WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of two wrap-ups for April 17.
Center for Strategic and International Studies
WASHINGTON--Future of Venezuela: Chávez Likely to Return to Confrontational Governance; Oil Prices to Stabilize
CSIS analysts address the ongoing political turmoil in Venezuela:
*Sidney Weintraub, CSIS Simon Chair in Political Economy.
"It is hard to put myself into the mind of Hugo Chávez: Will he be vindictive and more hard-line than before, or will he be chastened by his near political demise? His first reaction was conciliatory, but this may not be durable because his past behavior has been confrontational. My guess is that he will revert to pattern--forgive his enemies for a while, but then push his political agenda even more forcefully than before."
*Miguel Diáz, director, CSIS Mercosur/South America Project.
"In large part, Hugo Chávez is personally responsible for the withering of democracy in Venezuela by systematically undercutting the governmental and nongovernmental checks on presidential authority over the last few years. Meanwhile, the business-led group that took the reigns of government, with the assistance of the military, proved in the two days that it held power that it did not offer the Venezuelan public anything better by proposing to dismiss Congress and the Supreme Court. It is very important that Chávez interpret the events of the last week as a wake up call to start facilitating the democratic dialogue that Venezuela badly needs to achieve reconciliation. If he does, Washington needs to encourage this process. But the onus is still on Chávez to prove his mettle as a democrat."
*Robert Ebel, director, CSIS Energy and National Security Program.
"The return of Chávez to the Venezuelan presidency undoubtedly brought smiles to other OPEC member countries. For the past several years, Venezuela has held its oil exports quite close to its given quota. Had the Chávez ouster held, many observers anticipated that Venezuela would begin a push to expand oil production and exports, ignoring OPEC. If the oil workers return to their jobs, Venezuelan oil production and export levels should return to normal in about a week. Barring any further political changes, prices should hold at roughly current levels."
*Guy Caruso, executive director, CSIS Strategic Energy Initiative.
"Chavez's return is good news for OPEC. By mismanaging PDVSA, Chávez has insured that Venezuelan production capacity is falling faster than its OPEC quota. Continuing political instability in Caracas provides another element of uncertainty in an already nervous global oil market."
*Lowell Fleischer, CSIS Senior Associate.
"The confusing drama of coup and countercoup over this past weekend dramatized the ever-growing political polarization in Venezuela. It also brought out into the open the dangerous split in the armed forces-between the officers and the troops and among the various services. At first glance, the badly organized and inept attempt to replace Chávez strengthens his hand and badly weakens the already largely leaderless opposition. Although Chávez appeared to take a more conciliatory approach in his initial remarks after regaining control of the government, he is likely to press ahead with his radical, confrontational agenda, an approach that could well make the country ungovernable."
CSIS notes that these are the views of the individuals cited, not of CSIS, which does not take policy positions.
Competitive Enterprise Institute
(CEI is a conservative, free-market think tank that supports principles of free enterprise and limited government, opposes government regulation, and actively engages in public policy debate.)
WASHINGTON--C:\Spin--Firewalking: DOJ dances across a red hot antitrust problem
by James V. DeLong
A few years ago, I was part of an event in which 500 Californians walked barefoot down a 12-foot bed of red hot coals. That was the nimblest footwork I ever saw until yesterday, when the Antitrust Division submitted its brief on Microsoft's motion to dismiss (filed back in February) the nine non-settling states' action. Microsoft argued that the states lack any legal authority to continue.
DOJ's brief says the states should be allowed to continue, but it makes clear that the Antitrust Division thinks Microsoft should prevail in the end. The trial judge may not be compelled to dismiss the case as a matter of law but she should dismiss it as a matter of "equitable discretion." Furthermore, the peroration (pp. 25-26) leads to an inexorable conclusion that if the judge does not dismiss the case, the Court of Appeals should reverse her for abuse of discretion.
The crux of Microsoft's motion was that, (a) Since the feds have reached a settlement, the terms of the antitrust laws preclude any state effort to keep the case going; and, (b) If the states assert that their own laws provide a basis for continuing, parts of the U.S. Constitution would block them, especially the Commerce Clause.
The trial judge asked DOJ to submit its views.
Twelve Division lawyers signed the brief, a number usually indicative of internal fractiousness. It starts out by affirming the primacy of the federal government. Then it plunges into analysis of the states' status in enforcing the antitrust laws, which is that they are pursuing "quasi-sovereign parens patriae interests."
DOJ never explains the elements of this status, which is not surprising, because the formulation is impenetrable as a matter of language and logic. But the brief concludes that Microsoft has not demonstrated irrefutably that the states failed to show that they possess it (whatever it may be), so the judge is not compelled to dismiss. So far, score one for the states, but only sort of, since DOJ does nothing but nit-pick Microsoft; it never actually supports the states' arguments.
Then the brief dismisses Microsoft's constitutional claims, but on the ground that the states are not asserting any state claims, only federal ones. This may be news to the states, who are ambiguous on the point, but who are now on notice that if they do assert that their own laws give them standing, then DOJ regards the constitutional issues as serious indeed, and perhaps they do not want to go there.
Score a big one for Microsoft. The end of the brief bluntly tells the judge that she would be wacko not to dismiss the case, speaking of the states' "effort to extend the relief to new products, new services, new markets, and even new theories of liability," and problems that "become magnified in significance when . . . the competitive issues are national in scope, the plaintiffs seeking relief have neither the authority nor the responsibility to act in the broader national interest, and the plaintiff [DOJ] with that authority and responsibility has taken a different course."
The media treated the motion to dismiss cavalierly, assuming that it represents some technical legal wrangling. Most of this morning's news stories spun DOJ's brief as a routine win for the states -- e.g., "states can continue."
They are wrong. Even if the nine states were to persuade the trial judge that they deserve more, they could not win in a Court of Appeals armed with this DOJ statement. The feds may have tippytoed over the coals, striding boldly only at the end, and more battles may remain, but the outcome of this interminable war is decided.
(James V. DeLong is a senior fellow in the Project on Technology and Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.)
WASHINGTON--Senate Should Drop Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Registry
Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at CEI, had the following comments about Senate bill S.517.
As the Senate resumes debate this week on Senator Daschle's anti-energy, anti-consumer bill S. 517, strong efforts should be made to improve its seriously flawed global warming provisions. In particular, the provision in Title XI for a mandatory registry of greenhouse gas reductions must be removed or replaced.
President Bush opposes regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and for that reason opposes a mandatory registry. Creating a mandatory registry would serve no purpose, but would place pointless and burdensome reporting requirements on at least 10-thousand businesses. The additional costs of measuring, recording, and reporting these emissions would be passed on to consumers through higher prices for energy, manufactured goods, and services.
The mandatory registry would also create regulatory uncertainty by raising the possibility that carbon dioxide emissions could be regulated in the future. The resulting confusion could cause many major capital investments in the energy sector to be withdrawn and thereby could set back the necessary re-building of America's energy infrastructure.
Senator Daschle's bill is so bad that the best thing the Senate could do is to kill it. Failing that, senators should try to remove or improve some of the worst provisions that will constrict energy supplies and raise energy prices. First and most importantly, they should remove or replace the mandatory registry of greenhouse gas emissions.