DAILY BRIEFING
Triumph in Naples

Dec. 4 - Ever hear of Article 172 of the U.S. Constitution? It exempts citizens of Utah from military service, even during periods of conscription.

How about Article 377? That's the one specifying that citizens of Ohio aren't citizens of the United States federal government—they get their own passports and everything.

Article 695? That's the one that exempts citizens of New Jersey from the federal justice system.

You say you haven't heard of these important Constitutional articles? I'm not surprised—they don't exist. And as anyone with half their wits about them will realize, we wouldn't be much of a country if they did.

So it's a curious thing to reflect on the EU's Neapolitan weekend of Constitutional favor-swapping and privilege exchange. The EU Constitution now bears about as much resemblance to our own as War and Peace does to a grocery list.

Europe has a thing for complicated treaties, accords, and agreements. History students can rattle them off without even remembering what they were about. Nice, Worms, Vienna, Versailles, Potsdam, Munich, Malta, Maastricht, Oslo... Hell, name a European city and you can bet the crowned heads or foreign ministers or dictatorial bastards of at least one era gathered there to make arrangements never again to soak European soil with the blood of their (own) citizens.

One may reflect upon the success of those treaties with laughter or tears, according to one's temperament.

In the last century alone, we've seen Bismarck's peerless web of treaties, pacts, and promises unravel into the first world war; the Treaty of Versailles devolve into the near-conquest of the continent by fascists; and Maastricht into... well, your guess is as good as mine.

In Europe, it's never to early to say "never again" again.

That's why Naples was so interesting, especially from the Danish perspective.

The Danes were especially pleased with the pow-wow of European ministers. At the end of the Naples meeting on Sunday, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Mřller said ("triumphantly," according to the Copenhagen Post), "We consider the matter concerning Denmark's opt-outs and their inclusion in the new treaty to be closed."

From what I understand, these are the opt-outs: Denmark is exempt from EU defense cooperation, exempt from EU monetary cooperation, exempt from joint EU citizenship, and entitled to certain exemptions from the EU justice system.

At Naples the Danes were assured those opt-outs would be written explicitly into the EU Constitution. Other opt-outs presumably exist for other countries. That's why I began with all those silly questions about the rights of various American states.

So Europe isn't building a European Superstate after all. It's building a federal bureaucracy that'll smother everyone from Turkey to Ireland in official paperwork and create a lot of unemployed border guards.

It's like building a Department of Motor Vehicles and empowering it to levy fines, test applicants, and offer weak complimentary coffee, but prohibiting it from issuing driver's licenses.

(You can see the draft treaty for the EU Constitution right here.)

I'm sure there'll be a United States of Europe someday, with federal and state governments, separation of powers, a common military, a unified economy, a parking spot at the U.N., and all the other goodies that unification can bring.

I'm just not sure it'll happen in my lifetime.

Still Dead After All These Years

Francisco Franco was born 111 years ago today.

Franco graduated from the Spanish military academy at Toledo and became the youngest major in the Spanish army at the age of 23. By the age of 34 he was a general, and by 41 he was Commander of the Spanish Army.

Eager for war but lacking an enemy, the ambitious young Spanish commander-in-chief declared war on Spain in 1936 and defeated her in just three years.

The war was so successful and exciting it inspired World War II, and Franco's rise to power foreshadowed the ascension of other evil bastards in Europe.

After his victory Franco named himself "Generalísimo" ("villainous bastard") to better distinguish himself from the "Fuhrer" ("maniacal bastard") in Germany and "Il duce" ("vicious bastard") in Italy.

Franco ran the country until shortly after his death in 1975.

General Franco is still dead.

* * *

Marisa Tomei is 39 today. She shares her birthday with Tyra Banks (1973), Jozef Sabovcik (1963), Jeff Bridges (1949), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875), and Wassily Kandinsky (1866).

Today is Tupou I Day in Tonga. (There is no Tupou II Day.)

Happy Thursday!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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