Friday, 25 January 1990 Washington, DC
1. THE US SENATE CAPITULATED TO THE WHITE HOUSE YESTERDAY,
along partisan lines to sustain the President's veto of HR 2712,
the Emergency Chinese Immigration Act. The override attempt fell
four votes shy of the required two-thirds. Even Senators who had
opposed the override expressed surprise at the final outcome,
since the override had carried in the House by 390-25. In the
end, issues of freedom and democracy counted for little; the
persuasive argument was that you can't vote against a President
who enjoys an 85% approval rating. The virulent opposition of
the Beijing Government to the Pelosi bill is in marked contrast
to their amiable acceptance of the President's executive order,
which is supposed to provide the same protection. That, coupled
with the premature lifting of sanctions and revelations that
Bush's envoys and the Chinese hard-liners were clinking glasses
even before the blood was washed off Tiananmen Square, has done
little to allay the fears of the Chinese students in the US.
2. CORPORATE R&D DECLINED IN 1989 FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1975,
and it's not expected to show much improvement in 1990. During
the first half of this decade, corporate R&D funds grew at an
average annual rate of 8.2%, but that fell to 1.6% in the last
half of the eighties. In 1989, R&D spending actually dropped by
about 1%. The new figures, contained in an NSF draft report, deal
a devastating blow to hopes of increased competitiveness for US
industry. The long-term picture is even bleaker. According to a
23 Jan NY Times story, the cuts have come predominately at the
expense of basic research. Moreover, federal agencies, including
the NSF, have also joined in the trend to short-term research.
This is evident in the FY 1990 Current Plan for NSF spending.
3. THE "FY 1990 CURRENT PLAN" FOR NSF IS BAD NEWS FOR PHYSICS.
The plan, only made available to us this afternoon, was outlined
in a 20 Dec 89 letter from NSF Director Erich Bloch to Rep.
Traxler (D-MI), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee
responsible for NSF. It continues the shift from basic research
performed by small groups to project-oriented research. In the
Math and Physical Sciences Directorate, Physics increases by a
mere 1% (a substantial loss after inflation) and Chemistry does
little better, with priority given to undergraduate curriculum
projects. The only notable exception is Math, which got a 5%
increase. Materials Research shows a 7% increase, but most of
that will go to the new National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
($6M) and not to individual researchers. Plans to award a new
set of Science and Technology Centers was scrapped. In principle,
Congress is supposed to approve the NSF's spending plan, but
failure to act in 30 days constitutes approval
(WN 8 Dec 89)--it
was submitted 33 days before Congress reconvened. Appropriations
Subcommittee sources deny they are bound by a thirty-day rule,
but acknowledge that the plan will be approved without change.
The President's budget request for FY 90 comes out on Monday.