Balance Sheet

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Assets

Independence Initiative. To shake off congressional micromanagement, public broadcasting embraces privatization. A proposal by PBS, National Public Radio, the Association of Public Television Stations, and Public Radio International would replace tax subsidies with a private endowment for public broadcasting. The endowment would get its seed money from the proceeds of FCC license and spectrum auctions—an idea first suggested in a 1988 Reason Foundation study.

Loosed Lips. The Supreme Court raises two cheers for free speech. In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, the Court protects individuals who want to post leaflets and other political literature anonymously. (See Trends, Apr.) And in a unanimous decision, Rubin v. Coors Brewing, Justice John Paul Stevens says a 1935 law that prevents beer labels from listing alcohol content is unconstitutional and "nothing more than an attempt to blindfold the public." (See "BATF Out of Hell," May 1994.)

Hot Seats. How to build a mega-sports complex: Sell the seats. Permanently. The NFL's expansion Carolina Panthers raise $100 million for their downtown Charlotte stadium by selling season-ticket holders "permanent seat licenses." People pay between $600 and $5,400 and "own" their seats. Cash from PSL sales helps land the Rams in St. Louis, the NBA's Raptors in Toronto, and will move the Bullets to downtown D.C. PSLs also interest franchise owners seeking new stadiums in Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Tampa.

Scales of Justice. The U.S. Sentencing Commission tackles an inexplicable drug-war excess. If you're busted for possessing crack cocaine, the criminal penalties are 100 times more severe than those for having the same amount of powder cocaine. The commission reduces crack penalties to the same level as those for powder. Congress must overrule the commission by November 1; otherwise, the equal penalties will automatically take effect.

Liabilities

Sinking Feeling. Reversing 35 years of anti-Castro policy, the White House says the United States will accept no more boat people from Cuba. Refugees picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard will be returned to Havana. There they will face prison, and likely worse.

Pot Holders. The feds continue to stifle medical marijuana. San Francisco AIDS researcher Donald Abrams spent three years gaining FDA approval for a privately funded study to see if smoking marijuana alleviates nausea and promotes weight gain for AIDS patients. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the only legal source of marijuana for research, refuses to provide pot for the study. Researchers must now spend their money on court challenges rather than patient tests.

P.C. Inc. The left has always touted "social investments" in inner-city housing projects and "community development banks." Now they're no longer satisfied with merely persuading potential investors; they want to raid your pension. At the urging of Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the White House plans to overturn the ERISA rules which require pension-fund managers to seek the highest rates of return. Fund managers will now be "encouraged," possibly with lending quotas, to invest in "socially useful" projects. Almost $5 trillion is at risk.

Follow the Money. FBI Director Louis Freeh tells Congress his agency doesn't need new investigative powers. But Bill Clinton continues to stump for an "anti-terrorist" law that would enhance federal capriciousness. One example: On CNN's Larry King Live, Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) points out that Clinton welcomed Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to the White House. But under the president's bill, any American who gave money to Sinn Fein would be labeled a terrorist.

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