Friday, 9 Dec 94 Washington, DC
1. WHAT'S NEWT: HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CALLS FOR NEW RULES!
The "Contract with America" promised legislation to transform the
nation in just 100 days; Congress, it claimed, would be reformed
on the first day! Major elements of that reform were agreed to
this week by House Republicans, presumably ensuring passage when
the 104th Congress convenes. Changes include: elimination of 3
committees and 25 subcommittees, 6-year term limits on committee
chairs, a ban on proxy votes and open committee meetings (most
earmarks have been inserted by appropriations committees behind
closed doors). There were also calls for cutting the General
Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress) by 25% and
eliminating the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.
2. COMMITTEE NAME CHANGES SEND A CHILL THROUGH SCIENCE COMMUNITY!
Republicans are ambivalent about basic science; they rail against
anything that smells of industrial policy, but at the same time
insist that scientists do "useful" research -- and they want to
know what it will be useful for before it's done. So when House
restructuring changed the Science, Space and Technology Committee
to "Technology and Competitiveness," it seemed to be a bad omen
for basic science. But Bob Walker (R-PA), a staunch defender of
basic science who will take over as chair of the Committee, had a
better idea: just call it the "Committee on Science." It has a
nice ring! The Committee on Science picks up responsibility for
energy from Commerce and Energy, which becomes just "Commerce."
3. STAR WARS II: TELLER WARNS AGAINST MILITARY RESEARCH CUTBACKS!
Yesterday at the Heritage Foundation orientation for new members
of Congress (WN 2 Dec 94),
Edward Teller praised President Reagan
for SDI, but acknowledged publicly for the first time that it was
not practical to defend against thousands of missiles. Now, with
the end of the Cold War, it is feasible to defend against today's
smaller arsenals. How? Lasers will be useful "someday," Teller
said, but meanwhile, he wants to kill missiles "as David slew
Goliath," with "Brilliant Pebbles" (a.k.a. "loose marbles").
4. MORE STAR WARS: THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHEMICAL LASER LOBBY!
The Contract pledges rapid deployment of an anti-missile system.
No problem! Angelo Codevilla says chemical lasers are ready to
do the job. Who, you ask, is Angelo Codevilla? Formerly on the
staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he was an advisor to
Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-WY), who advocated laser weapons as early
as 1981. Neither scientist nor engineer, Codevilla is now at the
Hoover Institute, where in 1988 he wrote "While Others Build," a
thinly-veiled call for a first strike; the only target vulnerable
to infrared lasers is the ABM Treaty. In a speech yesterday at
the University of Maryland, Hans Bethe commented on a
Codevilla-inspired New York Times story about laser weapons: "If Congress
eliminates OTA," he wondered "how will they know it won't work?"