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An Unparalleled Appointment

WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 15 — President Bush today nominated Wendell Wrangle of Compost, Delaware, to head the U.S. Bureau of Latitude and Longitude.

Bush described Wrangle as “a man with a strong moral compass.”

Wrangle is presently chief counsel for the Frequent Flyers Pigeon Racing Association of Delaware. (The association is not to be confused with the Frequent Fryers, an association of short-order cooks, or the Frequent Friars, an aggressive religious order, both of which also are Delaware corporations.)

Making the announcement, Bush traced the lines on a large globe, explaining that the north-south lines are longitude, and the east-west lines are latitude.

“The up and down lines are called medians, and the crossways lines are called paralegals,” Bush said, adding, “Of course, you can’t really see these lines on the ground, except at an airport.”

The President continued, “This is an important job, because there are longitudes and latitudes all over the world, including Iraq, where the United States is working hard to bring freedom and democracy. Latitude and longitude are important weapons in the war against terrists.”

Apparently trying to head off charges of croneyism that have dogged him lately, the president said he had never met Wrangle personally.

However, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts immediately pointed out in his know-it-all Boston snarl that Bush and Wrangle once belonged to the same Alabama Air National Guard unit .

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said that a company headed by Wrangle once teamed up with a Bush company in an unsuccessful attempt to acquire Wyoming for its mineral rights. She charged that Bush and Wrangle played golf in Jackson Hole, and discussed faith-based geography.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnel of Kentucky, an enthusiastic supporter of all Bush appointments, said, “My cousin Wendell is a man of faith who will vigorously represent the rights of the pre-born and the reborn.”

In fact, latitude and longitude have have seldom been challenged since the 19th Century, and the bureau has little to do.

Following the war with Mexico in 1848, President Zachary Taylor ordered that the parallels and meridians actually be painted on the ground– parallels in blue, meridians in red.

Two wagons loaded with red and blue paint were on their way to stripe California. They collided while trying to board a ferry across the Colorado River at Yuma. Eight soldiers and a ferry operator were marooned.

In 2000, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay suggested that if the lines could be “squeezed together just a little,” it would expedite the legislative redistricting of Texas. DeLay’s suggestion was opposed by all the states that lie north of Texas. Canadians were livid.

The Bureau of Latitude and Longitude, now part of the Department of Homeland Security, is a relatively small federal agency, with 3,600 employees and an annual budget approaching $5.6 billion.

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