DAILY BRIEFINGThe EU Federalist #1
Jun. 18 - I've been taking some peeks at the proposed EU Constitution (PDF format), and I'd like to talk about that for a moment. The development of the EU is probably the most significant event of our era, and the fact that it's taking place concurrent with the second-most significant event of our era (the War on Terror) may be instrumental in its failure or success.
I have a pretty good feel for my readers, and I'm guessing a lot of you may not agree that the consolidation of a European confederation, in whatever form, is more significant than the war on terror. In the very short term it probably isn't. But in the long term, and taking a broader historical perspective, it's pretty hard to look at voluntary European political union as anything less than one of the great achievements of history—whereas the war on Islamofascism is merely one more chapter in the continuing struggle between the forces of liberty and totalitarianism.
I can envision the eventual emergence of two hypothetical EUs: the first is "Dream EU" and the second is "EU: the Horror Show."
Dream EU is a stable political confederation of prosperous, peaceful, and productive democratic states. Dream EU breaks down the internal barriers to trade and movement within Europe, facilitates the cooperation of member states on progressive missions around the world, and, over time, takes some of the defense strain off the United States in defending the west.
Horror Show EU is a blinkered, staggering bureaucratic behemoth that is no sooner united than it begins to disintegrate—and God save us all from its death throes.
There is also a third possibility: an EU whose birth is heralded by the approval in Brussels (or Strasbourg) of the new EU Constitution, which is only later revealed to be a useless piece of political toilet paper: member states feel snookered and withdraw from the Union, or reject the Constitution, in a series of national referenda.
Looking over the existing Constitution, it's almost impossible to imagine a Dream EU or rule out the possibility of a Horror Show EU, but surprisingly easy to contemplate the probability of an EU that's DOA.
Here, for example, is one of the Constitutions great strengths:
Article II-20: Equality before the lawIt's simple, concise, and an essential pillar of western civilization. A Constitution consisting of 20 or 30 such lines, along with a few equally concise articles on the separation and distribution of powers, ought to have been enough to get Dream EU on its feet.
Everyone is equal before the law.
Alas for "ought!" We don't have to go much further to run smack into this clunker:
Article II-25: The rights of the elderlyTry to think like a lawyer for a minute (or whack yourself over the head until you're dizzy and disoriented) and read those two Articles again in rapid succession.
The Union recognises and respects the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence and to participate in social and cultural life.
Let's take it slow and see if we can't make sense of what we're reading. First of all, "everyone is equal before the law." As I said, that's pretty straightforward stuff. Not much to parse there, unless you're one of those people that thinks "everyone" ought to include animals, plants, microbes, and the green stuff in the soap dish.
But what about the rights of the elderly? To paraphrase from Catch-22, that's some Article, that Article II-25—the best there is!
Here are the ambiguous words we'll need to define if we're going to understand it: "recognises," "respects," "elderly," "lead a life," "dignity," "independence," "participate," "social life," and "cultural life."
I'm not trying to set up a joke. 450 million people are going to have to live their lives within the parameters established by this document, and a whole hell of a lot of them are going to be "elderly," no matter how you want to define that—which gives us a pretty good idea where the first legal battles of this particular Article will be fought. After all, how can a victim of "disrespect to the elderly" seek a redress of grievances if he doesn't even know whether he's elderly?
"I'm 68 and those lousy kids keep calling me geezer," shouts the Greek gentleman. He takes them to court and the 69-year-old Swedish judge throws the case out, explaining that "68 is not elderly." Our victim better hope the appeals court is loaded with justices in their forties.
But even if an age limit were established, what would that accomplish? Let's say our grumpy Greek qualifies as elderly. So much could still go wrong:
"Yes, sir, the Union recognises and respects your right to a life of dignity and independence. However, being called 'geezer' does not constitute an indignity."
"But I wanted to attend their party and they wouldn't let me because I'm such a so-called geezer."
"Was it a private party?"
"Yes, but they were serving wine grown in vineyards that are subsidized by the EU."
"Interesting. We recognize the pain you must be feeling."
"Piss on your recognition! I want to get into that party and hook up with some of those hotties!"
"We regonize and respect it, but going after twenty-year-olds isn't very dignified..."
And so on. My point being, I can't see what this silly little Article accomplishes that isn't already accomplished in the "Equality before the law" provision, besides making a lot of elderly Europeans feel really good about their new constitution—which it shouldn't. It should have just the opposite effect. It should make them recoil in horror and demand a referendum to get their nations out of this monstrosity.
Additional articles on women, minorities, and the beloved children present the same sort of intellectual stumbling blocks.
Er... Just my two cents. I'll leave it at that—for now.
* * *
Check in on Moron Abroad over the weekend for updates (I've actually gotten a little better about posting over there).
Here's the usual nonsense...
"I Feel Like I Win When I Lose"
One of the most decisive battles in the history of Europe was fought in Belgium on June 18, 1815, as a resurgent Napoleon Bonaparte launched his last military offensive against the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian Marshal Blücher. Nearly 50,000 men were killed in the battle.
The battle was commemorated by Swedish sensation Abba in their 1970s hit, "Waterloo."
Abba's interpretation of Waterloo's significance has been controversial from the start, as it tended to focus less on the military and political implications of the battle than on the feelings of euphoria typically incited by hormonal rushes of erotic excitement.
On June 18, 1817, Waterloo Bridge was opened over the River Thames in London, probably in anticipation of the great Abba hit.
Blaised and Confused
Blaise Pascal was born in France on June 19, 1623. At the age of 17 he wrote a paper entitled Essay on Conic Sections, which quickly became the best-selling paper on conic sections in European history and eventually inspired the classic French noir film, Death by Conic Section.
By the age of 22 Mr. Pascal had invented a calculator. Unfortunately he could not invent the battery, so he turned to religion.
And he meant to get around to it right away, but in 1647 he ended up proving the existence of a vacuum. The famous French philosopher Rene Descartes visited Pascal, inspected his vacuum, and bemoaned its lack of attachable hoses. This caused an epistemological split that has endured to the present day.
("The more I see of men," Pascal observed at about this time, "the better I like my dog." This was a famous quotation and can be found on many greeting cards.)
In 1653 he discovered Pascal's Law of Pressure. A year later he was involved in a carriage accident that reminded him he had turned to religion. He turned back to it.
He began work on his famous Pensées ("Blather") in 1656 and worked on it for three years. In the book, Pascal proved that if God didn't exist then believing in Him wouldn't hurt, whereas if He did exist, not believing would hurt like Hell.
It has been observed that if Pascal was wrong, not reading his book wouldn't hurt, and if he was right it wouldn't hurt either.
When he was 39 a malignant growth in his stomach spread to his brain and he died horribly, proving that unbearable pain is unbearable pain whatever you think of God or philosophy.
Takin' a Cotton to Gin
On June 20, 1793, Eli Whitney applied for a patent on his Cotton Gin. More affordable than gin distilled from grain alcohol and juniper berries, Cotton Gin quickly became the drink of choice among America's rural poor. This led to widespread outbreaks of Cotton Mouth and eventually caused the Civil War.
Birthdays and Holidays
June 18 is the birthday of Carol Kane (1952), Isabella Rossellini (1952), Roger Ebert (1942), and Paul McCartney (1942).
It's also Evacuation Day in Egypt, so get those bowels moving!
Sharing their June 19 birthdays with Blaise Pascal are Paula Abdul (1962), Kathleen Turner (1954), Lou Gehrig (1903), Guy Lombardo (1902), and Moe Howard (1897).
The 19th is Labor Day in Trinidad and Tobago and Jose Gervasio Artigas' Birthday in Uruguay.
Brian Wilson was born the day before summer (June 20) in 1942, and subsequently became a "Beach Boy" and produced an album called Endless Summer. This is called compensation. Mr. Wilson shares his birthday with John Goodman (1952), Danny Aiello (1933), Martin Landau (1931), Audie Murphy (1924), and Errol Flynn (1909).
June 20 is Martyr's Day in Eritrea and, less disturbingly, West Virginia Day in West Virginia.
Enjoy the weekend!
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac