Balance Sheet



Flagging Enthusiasm. Bush's attempt to mess with the Bill of Rights goes down in flames, as Congress experiences a sudden attack of principle and good sense. Having covered their electoral derrières with an anti-flag burning law, lawmakers decline to gussy up the Constitution.

Fast Relief. The American Red Cross outdoes itself in Charleston and San Francisco. It's just the sort of organization that would never get started today. As Milton Friedman points out, broads social-service groups were a 19th-century phenomenon; nowadays, new nonprofits exist mostly to influence government. But would you really rather rely on some Emergency Relief and Blood Supplies Agency?

Rent Check. Rent control increasingly looks like a goner. A U.S. district court orders Santa Barbara, California, to pay mobile-park owners for revenue lost because of the city's rent control statute. Court decisions nibble at the Big Apple. To keep apartments on the market, Santa Monica concocts a price-discrimination scheme—landlords can charge some tenants super-high rents if they charge others super-low ones.

Assembly Line. Economists say no factories are getting built. Builders say otherwise. Engineering companies like Fluor Corp., writes L.A. Times trend spotter James Flanigan, report increased construction worldwide and greater flexibility thanks to computer-aided design. Why the misleading statistics? Much work is in fixing up plants—making refineries less polluting, for instance. The rest is spread over many smaller projects instead of yesterday's oil-related whoppers.


Video Tripe. Missouri bans renting or selling horror movies to minors; eight other states consider similar measures. Watching gruesome, nihilistic videotapes probably isn't too good for kids. But the law is worse—so vaguely worded it could apply to nearly anything and another affirmation of the prevailing notion that the state must play parent because parents won't.

Space Odyssey. American Rocket Co.'s commercial rocket fails to take off, apparently because of a faulty valve. After debugging, AMROC vows to try again—and seems to have the capital to keep going, with layoffs.

General Will. Daniel Ortega proves once again that Nicaraguan chutzpah knows no bounds. Using a conference on peace and democracy to announce suspension of the cease-fire with the Contras was a definite faux pas. Even Chris Dodd was shocked. But Ortega is smart enough to know it doesn't matter what he does. No policy will change—either in Washington or Latin capitals. He might as well have fun showing how much he can get away with.

Culture Club. European governments plot ways to keep evil American TV shows out of continental living rooms. A major concern: Not trash TV but public-affairs programs. It seems U.S. news beats most world reports.