by Robert L. Park Friday, 12 Jan 96 Washington, DC
1. WHAT SNOW: YOU WANNA SEE A SHUTDOWN? I'LL SHOW YOU A SHUTDOWN!
The partial shutdown, imposed by Congress, was replaced this
week by a total shutdown of Washington, imposed by outside forces.
In last week's WN, I reported that the
House agreed to put federal
workers back on the job until January 26 -- but with no operating
funds except for politically sensitive programs such as Meals on
Wheels. Later that evening, a second "continuing resolution" was
passed that funds NIH for FY 96 at the full $11.9B requested by
the House -- an increase of 5.7% over FY 95! This trend toward
targeted funding or "cherry picking" of programs and agencies is
a new element in the budget war. It favors those agencies with
a powerful champion, such as John Porter (R-IL), Chairman of the
appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH. Meanwhile Commerce,
Education, EPA, NASA and NSF face yet another train wreck. Some
of these agencies are controversial, but even NSF, which has no
enemies, suffers from feeble champions and a timid constituency.
2. WHAT'S TRUE: MAYBE FORBES SHOULD BE ON THE REBUILDING LIST.
Forbes magazine quoted Los Alamos high-energy physicist cum
electronic-publishing gad fly, Paul Ginsparg as saying he would
like "to see the whole [commercial science publishing] system
collapse." Unfortunately, WN repeated the quote (
WN 22 Dec 95
Ginsparg recollects that what he actually said was that he would
like to see that system rethought and rebuilt from the ground up.
3. WHAT'S GNU: "THE STATE OF HUMANITY" -- IS IT GETTING BETTER?
French faith healer Emile Coue had the patients in his sanitarium
repeat, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."
Collectively it's true, according to "The State of Humanity," edited
by Julian Simon, dean of the "there-are-no-limits" school of economics.
In 58 chapters, mostly by economists, there is a marshalling of data
showing that we live longer, earn more, pay less for food, breath
cleaner air, drink purer water, and on and on, than ever; even wildlife
is better off. Simon attributes all this to "human ingenuity"; some
of us would say "science." But at a press conference to promote the
book, held by the conservative
Cato Institute, the scholarly character of the chapters was undermined
by a Cato spokesman who insisted it all proves that if you just unleash
industry, everything will get better by itself.
4. WHAT'S CUCKOO: HIGH-TECH DOWSING ROD LOCATES TIMID LABORATORY.
The Quadro Corporation, which markets the QRS 250G Detector, a dowsing
rod with an antenna that outperforms old fashioned willow branches,
says the device can locate anything from weapons to buried treasure--well
worth the price of $995 each. But a Sandia National Labs scientist
thought it might be a good idea to test one. It failed to locate anything;
dissection found just plastic!
Sandia sources tell WN that management directed scientists to remain silent
in the face of a threat of legal action by Quadro.