He was, as the video at the link showed, mocking Republicans for wasting 2 days debating the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (which passed the House on a nearly unanimous vote, 394-1). "Too often lately, this body has sat deflated — not for lack of hot air, mind you. But seriously, ladies and gentlemen, unlike a noble element, this House has failed to act on Americans’ real concerns."
Now, Hank Johnson is the Congressman who famously asked whether the island of Guam, if it gets over-populated, might "tip over and capsize":
On his Friday show, Rush Limbaugh played the old tip-over-and-capsize clip along with the new world-without-balloons clip. Rush derided Johnson for caring about helium as if he's some kind of nut:
Did you know that helium was endangered or threatened? What, is the Hunt family trying to make a run on helium like they did silver? Or maybe the Koch brothers? The Koch brothers are trying to corner helium. That's what it is, so that kids can't have birthday parties. That's what it is. The Koch brothers are doing it! The Koch brothers are trying to corner the helium market. And Hank here was saying that he supported the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act. He's from Georgia.Well, every single Republican in the House who voted, voted yes, and the vote was 391-1, so you might want to educate yourself about what this program is about. When I blogged a Washington Post item about it — "Congress finds it hard to let Federal Helium Program run out of gas" — I got called out by a number of commenters, notably Carl, who said:
The issue is not nearly as picayune as this asinine article suggests. In the first place, helium is essential stuff for a number of high-tech, scientific, and medical uses. I said essential, as in completely irreplaceable, at least with present or foreseeable technology.I am pushed back. What seems dumb may not be dumb. It may be dumb to accept the prompt that something is dumb.
Second, it is a weirdly irreplaceable resource. When your liquid He boils off, it makes its way to the top of the atmosphere and drifts off into interplanetary space, because the Earth's gravity is too weak to hold it. It's gone for good. You will never be able to recycle it, the way you might think of recycling iron from scrap heaps, or even reconstituting oil from the CO2 and H2O in the atmosphere after it gets burnt.
Third, the only conceivable source is the underground decay of uranium and thorium, which verrrry slowly produce helium over millions of years, particle by particle. There is no way to hurry the process up, and the supply is obviously finite and decreasing remorselessly every year.
Fourth, the economics are stupid, because the 1990s Federal law said to sell off the reserve as fast as possible, so the Federal government has been dumping He at far less than the cost to actually supply it for years and years. Not surprisingly, all these wrong economic signals have built up a whole economic structure built on them -- built on sand, so that once those signals reset to reality, you are going to have significant disruption.
That's the difficult issue. There may be broad agreement that economic reality should take over, and the signals reset, but how and when to do that is a matter of debate, as well it should be, and for the admittedly narrow segments of tech for which this is relevant, hardly trivial. It is by no means something Senators and Representatives shouldn't be wasting their time upon. The Post could do its readers a better favor by explaining why this happened, and the strangely unique nature of helium, than by phoning in a cheap mindless story about how government programs live forever ha ha ha.
But that's modern journalism. It has decayed to formula so absurdly that I wonder whether someone with an actual original thought or story line could survive. I suppose it is conservatism born of their shrinking bottom line. Reminds me of Hollywood, similar[ly] threatened by cable and the Internet, which can only make Spiderman 8 and Star Trek: The Fourth Reboot because is timidity won't allow for any bolder essay.
And is Hank Johnson dumb? Surely, his world-without-balloons speech isn't dumb. He may be wrong to minimize the significance of the helium program, but Rush was deriding him for seeming to care about the program, which wasn't even what he was doing. Was Rush dumb to misunderstand the balloon quote and to present it along with the tip-over-and-capsize quote? Rush has his fun, but I don't think Rush knew much about the value of the helium program.
But if Rush has his fun, occasionally at Hank Johnson's expense, he (and we) ought to see that Hank Johnson also has his fun. Unquestionably, the world-without-balloons speech deploys sarcasm. It's time to ponder whether the tip-over-and-capsize question was deadpan humor.
This is a island that, at its widest level is, what, 12 miles from shore to shore, and at its smallest level, smallest location, it's 7 miles between one shore and the other. My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and, uh, and capsize.I say it was!
ADDED: Back in 2010, at the time of the "tip-over-and-capsize" remark, Neo-Neocon said it was "deadpan humor"... but she was doing a big old April Fool's joke.