The Downing of a Chinese Spy Balloon

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  • Fired by Email? Employees Are Just ‘Resources.’
  • A Chef Adds to the Cringe List
  • My Doctor, via Email

The U.S. shot down a Chinese balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.Credit…Randall Hill/Reuters

To the Editor:

Re “U.S. Shoots Down a Balloon China Sent to Surveil” (front page, Feb. 5):

Dealing with China’s famous and now-defunct balloon was fraught with potentially difficult military, diplomatic and political consequences from its initial sighting to its well-executed downing off the South Carolina coast — which, in the opinion of some Republicans, was inexcusably delayed.

To their credit, though, the president and his advisers were closely monitoring the balloon’s path and probable contents and had decided early on to destroy it when doing so would not pose a risk to life on the ground.

Yet congressional Republicans, poised to criticize all things Biden, predictably pounced at the timing. Surely, had the president agreed to an earlier destruction of the balloon that resulted in loss of life on the ground, that decision would have incurred their outrage.

This balloon’s uncharacteristically public and dramatic flyover, clearly a violation of our sovereignty but which intelligence officials say had minimal national security implications, has incurred an exaggerated response — not by the Biden administration, which appropriately and safely destroyed it, but by Republicans, whose unwavering partisanship has no place in this country’s foreign policy.

Roger Hirschberg
South Burlington, Vt.

To the Editor:

I generally support the Biden administration, but it badly mishandled the case of the Chinese spy balloon over U.S. territory.

First, it failed to publicly acknowledge the balloon’s approach to the U.S. mainland.

Second, when forced by press leaks to acknowledge the balloon’s presence over Montana, it failed to shoot it down, claiming concern about casualties in a state whose population density is little more than that of the Sahara.

And then it finally brought the balloon down, but over the Atlantic Ocean, thus likely complicating U.S. intelligence efforts to recover the balloon’s technology and sensors and what they might have revealed of U.S. secrets — hard evidence that could also serve to unmask for the world the lie of Chinese claims that this was merely a meteorological balloon.

It was, in short, a farce. The next time a Chinese balloon “wanders” over U.S. airspace, it should promptly be shot down over land in order to examine its contents, protect our secrets and send a message to an over-emboldened China.

Marc E. Nicholson
The writer is a retired Foreign Service officer.

To the Editor:

The Chinese spy balloon was never about what data the balloon might collect. The flyover was a probe of our defenses with the side benefits (to China) of sowing dissension and redirecting our national conversation.

After several earlier balloon flights failed to trigger a significant U.S. military response, the Chinese made this balloon so big and so bright that the American public could not fail to see it. It was the ultimate Big, Shiny Object. Why did they make it so visible?

Three reasons: First, public awareness of the balloon forced President Biden to take military action. The Chinese learn more about their adversaries every time they provoke a military response.

Second, it let the Chinese see how America responds to a low-level threat. China must have been happy to see that, instead of coming together as one nation, 9/11-style, Americans remained resolutely partisan. The president’s political opponents have used every difficult decision Mr. Biden has had to make as a way to score points against him.

And finally, such a bizarre threat inevitably went viral, directing America’s national conversation away from what we had been talking about just before: the threat of Chinese expansionism and the plans to add new U.S. military bases in the Philippines.

Xi Jinping must be pleased.

Paul Frantz
San Francisco

To the Editor:

This balloon, whether a weather balloon or a spy balloon, was definitely a trial balloon. The Chinese were able to assess (as was every other nation that watched) our reaction to a low-tech violation of our national airspace.

We watched. We waited. Had that balloon been carrying weapons, we would have been vulnerable.

Our assumption is that any attack will come via sophisticated means. Perhaps this is naïve. We have yet to learn what that balloon actually carried, but we can only speculate on what it could have carried. I shudder to think about this.

Paula Markowitz Wittlin
Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Fired by Email? Employees Are Just ‘Resources.’

At Twitter, employees found out they’d been laid off mid-video meeting or in the middle of the night.Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

To the Editor:

“Layoffs by Email Are Cruel and Unnecessary,” by Elizabeth Spiers (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 31), exposes the results of the turning of the personnel department into the department of human resources.

The personnel director became the human resources manager — a development that is now an integral part of business school curriculums.

An employee is first of all a resource — to be hired or fired as the market dictates. Much like petroleum or iron ore.

So why is anyone surprised that with a click of a computer key one can easily buy thousands of barrels of oil or a million tons of iron ore, and one can just as easily fire 10,000 people?

Marshall De Bruhl
Woodfin, N.C.

To the Editor:

Elizabeth Spiers hits the nail on the head in summing up the increasing disparity between what employers want from their employees (24/7 sleep-in-the-office devotion) and how they treat them (like replaceable cogs to fire by email).

That treatment, though, starts even earlier in the employment dance when candidates who might have gone through four or even five rounds of interviews are suddenly faced with radio silence and not even accorded the courtesy of a simple email saying they were not selected for a position.

Too many times even top contenders are left to wait and wonder before finally having to send a humiliating “just checking to see where you are in the hiring process” email of their own.

It takes five seconds to send a form email. That so many employers don’t routinely do this to tell candidates that they didn’t get a job speaks volumes about their true feelings about their employees, both current and potential.

Laurie Yarnell
Jupiter, Fla.

A Chef Adds to the Cringe List

Credit…The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Future Cringe: Things We’ll Regret About the Present” (Thursday Styles, Feb. 2):

I’d like to add these to the list of things we may find cringe-worthy in the future: impossible-to-get-into restaurants in remote, faraway locations; chefs as rock stars; shows depicting cooking as a competition; elaborate tasting menus; and tattoos as a signifier of culinary expertise.

As a chef for over 40 years, I also hope we’ll move away from meal kits, takeout and delivery for food you can learn to make better and cheaper at home. And have fun doing it!

David Shack
New York

My Doctor, via Email

Nina McCollum relies on electronic communication to help care for her 80-year-old mother. “The Cleveland Clinic is not hurting for money,” she said.Credit…Daniel Lozada for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Dollars for Their Thoughts” (Science Times, Jan. 24):

I’m glad to hear that doctors are now able to bill for their email communications. That may motivate them to become more responsive.

Some of my doctors are very reachable by email, but others are totally not. I have one doctor whom I can communicate with only in person, if I go to his office. Even then he severely limits how much time I can talk to him, and that’s annoying. If he could bill for every email, he might be more available.

Anne Barschall
Tarrytown, N.Y.

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