WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of several wrap-ups for May 12. Contents: TOPOFF 2 wargame; Kerry's point on Constitution; energy bill pork from Republicans.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies
CSIS analysts comment on TOPOFF 2: CSIS conducted 2001, 2002 war games on bioterrorism, dirty bomb
WASHINGTON -- CSIS analysts who led a 2001 bioterrorism war game and a 2002 dirty bomb exercise made the following statements today regarding the TOPOFF 2 homeland security exercises in Seattle and Chicago this week:
-- Philip Anderson, director, CSIS Homeland Security Initiatives.
"Simulation exercises like the TOPOFF series generate enormous knowledge that allows for the identification of gaps and friction points in crisis response plans and command and control that cannot be identified through any other means short of the 'real thing.' They are the most realistic and cost effective way to prepare relevant stakeholders at every level for the challenges they will face if the nation is attacked again by terrorists determined to inflict mass casualties and widespread disruption. There is in fact no more effective way to prepare for crisis events of the magnitude of Sept. 11, 2001, than realistic simulation exercises where all the relevant players are focused on the same crisis at the same time."
-- David Heyman, director, CSIS Science and Security Initiatives.
"We are operating in an entirely new security environment. Our first line of defense has moved from the battlefields abroad to our streets and cities at home, where we must rely on citizens, police, doctors and firefighters to protect us. TOPOFF 2 will test the unprecedented amount of cooperation among local, state, federal and international officials that is now required to protect our streets and citizens against terrorism."
-- Amanda Dory, fellow, International Security Program.
"Terrorists seek to undermine Americans' confidence in themselves and in their government. TOPOFF 2 provides a chance to build or diminish that confidence. Media portrayals of successful or disastrous handling of the exercise incidents will resonate with Americans wondering how much national, state, and local government capabilities have improved since the initial exercise in 2000, and more importantly, since Sept. 11, 2001."
CSIS has conducted several homeland security simulations:
"Dirty bomb" scenario -- Radiological dispersal devices: In March 2002, CSIS led a Crisis Planning Workshop for federal and local officials and emergency personnel from metropolitan Washington. The comprehensive tabletop scenario involved a dirty (radiological) bomb explosion near the National Capitol Mall. The scenario addressed recovery issues and the complexities of command, control, and communications between federal, state, and local governments, the private sector, and the general public.
"Dark winter" simulation exercise -- Bioterrorism: In the summer of 2001, a group of senor-level officials, including Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, former presidential counselor David Gergen, and former CIA Director James Woolsey, participated in an executive-level CSIS simulation of a U.S. National Security Council meeting in which senior officials reacted to a smallpox attack on the United States. The exercise focused on challenges posed to state and local governments, the role and responsiveness of the federal government, and the likely friction points between federal and state-level responders.
CSIS notes that these are the views of the individuals cited, not of CSIS, which does not take policy positions.
The Pacific Research Institute
(PRI promotes individual freedom and personal responsibility as the cornerstones of a civil society, best achieved through a free-market economy, limited government, and private initiative. PRI researches and analyzes critical issues facing California and the nation, and crafts strategies for policy reform.)
WASHINGTON -- Capital ideas: Kerry on
-- Massachusetts Sen. and presidential candidate John Forbes Kerry attracted a lot of heat a few weeks ago for saying that the United States needed "regime change" as much as Iraq.
Did Kerry really mean that the U.S. Constitution and way of life were defective and required wholesale change, as the term "regime change" is meant when used properly by political scientists? Of course not; he was only trying to be humorous, as he explained later to knee-slapping reporters.
Everyone in public life blunders now and then, but the Kerry comment received disproportionate attention, especially when compared to a much more troublesome remark he made some weeks before that received almost no attention. Kerry said that he would appoint only pro-choice judges to the federal courts (fine -- that's his prerogative if he wins the White House), but that this didn't constitute a "litmus test" for judicial appointments because abortion is settled law, and therefore it was his responsibility to appoint only judges who will uphold existing law.
Try this thought experiment: What would the reaction have been if President Truman, or President Eisenhower, had said that they would only appoint segregationists to the federal courts because, after all, segregation was settled law for more than 50 years now under the Supreme Court's Plessy decision, and judges should be bound to follow precedent? That wouldn't do, would it?
Never mind abortion. The trouble here is the deepening confusion about the ownership of the Constitution, and the acquiescence in the corrosive idea that its explication belongs solely to the judiciary. Kerry is not alone in this confusion; President Bush subscribed to it also in deciding to sign the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill even though he believed it to be unconstitutional. The centerpiece of the president's oath of office is defending the Constitution, and he has just as much right, and duty, as the judiciary to resist encroachments on the Constitution.
Lincoln understood that the Constitution belongs to all three branches of the government. In his early months in office Lincoln ordered the State Department to issue a passport to a free black in Massachusetts, and the Patent Office to issue a patent to another free black, after both had been denied on the grounds that the Supreme Court's Dred Scott case said neither man had any rights the government was bound to respect. Lincoln said his branch of government simply would not apply the principle of that odious case to other circumstances, and thereby struck a blow for co-ownership of the right to define the meaning of the Constitution.
Whether the issue is abortion, property rights, free speech, or religious liberty, it is an abdication of democratic responsibility to think that only the judiciary has the right to settle these issues. As Lincoln memorably put it in his first inaugural address in 1861, "the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court ... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
Would that these words were recalled in the next presidential inaugural.
(Steven Hayward is a senior fellow in the Center for Environmental Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.)
The Cato institute
WASHINGTON -- The energy bill follies
by Peter VanDoren and Jerry Taylor
If you believe that government by and large should leave businessmen and consumers alone to govern their own affairs and that politicians should not be in the business of micromanaging the economy, then you're probably a Republican. If so, you're also probably ignorant because any resemblance between Republican rhetoric and Republican policy is purely coincidental.
The passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 in the House of Representatives earlier this month demonstrates once again that the only real disagreement between the two parties, at least when it comes to economic policy, is which group of "Peters" ought to be robbed and which collection of "Pauls" ought to be awarded a place at the government trough.
Consider: The GOP saw fit to force companies to add renewable fuel (i.e., ethanol made from corn) to gasoline even though it takes more energy to produce ethanol than is gained by burning the stuff in engines. Moreover, ethanol is three times more expensive to produce than gasoline (which is why it has to be mandated upon an unwilling fuels industry) and it can't be shipped in pipelines used for standard gasoline. This makes ethanol even more expensive and renders the nation more vulnerable to occasional regional supply shocks. But it is made from corn.
The Republicans also chose to cap the liability faced by owners of nuclear power plants for damages that may result from radiation accidents. But an important first principle of markets is that entrepreneurs should face all the costs of doing business, including the possibility of damages inflicted on third parties
The bill expands the government owned and operated Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1 billion barrels even though the existence of a public inventory undermines the incentive for private inventories. Moreover, political control over inventories increases rather than decreases risk in petroleum market operations and encourages more, not less, price volatility.
The GOP also saw fit to reduce the time over which electricity transmission assets are depreciated so that "needed" transmission is built. Yet economists agree that the proper mixture of generation and transmission should be determined by market forces rather than by provisions of the tax code.
Republicans also created a tax deduction for small refiners to comply with new diesel fuel sulfur rules. If the GOP thought the rules were too costly, they should have repealed them. Going this route, however, gives a leg up to inefficient small corporations and blurs the true cost of environmental regulations.
Another tax credit was established for small crude oil and natural gas producers to increase domestic production. Beyond the silliness of preferring greater domestic production from small companies rather than from large ones, energy prices are set in world markets regardless of how much we import. Fewer imports accordingly make us no less vulnerable to petroleum market shocks.
Just to make sure that "no lobbyist is left behind, " the Republicans even managed to extend the tax credit for electricity generated by so-called "renewable" fuels through 2007. Yet the pursuit of renewable energy as a major source of electricity is a pipe dream in that wind power and solar energy, because of their natural variability, require fossil fuel backup.
They thus cannot replace coal, nuclear, or natural gas alternatives. If wind and solar were as economically competitive as their supporters allege, of course, it would scarcely need the subsidy to begin with.
We could go on and on (as the bill itself does, for 768 agonizing pages of this kind of stuff), but what's the point? If this is smaller government and less intervention, then what would larger government and more intervention look like?
While it's tempting to argue that the Energy Policy Act of 2003 represents the sheerest hypocrisy in that it flies in the face of everything Republicans allege to stand for, that would presuppose that Republicans are consciously saying one thing but doing another.
Conversations with Republican office-holders, however, suggest that they scarcely understand the implications of their rhetoric about limited government and are thus incapable of hypocrisy. They are, however, capable of intellectual incoherence, and that's what we have here.
(Peter VanDoren is editor of Regulation magazine, published by the Cato Institute, and Jerry Taylor is Cato's director of natural resource studies.)