Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 29, 2005

French Vote Non

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:46 pm

Earlier today, French voters rejected ratification of a proposed European Constitution, by a vote of 55.5% to 44.5%. Part of the problem, perhaps, was that the proposed constitution is 448 articles and more than 460 pages long, which means almost none of the voters could possibly have had time to read it. Which is probably responsible for one of the other problems, which is that people can’t agree on what the proposed constitution says or would do. As Gerald Baker notes in the Weekly Standard,

Part of the confusion about what on earth happens if the treaty is rejected is due to the fact that nobody can agree on what this constitution actually does. In France, the opposition is led by socialists and trade unionists who argue the new system will usher in a capitalist nightmare of longer working hours, low taxation, and free trade. … In Britain, the opposition is well entrenched but diametrically the opposite of its counterparts in France, arguing that the constitution will produce a socialist nightmare that will saddle business with all kinds of regulations.

I think a more important factor may be that, simply, the French would like France to remain an independent country, rather than merely a component of a European super-state.

[I]t formally establishes a single European foreign minister and diplomatic service to implement a single foreign policy, a goal first laid out in European negotiations a decade ago. … The constitution also confers rights on “European citizens,” most notably through the introduction of a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which covers, among others, the “right to work.”

The principal effect of the constitution, however, is to confirm and accelerate the central tendency of the E.U. over the last 50 years to send power to the center, to the European level, while eroding national sovereignty in everything from economic policy to foreign and defense policy. The constitution is, the German minister for European affairs said earlier this year, “the birth certificate of the United States of Europe.”

Not too long ago, the ratification of the European Constitution was regarded — by the euro-elites anyway — as inevitable. Now, with one of the three largest countries rejecting it, the elites are declaring Europe to be “in chaos,” in the words of London’s Financial Times. The politicians — and the intellectuals, bureaucrats, and journalists — literally do not understand how the common people could have disobeyed them. As William Kristol notes,

It’s hard for Americans to appreciate just how out-of-touch the establishment (and it really is a single establishment) of Paris, Berlin, the Hague, and Brussels is. Its arrogance almost beyond belief. Former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the father of the 448-article constitution, early on in the campaign dismissed complaints about the document’s opacity by assuring his countrymen, “The text is easily read and quite well phrased, which I can say all the more easily since I wrote it myself.” As Ivan Rioufol of Le Figaro, writing in the Wall Street Journal, commented, “The French didn’t know whether he was simply cynical or unaware of the absurdity of his statement. And so he became a caricature of the self-obsessed, aloof politician.”

Gerald Baker also reminds us that Nikita Khrushchev once said that only trouble with free elections is that you never know who’s going to win. That’s the “trouble” in dictoratorships — in democracies, that’s precisely the point, and the benefit, of elections. Democracies have one way of dealing with elections: they abide by the results, whatever they are. Dictatorships have at least three: They can not have elections, can rig elections, or can have elections and ignore the results. Europe seems to be in danger of taking that last option, which is tantamount to abandoning the mantle of democracy. Last week, as opinion polls began to show the likelihood of a French “No” vote, it was reported in the [London] Times that,

Turmoil as Chirac plots to disregard ‘non’ vote

President Chirac of France is preparing to throw Europe into confusion and put Britain on the spot by backing moves to keep the European constitution alive if it is rejected in Sunday’s referendum.

French diplomats say that M Chirac is expected to urge other countries to proceed with ratification because France does not want to be seen to be blocking the European project.

Joe’s Dartblog:

This Ireland Online report quotes Chirac as saying, “It is your decision, it is your sovereign decision and I take note of it.”

‘Take note?’

Pejman Yousefzadeh, repsonding to the same quote:

I wonder if this comment was made with a “The people have spoken; the bastards” tone in Chirac’s voice.

And further:

If the French rejected the EU constitution simply because they didn’t understand what was so pressing about integration, then that is one issue. But if anti-capitalists and fascists are the main forces behind this rejection, then the ramifications of this vote will be quite worrisome. And those ramifications will cause us to rightfully worry anew about the state of Old Europe.

Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters:

The far left and far right in France are celebrating tonight on the streets of Paris, delighted in their rejection of the sensible market-based reforms that the rest of Europe wants. They may have won the battle, but that victory will only be temporary, and will consign them to second-tier status in Europe from this point forward.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, as part of a large round-up of blog-posts:

It’s possible that this is a mere bump in the road, although it’s a big one. On the other hand, it’s possible that this is the beginning of a significant political shift in Europe, which I suspect will be a good thing if it happens.

The EU Referendum Blog, via Samizdata:

Pending announcement of the French result, this Blog has received an intriguing document produced by the Instituto Affari Internazionali, entitled “The European Constitution: How to proceed if France or the Netherlands votes ‘no’“.

In short, the authors conclude that, in the event of one or both countries voting “no”, the ratification process should be neither suspended nor abandoned. They assert that all member states have expressed a commitment to proceed with ratification by virtue of Declaration 30, appended to the Constitutional Treaty. Member states cannot unilaterally or collectively decide to change the ratification process.

Thus, member states which have not already ratified should continue with the process whence, once 20 members have done so, the matter should be referred to the European Council.

In the meantime, the authors caution that “the European Union must not remain paralysed”. Rather, they say, “it must continue and intensify its efforts to relaunch its policies, even by implementing in advance, where possible, the provisions of the Treaty that do not meet with open opposition”.

Thus, the considered response in the event of a rejection of the constitution should be “full steam ahead”. Member states should implement it even faster than they are doing already.

So what, precisely, do we have to do to stop this thing?

There was a time when “No means yes” was used to “justify” imposing something other than a constitution on someone without that person’s consent. Perhaps that’s what’s being done to European non-elites now.

In Memoriam, Col. David Hackworth

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:29 pm

Col. David Hackworth passed away this past Wednesday. I’d heard him on the radio frequently, but didn’t know most of this. Fascinating.

(Hat tip: VariFrank.)

Is George W. Bush Jewish?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:08 pm

No, but apparently some Muslim protesters in Indonesia think he is. (I’ve also heard statements to that effect from the Egyptian press, but I can’t find any links right now.)

(Hat tip: Joe’s Dartblog.)

Correcting Misconceptions on “Grey’s Anatomy”

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:05 am

If you watch “Grey’s Anatomy” (the TV show, not the classic medical book, which is spelled Gray’s Anatomy), you need to read this article by Avi Shafran and this blog-post by Yaakov Menken. And you could also read this comment.

Thank you.

Alternative Fuel

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:16 am

Now here’s and alternative fuel source.

Unfortunately, it’s not emission-free at all.

Wayne Keith of Springville, Alabama has converted a standard pickup truck to run on wood. Or more precisely, on hydrogen, which is produced by burning wood in the back of the truck.

Last Christmas, he took a 1984 diesel truck and replaced its motor with a 1968 hot-rod engine with more horsepower. He then devised a wood-burning system with cooling and filtering units attached at the hood and in the pickup bed.

Keith estimates he has driven 4,000 miles since he converted the truck. The engine, which runs on hydrogen generated by burning the wood, is clean enough that Keith proudly shows off its clean spark plugs to the curious.

He keeps a 30-gallon trash can in the bed, filled with wood pieces that have already been burned to remove water. Keith fills a 6-foot reactor in the truck bed with wood, then starts up the engine. It still takes some gas to get the truck going, but within two minutes, the only fuel is wood. He also uses gas for a little extra power when he pulls his trailer.

The pickup has three pedals – brake, gas and wood. The farthest he has driven the truck is 100 miles in a day.

it’s far from emission-free — the wood has to burn, and that produces a lot of smoke and CO2. But Keith says,

“It takes about 20 pounds of wood to do what one gallon of gas will do,” he said. “But when I burn off the wood, you get the same emission you’d get if the wood just deteriorated on its own. You can’t say that about fossil fuels.”

Now, this is sort-of true, but I don’t think it’s true from the point of view relevant to air pollution. It’s true that if wood decays completely, it releases CO2 and water (vapor), and there are other things that seep into the ground. And if wood burns completely, it releases the same amount of CO2 and water vapor, and leaves ash which can be dumped on the ground. But I think it’s a rather big assumption that the word burns completely. Nothing burns completely except under very controlled conditions, and if you burn wood you will see huge amounts of smoke rising, and that smoke is certainly more than just CO2 and water vapor. (You can tell by the color — CO2 is clear and water vapor is white or clear.) It’s also ash and other particulate matter that pollutes the air — which is why you need a smokestack for a fireplace if you don’t want to choke from the fire. This is all pollution going into the air that otherwise would have stayed on the ground if the wood had merely decomposed naturally — and far more pollution than you’d get by burning an equivalent gallon of gasoline.

Which is part of the reason why, from the nineteenth century to the twentieth, we mostly switched over from burning wood for most things, to burning oil-based fuels. The trains that roared across the plains in the 1800s burned wood or coal, and produced a lot more pollution (per mile per unit of cargo/passengers) than the diesel trains or the gasoline cars of today.

In short, oil-based fuels like gasoline are far more environmentally-friendly than wood.

I’m very impressed by Mr. Keith’s engineering ability — and I’d absolutely love to see his truck in action — but sadly, I don’t think it would pass emissions inspection. But it certainly insulates him from increases in gasoline costs.

(Hat tip: This is True.)

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