HARRIS: Nation States and More

Eight separatists calling themselves "Soldiers of the Republic of Venice" recently stormed the belltower in St. Mark's Square and demanded that Venice secede from Italy. Noble? Maybe. Misguided? Definitely.Obviously, everybody has a right to self-determination. But what self-governance actually means has changed drastically, thanks to a multitude of international trade agreements.Here's an example: The European Union doesn't want to import American beef, because they're scared of the hormones we put in ours. You probably wouldn't want to be force-fed escargot, so even if you enjoy munching on cow parts, you can see their point. However, the World Trade Organization, which rules these matters since the GATT agreement, dictated that Europe either has to let the meat roll in or pay a quarter-billion dollars not to.All their flags and anthems and armies didn't give the Europeans a right to their own health standards.Just as the boundaries between American states became less significant in the last century, so will boundaries between nations in the next. You can draw the map any way you want to; you'll still buy the map with a Visa card.Just to demonstrate, I'll declare independence myself. Watch. I am now officially the Most Serene Republic of Bob. "Louie, Louie" is my national anthem, and I'm getting military aid from the State Department so I don't overthrow myself.I'm still gonna have to buy stuff.The only power I have is over what I choose to buy, and now even that's disappearing.(OK. I'm relinquishing statehood now, before the FBI storms me.)If the folks in Venice really want to fight for independence, they're gonna have to realize that the modern Empire no longer arrives in tanks, but in drive-thrus. AK-47s and a flag, by themselves, probably won't defeat 501s and a Coke.The upside? No two countries that both have a McDonalds have ever gone to war. Of course, once you're assimilated, "culture" is just the local language on the menu.***Two months ago, Bill Clinton ripped up his knee. Y'know, if he was in an HMO like a lot of folks, right about now his coverage would expire. He'd have to pay for his therapy out of his own pocket, or at least give the Lincoln Bedroom to the head of Blue Cross.The President, however, isn't in managed care. He's covered by the Pentagon, so he gets gyroscopic titanium crutches, stealth-technology blast-hardened knee braces, and X-rays from the Hubble Space Telescope. Not surprisingly, he's recovering in record time.I'm genuinely glad he's feeling better -- it's wrong to wish pain on anyone except Jerry Springer -- but the President should realize that if he worked downtown he'd have to ration his treatments and probably couldn't climb steps by now, and if he worked the grill up at SquatBurger he'd still be jerking shakes from a wheelchair.Clinton's health care proposals a while back were a mess, but there are a lot of bright people with good ideas in the world. Maybe if the folks in Washington got the same coverage the rest of us get, they'd do something more about the declining quality of our health plans besides taking PAC money from insurers and balancing the budget by cutting Medicare.At least that's my knee-jerk reaction. (Loud, embarrassed coughing.) Sorry.***The House Judiciary Committee is currently holding hearings on "judicial activism." See, some Congressmen have actually called for the impeachment of federal judges whose decisions they personally don't like.This is doubleplusungood. Our system of checks and balances exists precisely to prevent such partisan attacks on the judiciary.House Majority Whip Tom DeLay has actually said that "an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment." Hello? I guess Marbury vs. Madison was just some 19th-century boxing match, and John Marshall was only a security guy in a men's room.You can't just yank judges around just because you disagree and expect the Republic to stand. Hey, I'm not so thrilled with Clarence Thomas. Forget ideology or Anita Hill. The American Bar Association, which researches the judicial experience of every candidate, concluded he was the least qualified nominee in 30 years. He simply never deserved the job. But the Senate confirmed him and the Constitution gives him a gavel, so I'd gladly hold his robe.However, here comes Robert Bork -- remember that goateed space alien guy, the one who made his crooked bones by firing the Watergate Special Prosecutor on behalf of Nixon? -- to propose a Constitutional Amendment allowing Supreme Court rulings to be overturned in Congress. OK, sure, let's punt judicial independence entirely. Why study the Jefferson Presidency when we can emulate Cuba, Iran, and Uganda?Trashing two centuries of Constitutional law -- now there's "judicial activism" for you.

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