Saturday, April 3, 2010

Islands Don't Tip Over


I'm under the impression that just about anyone can be a representative of Congress. Congressman, Congresswoman, doesn't matter. I'd like to test my theory that a rhesus monkey could successfully win a campaign to be said Congressprimate, but I don't have much interest in going through to whole process of acquiring a rhesus monkey. (I'm assuming there's a process. Seems like there would be. Actually, I take that back. It seems like their should be. In which case, it would be fair to assume that I could probably pay off a zookeeper somewhere and make my way home with a new little friend.) Being as how I'm sans monkey (in more ways than one), I'm going to have to rely on actual members of Congress to make my point here.

Meet Hank Johnson.

Rep. Johnson represents the US state of Georgia in Congress. He was attending a Congressional hearing where the topic of discussion was locating approximately 8,000 - 9,000 US Marines in Guam. If we take into consideration the family size of these troops, that amounts to somewhere around 25,000 people who will potentially be relocating to Guam. This is important to know, as it makes the story funnier.

Guam, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a small island. Not "relatively" small. Small small. It's about 212 square miles. See? Small. For the sake of comparison, Rhode Island is approximately 2,000 square miles. So, Guam is one tenth the size of the smallest state in our fine land. It's small. Now, the size of Guam is important because of the number of people that will be potentially living there in the near future. And if it had been me debating that information, the only thing that I could possibly see myself being concerned about with that many more people in such a small area would be the potential for over-crowding or the potential for a lack of water and/or food. Those would be my concerns if I were to have any. (In reality, I don't think I give a fat rat's ass what goes on in Guam. Sorry, Guam.) I would not be concerned that the island would, in fact, tip over. Wait. What now?

Correct. According to CBS News (and the rest of the entire Internet at this point), Rep. Johnson is concerned with all of those extra people being on the island to physically cause the island to capsize. He voiced this odd, odd concern when he was questioning Admiral Robert Willard, who heads the US Pacific fleet. It took him a while to get to it, though. He had to noodle his way through the actual size of the island first. Let's read a portion of what he said, shall we?

Rep. Johnson: This is a island that at it's widest level is, what, 12 miles from shore to shore? And at it's smallest level, uh, smallest, uh..location, it's uh, 7 miles, uh, between one shore and the other. Is that correct?

Admiral Willard: I don't have the exact dimensions as to your point. But Guam is a small island.

Rep. Johnson: Very small island. About 24 miles if I recall long. 24 miles long. About 7 miles wide at the least widest place on the island. And about 10, about 12, miles wide, uh, uh, on the widest part of the island. And, um, I don't know how many square miles that is. Do you happen to know?

Admiral Willard: I don't have that figure with me, sir. I can certainly supply it to you if you'd like.

OK, let's just stop right here for a moment. After I had sent a link to this video to a friend of mine (Oh, calm down! Calm down! The video is below! I'm not just going to make you read about something this good! You need to actually see and actually hear this one to get full enjoyment out of it.), she commented on how the guy knew what the length and the width of the island was (even though he couldn't come up with the term "width" or "wide", which would have been sufficient as well), but claimed to not know what the square footage was. He couldn't do the basic math for calculating area and multiply length times width? Huh. Interesting. But not as interesting as what comes up next!

Rep. Johnson: Yeah. My fear is that, uh, the whole island will, uh, become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize. Wait. What now?


He's afraid the island is going to tip over?! For reals?! Um, Congressman? Do you really think that the US Marine folks who would be in charge of all of the relocating would put all of the troops on the same side of the island? Because if you really thought that, wouldn't that be kind of crazy? You know. Almost as crazy as thinking that an island can tip over in the first place?! Good Lord, man. What is wrong with you? (And when you watch the video below, take note of the hand gestures. I really appreciated those. Just in case I was a little unclear on what he was trying to say, he made sure to gesture in a tipping motion just what he meant. It's awesome.)

Now, I wasn't the only one having a hard time with this line of questioning. The Admiral seemed to be working very hard at controlling any sort of laughing outburst.

Admiral Willard trying not to crack up: Uh, we don't anticipate that. Uh, the Guam population is currently about 175,000. And again, with 8,000 Marines and their families, it's an addition of about 25,000 more into the population.

Rep. Johnson taking things in a very different direction: And uh, also, uh, things like the environment, uh, the sensitive areas of the environment. The coral reefs and those things. And I know that lots of people don't like to think about that, but you know, we didn't think about GLOBAL WARMING EITHER. And, um, now we do have to think about it. So, um, I'm concerned from an environmental standpoint as to whether Guam is, uh, uh, the best place to do this relocation, but it's actually the only place, is that correct?

I'm lost. Someone help me out here. The coral reefs? And "those things"? What "things"? By "things", does he mean all of the bodies that will go tumbling into the sea when the island takes a nose dive into the watery abyss? What in the world does global warming have to do with the imbalance of an island?

Admiral Willard, still stifling laughter: Um, this is the BEST place. This is the farthest west US territory that we own. And, you know, this is part of our nation. And in readdressing the forward presence and posture importance to Pacific command, Guam is vital to this decision.

OK, then. Wow. That's a new one. The island might tip over. But wait! There's more! More from Rep. Johnson's camp! Of course, once this thing caught fire on the Innerwebs, Johnson had to explain his remarks somehow, so he issued this statement: "The subtle humor of this obviously metaphorical reference to a ship capsizing illustrated my concern about the impact of the planned military buildup on this small tropical island." Huh?

The humor wasn't subtle. It was overtly hilarious. And I know what a metaphor is and that wasn't one!

At the same CBS News link above, they provide a response to Rep. Johnson's "concerns" by Madeleine Bordallo, who is Guam's delegate in the House. She said, "I know Congressman Hank Johnson, and I'm sure that -- he's been here to Guam -- so I'm sure that it was just a joke." Hmm. Let's say that was the extremely unlikely case. Are you not a bit annoyed by someone joking around in a Congressional hearing? I think I might be. Might. I don't know, maybe I wouldn't. But considering that almost everything that Congress does these days annoys me, I'm guessing I would be.

The article continues with, "Furthermore, Bordallo added, she is not concerned about Congress being ill-informed about the island. Over 50 percent of the Armed Services Committee has been to Guam, she said." Is she not concerned about folks being ill-informed about THE island or about islands IN GENERAL?! Because I, for one, am a bit concerned about folks who think that an island can TIP OVER like it's some sort of boat or something. Those folks concern me a great deal! They concern me because if they think that, I have no choice but to assume that they're morons. And yes, I am concerned by morons in Congress. Thus, this concerns me.

CBS News even went with the headline "Guam Tipping Over Comment No Concern For Guam Officials". So does that mean that they weren't concerned about Guam itself tipping over? GOOD!! They shouldn't be! NO ONE should be!!


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3 comments:

Mark said...

"The subtle humor of this obviously metaphorical reference to a ship capsizing illustrated my concern about the impact of the planned military buildup on this small tropical island."

Where to start? That someone who can't manage the words "length" or "width" can not only manage "metaphorical" but knows what it means? Really?

Are we to presume that his references to global warming, reefs, and other things was also just metaphorical humor?

I go back and forth on whether the painfully moronic things that come out of the mouths of politicians -- we have to pass this bill so you can see what's in it -- are said because the speaker (maybe pun intended) is so epically stupid or because s/he thinks the listeners are so epically stupid.

I now think it's both. Clearly, this guy has no place on a student council, let alone in Congress. Just as clearly, his staff thinks people are blithering nincompoops who can be persuaded that his stupidity is really just a brilliant metaphor. What could possibly go wrong with these buffoons handling health care?

Anonymous said...

I mean come on,...''IS THIS GUY SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER''....I think not!!!

Mare said...

Hi, Mark.

Yes, that persuasive argument about the environment really made me stop and think. Um, wait. No, it didn't. Well, it didn't make me stop and think about the environment. It made me stop and think about how this guy ever got elected in the first place.

That's the thing that amazes me with all of these barely functioning politicians who seem to not have even the vaguest idea as to what they're talking about or dealing with. They managed, somehow, to convince people to vote for them to the degree that they won their seat. Can we go back to the days when only land owners and taxpayers could vote? I would like that.

And Anonymous, that would be a most excellent idea. Have this guy on "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader" and see how he does. And while we're at it, let's have a bunch of other politicians take that challenge as well. I would get great enjoyment out of seeing Nancy Pelosi in such a position.

~ Mare