Well, as discussed in my previous post, Kevin McCarthy is no longer Speaker of the US House of Representatives. As I told him: you stop being the MAGA doormat, and that’s the fastest way to do yourself out of the gig. As regular readers will recall, the other way was to continue being the MAGA doormat and hand the gavel over to Hakeem Jeffries in January of 2025. But McCarthy thought he knew better. Now he’s just another dumb cracker congressman from an ignorant hick district in California, having been Speaker for the second-shortest period of time in United States history. The guy with the shortest active term in that office, by the way, Representative Michael Kerr of Indiana, died of tuberculosis (it was 1876) which in my humble opinion, is a much better excuse for losing the job than McCarthy ever had.
Meanwhile, the Republican party is engaged in what W.C. Fields would probably have called “a vast porcine fornication,” trying desperately to extract its allegorical tangle of bloated torsos from the metaphorical mud of political imbroglio so as not to appear totally asinine and ridiculous to anyone who, at this point, has not been thoroughly brainwashed by Fox News, Russian Web bots, Communist Chinese-backed TikTok influencers, and the inchoate, dribbling propaganda ejaculations of Donald J Trump. To that end, the Republicans have appointed Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.
For the benefit of the international readers of this Web log, of whom there are legion, I would digress here for a moment to expound on the state of North Carolina. It is a Southern state, one of the Confederacy during the United States Civil War, which, I have noted, officially began on April 12, 1861 and has yet to end. It is closely allied in tradition and culture with South Carolina, which started this long running and multifaceted conflict by attacking a US federal facility called Fort Sumter. The pretext for doing so was the deranged notion that, by virtue of having seceded from the Union, South Carolina was consequently entitled to all US federal property within its borders, to be dealt with subsequently by the likes of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. All this was, of course, a betrayal of the United States Constitution and an act of overt treason against it, rather like the more recent events at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. (It has been quite a long Civil War here in the United States – when you think about it, it’s pretty astounding that we’ve been able to cope with what amounts to, politically, a chronic debilitating medical condition and still do stuff like defeat the Axis, build atomic and fusion technology, go to the moon and invent the transistor, the integrated circuit, the Internet and the RNA covid vaccine at the same time. I guess there must be something pretty amazing about that Constitution, or else we’re just a huge nation with a gigantic population and absolutely formidable physical resources that spans a continent which welcomes the vigor of immigrants. Or maybe both.)
So, there’s this saying, in Old Dixie, where treason against the United States was born and nurtured in a cradle of bigotry and hate, that you can’t get any further South than Virginia. And there’s this fantasy about the South, embodied by a US television program, “The Andy Griffith Show,” which is set in a fictional place called Mayberry, North Carolina, near the town of Mount Pilot, which is real. And a quick look at Google Maps for a place called Mt. Pilot (aka Pilot Mountain) in North Carolina will reveal that Mayberry must be, in fact, just a bit South of Virginia. So you can get further South than Virginia, if only on television.
My point here, after this rather long walk, is that, speaking of crackers from ignorant hick Congressional districts (of which there are, unfortunately, far too many), this bozo, this Carolina redneck, Representative Patrick McHenry, the current Speaker of the House pro tempore, is from Mayberry. Not in reality, of course, but reality long ago ceased to be the realm of Republican mental existence. No, Patrick McHenry is from that Mayberry of Southern imagination, a place from a fabled past where everything was simpler, safer, Christian and White, an idyllic small town in the mythical America that was Great in the way which the MAGA morons so desperately want to Make it Again, despite the glaringly obvious fact that it Never Was. If you want to understand what’s inside this Carolina cupcake’s head, what his ideals are, what his concepts of society, philosophy and politics might be, just search for “Andy Griffith Show videos” on the Internet and have a look deep into his abysmally pathetic and vacant soul. Because, in his atrophied, stunted mind, that’s where Patrick McHenry grew up.
By contrast, not much of Patrick McHenry’s real life story is worth repeating, but it is interesting to note that after he couldn’t cope with the rigorous academic environment at the University of North Carolina, he transferred to an obscure institution called Belmont Abbey College. As the name implies, it’s a Catholic school, and its curriculum could have been curated by Tomás de Torquemada. By virtue of his BA in history from there, Representative Patrick McHenry allegedly knows something about it, and although he presumably majored in the Lost Cause, he might know who Franz von Papen was, and may also have heard, as Samuel Clemens once noted, that while history does not exactly repeat itself, it very often rhymes.
He customarily wears a bow tie, which in American political circles, signifies that he is a conservative (cf. George F. Will). Just in case there is any doubt about that, his political action committee is named “More Conservatives.” He’s about four and a half feet tall and looks like an idiot, but is actually of mediocre intelligence. To his credit, he voted to certify the 2020 election results, and thus constitutes what some might characterize as one of the last remaining Republican moderates. And according to the Constitution, as Speaker of the House pro tempore, his sole powers and duties consist of convening and adjourning that body as its Republican majority attempts to elect a new Speaker in less than the fifteen ballots that it took last time. This is the best the Republicans can do at the moment – an ironic tarot significator of the Republican party’s death throes, as it pathetically wallows in the pigsty of its incompetence.
And speaking of pigsties – Paris!
Usually, I conduct consultations with Dr. Guillaume “Guy” Aisselle Poilue Grenouille-Puante every third Friday of the month at my office in downtown Washington. But on Tuesday, he called Gretchen and asked for a telephone consultation instead. Since he invariably smokes between three and five Gauloises every session, I cannot say I was disappointed: it saved me the trouble of airing out the place after he leaves with the bank of high-power exhaust fans I have installed in the ceiling to clear the air for the next client after consulting with some of my more fragrant visitors. But I must confess, I was puzzled when he called in.
Guy: Hello? Tom?
Tom: Bonjour docteur Guy. Quelle est la cause des circonstances particulières d’aujourd’hui?
Guy: Oh, that, yes. It is the punaises, the insectes du lit, yes? Upon my return to Washington from two weeks in Paris, I found that the luggage containing my formal wear, which I sent back ahead of my arrival as part of a colis diplomatique, was infested with them. But I only became aware of that after it had been sitting in my house for three days. So now I am, at the request of my colleagues at the embassy, remaining at home until the exterminateur or exterminatrice, as the case may be, can come between seven and ten in the morning on Saturday to rid my house of them. The pest control firm told me that my wife must wash all of our clothes, and that they will need to steam clean all the mattresses, carpets and rugs as well as spreading poison around to kill them, and then heat up the inside of the house to fifty degrees for six hours, during which my family must be elsewhere. And for this, they want eight hundred and ninety-nine dollars!
Tom: You’re a French diplomat living in a two million dollar house off Wisconsin Avenue a stone’s throw from Observatory Circle, Guy. They saw you coming. Lucky for you they didn’t want eleven hundred and ninety-nine. That’s what the British attaché for East African affairs had to pay last year when he brought some of those little rascals back with him from a visit to Somalia. But, come to think of it, he lives in a four million dollar house, so maybe it was the extra floor space that did it. So, what’s on your mind today – EU domain of origin labeling guidelines for French truffles? More strategies to thwart sparkling wine manufacturers from representing their products as a “champagne” without actually saying so? Suggestions for the bureaucrats in Brussels on additional updates to the regulations for exports to the UK to get back at them for Brexit? Ideas on how to increase Citroën sales in the United States?
Guy: No, no, not today – the ambassador has asked me to confer with you about public relations strategies for French tourism.
Tom: In light of the current bed bug infestation?
Guy: Correct. How did you guess?
Tom: No guesswork involved. It’s all over the news, you know. And as you just described, those nasty little bloodsuckers are pretty hard to eradicate. Has your econometric mathematical modeling team determined an estimate to achieve that for the city of Paris?
Guy: As a matter of fact, they have. To eradicate the bed bugs of the twenty arrondissements municipaux, with a confidence level of ninety-nine point nine percent, will cost nine hundred and seventy million Euros, plus or minus thirty-two million, two hundred and ten thousand Euros.
Tom: Okay, I guess that’s not exactly cheap, but on the other hand, with a French government annual budget of between eight hundred and fifty and nine hundred billion Euros a year, it’s certainly not anything you can’t afford is it?
Guy: Yes, except for two things.
Tom: And what are those?
Guy: First, according to l’Institut Français d’Entomologie, due to what has become the constant influx of the insects from outside of France, such an eradication will need to be repeated every year.
Tom: Oh, right – and second, I suppose, is that the total annual tourism revenue for Paris attributable to foreign visitors is about ten billion Euros a year. So I guess that means France will need to begin extracting a ten percent “bed bug surcharge” from foreign visitors in order to pay for it. Which should work, except that collecting it…
Guy: Yes, you have guessed it already. The additional administrative overhead involved in collecting the fee, plus the decrease in revenue in response to such a surcharge, due to tourism’s relatively high elasticity of demand, render the strategy unviable.
Tom: So, every one percent increase in a bed bug tax on foreign tourists visiting Paris would cause a greater than one percent drop in tourist revenue.
Guy: Exactly. Our model says, a one point two-six percent drop.
Tom: Well, you can’t make that up on volume, can you?
Guy: And I can assure you, we are not about to try.
Tom: Hmmm. This bed bug thing is pretty much localized in Paris, right? It’s not a nationwide problem, is it?
Guy: Our studies have shown it is from the foreign tourists concentrating on Paris as their destination. They go to other places, where there are bed bugs everywhere, the bed bugs hitch a ride in their clothing and luggage, as they did in mine, debark in Paris and take up residence.
Tom: So you could contain the bugs in Paris?
Guy: Yes, at a cost of only eighty-three million Euros, plus or minus seven million, three hundred thousand, per year. At a ninety-nine percent level of confidence, of course.
Tom: In that case, I would recommend you should just say, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”
Guy: The bed bug is a feature of what? Please explain.
Tom: What I meant was, you should lean into the Paris bed bug thing, public relations-wise.
Guy: And how should we do that, for example?
Tom: For example, Paris Fashion Week 2024 should feature a post-modern medieval look. Think “Game of Thrones” costumes that reference an ancient Paris where everyone was covered with all kinds of parasitic and blood-sucking vermin. And show lots of skin – the models should walk down the runway with those deadpan expressions of theirs, flashing their rail thin arms and freakishly long legs covered with bed bug bites. Fashion houses like Lancôme, Chanel, Dior and Guerlain will release faux-bed-bug-bite makeup kits so fashion-conscious trend-setting women in other fashion capitals and wealthy metropolises can sport the new look. Pay Kim Kardashian to wear some and it will trend on Instagram: instant viral meme.
Guy: Pardon me while I prepare to take some notes.
Tom: Sure. Let me know when you’re ready.
Guy: Okay, poursuivez votre analyse.
Tom: Right. Let’s move from fashion to cuisine. You know Mimolette?
Guy: Yes, of course, every Frenchman knows Mimolette. It was the favorite cheese of Charles de Gaulle.
Tom: And how is the famous rind of the Mimolette matured, so as to impart that certain je ne sais quoi to its renowned flavor?
Guy: Oh, oh, yes, yes, it is from putting the cheese in a bin of dust with the little, how do you say, the…
Tom: Cheese mites. Tiny little bugs – well, actually, they are members of the spider family, from the genus Tyrophagus. You French also make Cantal cheese, from the Auvergne, with those little creepy-crawlies, don’t you?
Guy: Yes, it is true. So you are saying, make a new French cheese with the bed bugs?
Tom: Precisely. A new cheese from Paris!
Guy: But what kind?
Tom: Île-de-France already has several, no? Three kinds of Brie, plus Coulommiers and Boursalt. Have your French cheese mavens invent something like that – a classic northern French cheese that’s matured in a roiling mass of ravenous bed bugs.
Guy: But will people eat such a thing?
Tom: They eat Mimolette and Cantal, don’t they?
Guy: Yes, but…
Tom: And I’ll tell you something else – they pay top dollar for a kind of coffee bean from Indonesia that has been eaten, digested and defecated by the Asian palm civet.
Guy: Mon Dieu! They do?
Tom: Yes. And even more incredibly, they eat Spam. So yeah, people will not only eat le nouveau fromage de la punaise de lit, they will pay a lot of money for it.
Guy: But the cheese mites, they eat cheese, and the bed bugs, they drink blood do they not?
Tom: So, dip the cheese in blood before you throw it in.
Guy: Sacre bleu! What kind of blood?
Tom: Oh, I don’t know… how about horse blood? You French eat horse meat, don’t you?
Guy: Well, yes… we do. Will that not upset the animal rights activists?
Tom: Absolutely. It will make them even more livid than foie gras. And all the noise they make about it will provide free publicity equivalent to millions of Euros.
Guy: But is not this becoming… disgusting?
Tom: It’s French cheese! You people gave the world Époisses de Bourgogne, for Christ’s sake! I’m telling you, when you lean into bed bugs you have to lean into disgusting. It’s reverse psychology – the more repelling the process, the more attractive the product.
Guy: Okay, now I get it, as you Americans say. So I suggest, it should be a horse milk cheese.
Tom: And as this American says it, now you’re talking!
Guy: A cheese dipped in horse blood!
Tom: Et un fromage affiné dans un gros tas de punaises de lit!
Guy: And matured in a big pile of bed bugs, yes!
Tom: A hundred Euros a kilo at the very least!
Guy: Cette idée est géniale! J’adore ce concept culinaire! It is, as you Americans say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Life has given Paris bed bugs, so Paris will make bed bug cheese!
Tom: Yep. Looks like we nailed that one. Let’s move on to culture.
Guy: Culture? How do we make the bed bug culture?
Tom: Art! And, because Paris will host the 2024 Olympic Summer Games, sport, too.
Guy: And how shall Paris lean into the bed bugs with them?
Tom: For starters, there’s the Art Paris Art Fair 2024 at the Grand Palais Éphémère. An art fair in a Grand Palais? Then declare a grand competition.
Guy: For bed bug art?
Tom: Got it! Bed bug sculpture, bed bug paintings, bed bug installations, bed bug performance art, you name it. Offer big prizes, and have a gala awards ceremony where the red carpet is not red, but puce.
Tom: The color of dried bloodstains on sheets left by Parisians bitten by fleas in bygone days.
Guy: Oh, I see.
Tom: And make puce the official color of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Guy: Ah, yes, of course! The Cultural Olympiad!
Tom: And now you have a theme that unifies art and sport in France for 2024 – bed bugs!
Guy: Oh, oh, wait… I see it now! The mascot! The mascot must be a giant bed bug!
Tom: Quelle splendide inspiration! Mon ami, tu es brillamment perspicace!
Guy: Non, c’est toi qui as été si magistral. Je dois informer l’ambassadeur immédiatement! Au revoir, espèce de canard rusé!
Tom: Très bien! Ciao!