Balance Sheet



Cease Fire. U.S. District Judge Juan Burciaga, New Mexico's senior federal judge, dismisses peyote importation charges against a member of the Native American Church. Burciaga calls the drug war "a wildfire that threatens to consume those fundamental rights of the individual…enshrined in our Constitution."

Jilted. California Democrats end their torrid fling with Gov. Pete Wilson. (See "Bigger or Better?", Nov.) Democratic volunteers circulate stickers and bookmarks with a picture of Wilson and the phrase, "Hi…I'm Pete Wilson and I tax snacks." These are the '90s, Governor. You don't crawl into bed with just anybody.

Salary Cap? Thirty-five states pass a constitutional amendment originally proposed by James Madison. The 1789 amendment states that Congress can't give itself a pay raise during its current term—an election has to take place first. If three more state legislatures ratify Madison's wish, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan will have to find something else to agree about.

Brush Off. A California judge throws out a ban on aerosol spray paints. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian says a 1996 aerosol ban by the South Coast Air Quality Management District could cause more harm than good: Painters will buy cans of liquid paint and use solvents to clean brushes. The judge said the AQMD didn't consider "the adverse impact on water quality" when painters use solvents.


Protect and Serve? Amnesty International investigates human-rights violations—in Los Angeles. A three-member team from the organization will try to discover if the Rodney King beating was a fluke. Sadly, A.I. won't have to dig much for evidence: Local newspapers and broadcast outlets routinely cite excessive force by police officers and sheriff's deputies.

Retaliatory Strike. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D–Mo.) proposes a tough new antitrade bill some have dubbed "Super-Duper 301" to punish Japan, China, and other countries that sell lots of products to Americans. The Washington Post's Hobart Rowen notes, "a trade surplus appears to be acceptable, in Gephardt's view, for the United States but for no one else."

Family Planning. It's baaack. The Senate may pass a veto-proof family-leave bill. The plan forces businesses with more than 50 employees to give 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parent, spouse, or child care. Small-business people scream. But say "family" these days, and politicians go goony.

Fee Simple. Musicians and record companies undertake a questionable new front in the legitimate war against "bootleg" copies of albums. Los Angeles Times trend spotter Michael Schrage reports the recording industry wants to punish you for making taped copies of albums you own. Bills before Congress mandate a 2-percent "royalty" on digital tape recorders and a 3-percent tax on blank tapes. Writes Schrage, "recording industry moguls are behaving like parasitical ingrates."