Balance Sheet



? Speech Savers. The filibuster led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should kill campaign "reform" for another year. The political class is flummoxed. Grassroots advocacy lives. McConnell's maneuvers also give Americans a much-needed lesson in how the legislative process should work–deliberately. Madison would be proud.

? Code Cracked. The European Union issues a surprisingly scathing attack on "key escrow," the White House proposal giving law enforcement agencies access to all scrambled messages sent over computer networks. The E.U. report says key escrow would hinder electronic commerce, would not stop criminals who use data encryption, and might compromise existing European privacy laws. Take that, Louis Freeh.

? Enforcement Trap. Kevin Harris, acquitted of federal murder charges along with Randy Weaver in the Ruby Ridge shootout, may be free at last. Idaho judge Quentin Harden tosses out state murder charges against Harris, saying they constitute double jeopardy.

?Oil Plan. Despite the Yeltsin regime's continuous turmoil, privatization in Russia moves ahead. The government will sell its share of Rosneft, the country's fifth largest oil company. Western investors, including Shell, Exxon, and B.P., may bid more than $1.5 billion when the company hits the auction block.


? Dope Fiend. House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggests extending the tobacco deal's attack on teen smoking to include alcohol use and illegal drugs. (Whatever that means.) Mr. Speaker, which part of clueless do you not understand?

? Taking License. NBC courageously refuses to add content labels to the age-based ratings it assigns TV shows. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman and presidential hopeful John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatens to ask the FCC to "review" (that is, deny) NBC affiliates' licenses at renewal time. McCain may also back a bill that would prohibit programs that contain violence from airing before 10 p.m.

? Apple Bites. Transit unions maintain their death grip on New York politics. Under union pressure, the City Council votes 38 to 8 to stop issuing or renewing licenses to van operators who compete with the Big Apple's bus or subway monopolies. The Wall Street Journal estimates the ban will strand some 30,000 commuters, most of whom live in the city's worst neighborhoods.

? Leaf Blowers. The welfare state lives in Dixie. Southern Democratic senators propose a $17 billion pool of tax money "to offset farmers adversely affected by a [tobacco] settlement," notes the newsletter Inside Congress. Another proposal would guarantee welfare payments, er, sales for U.S. leaf growers if anti-tobacco initiatives cause the domestic market to collapse.