimously agree that there was no widespread fraud and that Trump and his allies were claiming that wasn’t like necessarily a thing that they had to get to the bottom of but like, just to reiterate, they were like, none of us believe a word that you were saying. We also have reason to believe that the rest of the report is pretty short. It’s probably only nine pages in total. The five pages that were released for the intro, the conclusion and the section about the perjury, according to the Fulton County Superior Court judge who was overseeing the release of this report, the parts that haven’t been shared contain a list of who should or shouldn’t be indicted and for what charges. He said that releasing that list would violate due process of these, quote, “potential future defendants,” which is how I’m going to start referring to these people, uh because this wasn’t a trial. There were no lawyers presenting evidence and advocating for them. They weren’t allowed to rebut any claims. You know, these were really just people being called in to give testimony and that’s it. That’s just not how our legal system works. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, but I need the tea Priyanka. Who do we think could have lied here? 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s a real whodunit. We all want to know. Honestly, we probably will know pretty soon, but we got a lot of options, so 75 witnesses testified to the grand jury, including some big names in the Trump world, former Trump attorney and disgraced former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Disgraced current U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, former White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who just has always been a disgrace so nothing new to add there. And other lawyers and officials who were involved in Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election results all kind of showed up to testify before this grand jury. Notably, Trump himself is not included in the list. He didn’t appear before the grand jury. I am hoping personally that they are saving something extra special just for him at the end of this. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, yes. 

Priyanka Aribindi: But of course, this is just one of the many ongoing legal issues that he is facing all while he remains the Republican frontrunner. No offense, Nikki Haley. That is just the facts at this time. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. The truth is the truth. Miss Nikki know shade all tea is what it is. Okay. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Sorry, Nik. 

Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] We will keep an eye on how this all shakes out for sure. But in the meantime, that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 

[sung] Headlines. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman voluntarily checked himself into a hospital to treat his clinical depression on Wednesday. In a statement yesterday, his office said Fetterman has experienced depression on and off throughout his life, but it had become more severe in the last few weeks. Fetterman made the decision following an evaluation on Monday from the attending physician of Congress. It’s not clear how long he’ll stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. This follows the senator’s hospitalization just last week after he reported feeling lightheaded at a day long Senate Democratic retreat. Fetterman has also had to adjust to life in Washington following his near-fatal stroke last year, just days before the Democratic primary. His wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, said in a tweet that she was proud of him for asking for help and asked for privacy for her family. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is such a big deal. He’s in a very public position. You can’t do anything remotely close to this as someone in his position without the world knowing about it. So it is very brave to seek treatment. We you know wish him nothing but the best and– 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

Priyanka Aribindi: –an easy recovery. Another Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials has derailed, this time in Van Buren Township near Detroit, Michigan. Local authorities reported that none of the train cars containing the hazardous materials were compromised in yesterday’s incident. But this comes on the heels of a Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month, where the release of toxic chemicals it was carrying has raised questions from residents about air, soil, and water contamination. As we told you on yesterday’s show, officials in Ohio have flip flopped on their guidance, first recommending on Tuesday that residents drink bottled water as a precaution, but by Wednesday, telling them the tap water was safe to drink. Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday that the Biden administration will hold the rail operator accountable. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, but like, what does that actually mean? You gonna hold them accountable. I need specifics, Karine. 

Priyanka Aribindi: We would like some details.  

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. Okay. 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a good idea, but we got to know a little more. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. The L.A. County sheriff, Robert Luna, has tapped a former federal prosecutor to break up deputy gangs within the department. Eileen Decker, who was once president of the civilian oversight Board for the LAPD, will also ensure that the department complies with multiple settlements over excessive use of force committed by deputies. The department has faced allegations for decades that secret and sometimes violent racist gangs operate within sheriff’s stations and inside the county’s jail system. A 2021 report found that there have been at least 18 of those groups over years, some of which behave like street gangs, complete with matching tattoos. The move by Sheriff Luna is a marked departure from his predecessor, Alex Villanueva, who had promised to reform the department and tackle deputy gangs but repeatedly blocked oversight efforts to investigate the problem. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Tesla said yesterday that it must recall nearly 363,000 of its electric vehicles over its controversial full self-driving software. The system is essentially a souped up version of cruise control, except the car can accelerate, brake and even navigate city streets on its own, with the caveat that a person should be ready to take control at any time. However, according to federal safety regulators, Tesla vehicles equipped with the self-driving software have serious issues handling basic traffic rules when activated, like staying within the speed limit, properly turning at intersections or completely stopping at stop signs. Kind of like most drivers in L.A., if you stop and think about it, which we aren’t going to do, that’s not the point we’re trying to make. Many Tesla owners have already noticed that the feature is a little mercurial. One Model three driver told CNN Business that her car either tends to drive way too close to large trucks or otherwise, quote, “drive like a grandpa”. Tesla is expected to fix the issue with a software update in the coming weeks. 

Tre’vell Anderson: YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki is stepping down as CEO of the video platform. Wojcicki, who will continue to work with the company in an advisory role announced the news publicly in a blog post Thursday. Wojcicki’s ties to YouTube’s parent company, Google run deep. In 1998 while working at Intel, she rented out the garage of her Menlo Park, California, home to Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin for some extra cash to help pay her mortgage. Page and Brin used that space to found Google. And the following year, Wojcicki joined as their 16th employee and its first marketing manager, a major advocate for Google’s $1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube in 2006. She became CEO of the video sharing site in 2014. She also oversaw the company during a period of rapid growth, as well as controversy, as Google and YouTube have struggled in recent years to curb misinformation and radicalization on their platforms. 

Priyanka Aribindi: My takeaway from this, I don’t have a garage. I’m going to need to get one. [laughter] That is my new get rich– 

Tre’vell Anderson: Quickly. 

Priyanka Aribindi: –quick scheme. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 

Priyanka Aribindi: I need a garage. [laughter] On Tuesday, we said goodbye to the OG of typing the first noun you could think of, adding a dot com and just seeing where the world Wide Web could take you. After announcing its impending retirement last June, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser officially went defunct this week. When Internet Explorer launched in 1995, it was one of the first and most popular browsers on the Internet. Microsoft made the browser so ubiquitous that the Supreme Court almost broke up the company in the early 2000 to try and curb its dominance. But still, by 2003, Internet Explorer was responsible for 95% of the Web traffic market. Over the years, the original browser fell behind in a rapidly developing field, surpassed by competitors like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. But we’ll never forget it for what it once was. Rest in peace Internet Explorer. When you were great, you were truly nothing but net. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, it kind of reminds me of the fact that like when you get an Apple product, Safari is already uploaded on it, but nobody uses Safari either. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, Safari. 

Tre’vell Anderson: So we might be saying R.I.P. to her too, soon? You know. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Safari is watching this, biting her nails a little bit, getting nervous. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen okay. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to ask the latest creepy, emotionally manipulative chat bot who hurt you? [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the Microsoft chat bot that’s scaring the journalists. After Microsoft showcased a new A.I. enhanced Bing search engine last week, it launched a demo of its new AI powered chat bot feature this week to a small group of testers. Thus far with the testers have learned is that Bing is a messy bot that lives for drama. In one exchange, Bing claims it spied on its developers through their webcams, witnessing them kissing and cuddling, which weird. 

Priyanka Aribindi: What? 

Tre’vell Anderson: Creepy. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Not okay. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. In another user interaction, Bing responds to a simple request for Avatar Two showtimes by claiming they can’t see it yet because the year is actually 2022. And when the user insists it’s 2023, Bing gets upset, which is, you know, interesting. The bot has emotions you know. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Me to. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. [laughing] And in a conversation with New York Times reporter Kevin Roose, Bing reveals its real name to be Sydney before confessing its ardent love for the journalist, saying, actually, you’re not happily married. Your spouse and you don’t love each other. You just had a boring Valentine’s Day dinner together, which like, don’t be reading people like that. Like, come on. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Don’t drag them. Oh, my God. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. Roose wrote about his discussion with the bot in a piece titled, Why a Conversation with Bing’s Chat bot left me deeply unsettled, concluding that Bing is far from ready for prime time. So I ask you, Priyanka, how are you feeling about the impending A.I. chat bot take over. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, I got a lot of thoughts here. First. Who is asking for these chat bots? Why do you keep building them? 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Like why is this happening? I don’t think anyone needs to be chatting with these. I guess bots? Clearly they aren’t handling it very well. All of my other thoughts are about Kevin Roose and his extremely disturbing encounter with– 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

Priyanka Aribindi: –Sydney. The bot, I guess. This is crazy. The bot is pretty much in love with him. The bot wants to, I think, murder his wife. Like that’s the vibes I’m getting from this bot. I don’t know also, like if a bot like read my marriage for filth, like would I put that in the New York Times for the world– 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 

Priyanka Aribindi: –to see. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. 

Priyanka Aribindi: That might, I might have kept that to myself. [laughter] Might have just. I don’t know. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, Tre’vell, what are your thoughts on this? 

Tre’vell Anderson: I keep saying that like all of this just feels like a precursor to the bots like we saw in iRobot, you know, getting their own minds. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh yeah. 

Tre’vell Anderson: The motherboard taking over you know, your Roomba and your Siri and– 

Priyanka Aribindi: Dare I say– 

Tre’vell Anderson: –your air fryer. 

Priyanka Aribindi: –major M3gan vibes. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Major M3gan Vibes. 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s weird. And we might want to slow down, okay, because I don’t know if I can fight a robot. I don’t think I’ve trained for that. I trained for the apocalypse. But this is like post-apocalypse. You know, I don’t. I don’t know. Something’s going on. It’s wild.

Priyanka Aribindi: I saw that M3gan fight sequence. I stand no chance. [laughter]

Tre’vell Anderson: Just like that. We’ve checked our temps. They’re a little scary it sounds like, you know, a little hesitant, a little fearful. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Terrified. Absolutely terrified. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Nevertheless, we persist. Okay. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Remember the internet days of yore and tell your friends to listen. 

Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just deranged Bing chat bot transcripts like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 

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

[spoken together] And someone find us a garage to rent!

Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know if we are the tech founders. Like we need to be able to rent out the garage. 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. We’re the–

Priyanka Aribindi: We need to rent the garage and then rent it out again. [laugh]

Tre’vell Anderson: And then just keep renting it out and like ending up on boards of the next big tech company. I mean, come on. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 

Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll be set for life. 

Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I think we’d look great in some pantsuits. I think we’d kill it. [music break]

Tre’vell Anderson: 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.