Balance Sheet



Preferential Treatment. The California Civil Rights Initiative, which would end racial and gender preferences for state employment and university admissions, qualifies for the November 5 ballot. Win or lose, the CCRI campaign will let people openly debate the value of affirmative action rather than grousing about decisions handed down by "unelected judges."

Water Works. Britain's United Utilities joins with Bechtel to privatize water treatment across the globe. Engineering News-Record says the $4 billion conglomerate has 21 million customers on four continents. One city benefiting from the alliance: North Brunswick, New Jersey, which just signed a 20-year treatment contr act that could save residents $40 million. A Reason Foundation study estimates that the average customer pays 22 percent more for government water than privately treated water.

Net Gains. In mid-February, a Pennsylvania federal judge blocks enforcement of on-line censorship provisions in the recently passed telecommunications law. One week later, the American Library Association, America Online, and Americans for Tax Reform join in another suit that asks the courts to give the Internet First Amendment protection.

Derailed. Steve Forbes and Generation X revive prospects for privatizing Social Security. (See "Retirement Plans," March.) Merely mentioning Social Security privatization on the stump gets Forbes bigger applause lines than his flat tax. Gen Xers, who face huge tax increases as they subsidize the retirements of the baby boomers, lead the cheers. Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) forms a 40-member bipartisan House caucus on Social Security privatization.


Border Brigades. Fidel Castro earns worldwide censure for sending MiG fighters to shoot down civilian planes off the Cuban coast. One person who should have been cheering: Pat Buchanan. After all, he wants to halt the "invasion" of America by immigrants, and Brothers to the Rescue delivers food and water to refugees off the Cuban coast–giving aid and comfort to the "enemy."

Rough Seize. In Bennis v. Michigan, the Supreme Court upholds asset forfeiture against innocent property owners–in this case, a woman who lost her car when her husband was caught in it with a prostitute. Since the Court sided with the police, says defense lawyer Bo Edwards in The Washington Post, look for states to expand forfeiture. Some proposed bills would let cops seize cars from persons charged with drunk driving.

Medal of Horror. Shoot a boy in the back, get a medal? The U.S. Marshals Service gives commendations of valor to Deputy Marshals Larry Cooper and Arthur Roderick–the possible killers of Randy Weaver's son Samuel–for their actions at Ruby Ridge. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who championed Ruby Ridge hearings, said these commendations should "provoke outrage from many Americans."

Sweet Deal? Al Gore's plan to save the Everglades from sugar farming: Tax sugar farmers a penny for every pound they produce and use the money to buy up farmland. But, notes REASON science correspondent Michael Fumento in Investor's Business Daily, import quotas are really killing the ecosystem. End the quotas, which double domestic sugar prices, and farming will become less profitable.