Tuesday, December 31, 2002

A SOMEWHAT LENGTHY CIVICS LESSON, NEVADA-STYLE: One myth about my adopted hometown that's difficult to dispel is that Las Vegas -- let alone Nevada -- is some sort of freewheeling, libertarian paradise. Please.

For one thing, more than 80 percent of the state's land mass is controlled by the federal government, and nearly 10 percent more is either state or county property. Even 90 percent of Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is public land. That's one reason desolate, sparsely populated Nevada is one of the most urbanized states in America: What little land is in private hands is crammed with tract houses.

Gambling-inspired tourism may be the prime engine of economic activity. And prostitution is legal in 15 of the state's 17 counties ... though, notably, not in Clark (Las Vegas) or Washoe (Reno) counties. Gambling-related taxes provide roughly 40 percent of state revenues. But Nevada's sin industries aren't exactly entrepreneurial enterprises. They're tightly regulated and state-scrutinized.

As my friend and colleague Vin Suprynowicz says, if "gaming" were legal in Nevada, then you should be able to take your backgammon board downtown, plop it on the felt at Binion's Horseshoe, and play to your heart's content. Just try that one. In actuality, it would probably be easier to build and operate a coal-fired electric power plant abutting the San Francisco Bay than it would be to open a gambling hall in Nevada ... unless you have connections and lots of cash.

But I digress. Public employees dominate the political process here. Nearly half the members of the Legislature are either public employees or the spouses of government workers, and their influence shows: The salaries of Nevada state workers rank No. 8 in the nation ... and the average government employee's wage is 25 percent higher than the average pay of a private sector worker. That said, the public employees union will ask for a 4 percent raise each year for the next two years in the 2003 legislative session. The National Education Association reports that, after making a cost-of-living adjustment, Nevada teacher pay is the nation's ninth-best ... though the schools here are lousy. And that NEA survey fails to account for the absence of a state income tax here, which allows teachers to pocket even more of their pay. (Another myth we heard before moving here was that the schools were really good. In fact, the schools are new, because the booming population has led so many to be built over the past few years, but by just about every national standardized measure, we're sucking hind tit 'round here.) Still, that hasn't prevented teachers from whining that they're underpaid at every opportunity. Here's a small sample of letters the RJ received when a free-lance columnist did some research about instructors' salaries. Guess whining by teachers offers another example of how we're like every place else.

Nevada is fast becoming a state with a caste system: People who don't work for the government may soon be second-class citizens.

Oddly enough, a single opinion by the state's attorney general three decades ago turned the state's political system on its ear. Article 3 of the Nevada constitution establishes a clear separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, stating that "no person charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases expressly directed or permitted in this constitution." Until 1971, that clause was interpreted by state courts to mean that public employees (who work for the executive branch) could not serve in the Legislature unless they resigned from their government jobs. (Nebraska similarly bans public employees from its legislature.) But AG Bob List, who later became governor, ruled that the prohibition did not apply to local governments, so a public school teacher was seated in the Legislature. And the floodgates were opened.

Anyway, the political environment here is anything but freedom-loving. That's evidenced in part by the total absence of a robust alternative to the public schools (and a schooling system which ranked 45th in the Manhattan Institute's most recent Education Freedom Index, due to its lackluster charter school law and the failure of school reforms to make progress in the Legislature). In addition, our nominally Republican governor, Kenny Guinn, who campaigned on his success in holding the line on tax increases, won re-election with 68 percent of the vote and then stated he had a mandate to jam through a record, $1.4 billion tax increase -- a tax hike that would amount to roughly 30 percent of the state's general fund. Guinn, a genuinely nice guy and accessible fellow, is a lifelong bureaucrat who's completely captive of the public employees ... as is just about everyone else in the state.

Long story short, if you're looking for some lightly regulated, leave-us-alone state in which to relocate, I dunno, try Idaho or Montana. Nevada sure ain't the place.

BTW, Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 27, 2002

A TASK FOR AN ENTERPRISING BUSINESS REPORTER: Debunk the now-accepted-as-Gospel myth that states "lost" $13.3 billion in revenues from "untaxed" e-commerce last year. An AP story, published in USA Today, my paper and countless others across the country, repeated this bogus factoid. The $13.3 billion figure was derived by University of Tennessee researchers based on e-commerce projections by Forester Research that were, to be charitable, way off. Forester estimated that retail e-commerce transactions would amount to $58.5 billion last year; instead, the total was roughly $30 billion, or half that. I have no clue how accurate the projections were on b-to-b transactions, but I'd be willing to wager they weren't close, either. I'm also not confident in UT's methodology. They estimated that about 28% of e-commerce transactions were "escaping" taxation, but a 1999 study by Ernst & Young concluded that only about 13% of e-commerce is going untaxed. The rest either involves the sale of services or goods (including food and medicine) which would be exempt from sales taxes anyway, or b-to-b transactions which are subject to state use taxes that just aren't being collected. (Jerome Tuccille at FreeMarket.net compiled a lot of this info.)

My point isn't to argue for or against 'Net taxation. After all, the point of "charging" sales taxes to brick-and-mortar retailers is to assess them in part for the costs of streets, police and fire protection, and other government services they use. (Yes, I know, the businesses attempt to pass those costs along to consumers.) In the world of mail-order commerce, however, we should assume that the jurisdictions in which the warehouses, corporate HQs and fulfillment centers are located pay taxes ... so why hit them with multiple levies unless the point is to extract as much money from them as possible? Anyway, we cannot rely on sticky-fingered politicians or the spending interests who benefit from higher taxes to check the accuracy of such reports. So it's up to the press, wonkish types and other gadflies to keep the big-spenders honest ... or at least make sure we're arguing about information which is in some way tied to reality.

Of course, that's easier said than done when reputable news agencies such as the AP allow a fairly important story like this to go out without requiring the reporter (Jim Wasserman, BTW) to revise his estimates of revenue loss based on up-to-date information. His editors should be admonished for letting this howler slip by. To paraphrase DeNiro, "I'll be watching you, Fokkers."

Thursday, December 26, 2002

RACIAL GERRYMANDERING, R.I.P.: Here's an unexpected surprise: While relatively few African-Americans call Nevada home (roughly 7 percent of the population is black), it turns out that the Silver State has elected the nation's highest proportion of black legislators. About 11 percent of the Legislature is comprised of black lawmakers, and as this editorial I wrote point out, that's not bad for a state once known as the "Mississippi of the West" for the blatant segregation practiced at public and private facilities. Think about it. Such politically correct havens as California has a mere six African-Americans in its 120-member Legislature, and Massachusetts has elected only seven blacks to its 200 member legislative body.

It's also worth noting that none of Nevada's black lawmakers hail from majority African-American districts, and three of the seven reside in districts in which less than 5 percent of their constituents are black.

Monday, December 23, 2002

OK, IT'S OFFICIALLY CHRISTMAS: Some people are satisfied merely hearing Vince Guaraldi. That's fine (it's great jazz, after all). But over dinner Saturday night, we listened to Leon Redbone's Christmas Island CD, and on our weekend travels, we heard Buck Owens sing "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy" and the late great Charles Brown perform "Please Come Home for Christmas" (not on the same radio station, sadly, but I'll take what I can get). Between now and Wednesday, I'll spin "No More Pretty Presents" by the incomparably swinging Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers (they'll be in Vegas Jan. 9!), and, of course, Chuck Berry's classic "Run Rudolph Run." Hope Santa's good to everybody.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

CONGRATULATION, GRADUATES: Hoo-ray! Yesterday my better half Lola joined about 1,550 fellow students. She walked across the stage and received her degree from UNLV (specifically, from the school of hotel administration). She picked up her diploma only a few years later the rest of us typically do, but I'm still as pleased as punch she did it.

Of local interest, other than grandmotherly university Regent Thalia Dondero, who participated in the ceremonies, the only other regents on the platform were the embattled Howard Rosenberg and Linda Howard. They're in hot water for rifling through the private files of university students and employees, most likely in violation of federal law.

It's probably not a reach to consider Linda Howard (who's black) Nevada's answer to "Kerosene" Maxine Waters — petty, vindictive and dangerous. As this editorial I wrote recounts, Howard got into trouble for poring over the records of one student who called her "an idiot" in the UNLV student newspaper and another who criticized the regents at a public meeting.

Howard initially denied she had tampered with the private data, and then when she was caught red-handed, accused her critics of racism. Former RJ columnist Jon Ralston gave it to Howard with both barrels in this column.

Sad to say, Howard has the job for as long as she wants it. Nevada is the only state which elects its regents, and the black community blindly supports her. As Ralston says, "The problem African-Americans have here and elsewhere is that they reflexively circle the wagons around even the worst of their members, when they should just throw them out to be shot -- and should join the firing squad." I'm just thankful Lola's no longer affiliated with the institution.

YOU MEET THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE IN BLOGDOM: Got an e-mail from a fellow UNC alum (Class of '81) and ink-stained wretch Geitner Simmons, an editorial writer at the Omaha World-Herald. His Regions of Mind blog talks about "History, U.S. regionalism, foreign policy, politics, journalism, life." And he links to a band called Prairie Cats, distributed by Hepcat Records, the coolest music store on this or any other planet. Check it out.

Monday, December 16, 2002

LOTTS MORE: Great piece from Dave Kopel on NRO about the 1948 Dixiecrat platform, which "quoted from the 1840 Democratic platform, which was the platform of the great Democratic President Martin Van Buren. More than any other President, Van Buren faithfully followed the Constitution, so his platform — fewer than 1,000 words long — is an especially valuable guide for constitutionalists."

While Van Buren's platform offered a wonderful defense of federalism, the Dixiecrats just happened to delete this section: "that every citizen and every section of the country has a right to demand and insist upon an equality of rights and privileges, and to complete and ample protection of persons and property from domestic violence or foreign aggression." How convenient!

"That statement," Kopel writes, "is the principle on which the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments are based. States' rights were not a legitimate constitutional basis for states to violate the constitutional rights of their citizens."

Hence the Dixiecrats' support of lynching laws, and, presumably, of moves by state and local governments to disarm African-Americans. Is that what Trent Lott was celebrating?

Friday, December 13, 2002

WELFARE FARMING AND WATER: A quick post from surgery land. (Lola's fine;L.A. traffic, as always, reminds us why we moved to Vegas.) Virginia Postrel (see item 5), Eugene Volokh and others are engaged in an interesting discussion around a rather bathetic New York Times story that appeared 12/8 about the decline of rural Ameica. The problem is that 70 years of welfare via farm subsidies has led to stasis, giving many farm-state residents incentives to remain dependent on agricultural welfare and maintain an otherwise-unsustainable lifestyle.

Farm welfare of another type could cause havoc in the Southwest, where a handful of farmers in the Imperial Valley of California are basically holding the residents of at least three states hostage. Farmers get water for next to nothing from the Colorado River and use it to grow cotton in the desert, among other things. Monday, farm reps deep-sixed an agreement which would have given the residents of Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona reliable water sources for several decades ... all because ag interests insist on keeping Stalinist-style farm policy alive. Had New Deal-era subsidies been allowed to expire years ago, people in these farm communities would have gradually adopted more sensible, productive ways of life and saved consumers a bundle in the process. An excellent overview of the Imperial Valley controversy appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here's an editorial I wrote about the dustup that appeared Thursday. Gale Norton is headed to Vegas to help sort things out. (While she's in town, she'll meet with the editorial board of the R-J, which includes me.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

SOLIDARITY WITH SADDAM? Oh, great. The four Canadians who plan to be human shields have entered Iraq. It's one thing to stand up for the suffering Iraqi people and call for an end to economic sanctions (must I point out that, perhaps, Saddam's actions may have something to do with their continuation?), but to place yourself in harm's way on Iraqi territory is pretty damn close to siding with the dictator, is it not?

Fred Hiatt sounded a similar note in a Washington Post column yesterday on "Saddam's Lawyers" in the antiwar left: "The opponents of war often claim to be speaking for the Iraqi people. In any dictatorship, it is impossible to gauge how the people feel, particularly in one as brutal as Iraq. Two years ago the Revolutionary Command Council added 'amputation of the tongue' as an approved punishment for anyone who speaks ill of Saddam Hussein or his family."

Again, this is not an argument for or against military action. But it is awfully difficult to distinguish between reflexive anti-Americanism (or opposition to liberal Western culture, for that matter) and what passes for pacifism these days.

Sad to say, one of the Hollywood celebs who attended the anti-war press conference today was the wonderful Tony Shalhoub. If you're a fan of TV whodunits, his new ABC/USA Cable show "Monk" is a keeper. One reason it's so enjoyable, as noted by S.T. Karnick in National Review Online, is that while Monk's character is an extreme obsessive-compulsive (to the extent he's been institutionalized), the show in no way treats his disability in a mawkish fashion. Indeed, it's Monk's maddening fixation with order which makes him a brilliant detective. The show's a delight to watch, notwithstanding the star's politics.

LOTT-A NONSENSE: Strong piece on National Review Online by Robert A. George on why Trent Lott should be dumped by Senate Republicans ASAP. Some highlights:

Lott's Monday night "apology" "was very nice and, all things considered, one might give Lott the benefit of the doubt — if he didn't have a record, unmatched by any other current leading Republican of paying homage to a romanticized view of the 'old South.' ...
"Perhaps Sen. Lott should ask Alabama-born Condoleezza Rice — whose childhood friends were killed in a church bombing — if she believes her life would have been better if Strom Thurmond had become president. ...
"Most people don't expect a 100-year old Thurmond or an 85-year-old Robert Byrd (D., W.V.) to completely escape their racist pasts. But Trent Lott is an adult baby boomer, of the same generation as the current and previous presidents. The leaders of this generation supposedly went through the '60s and supposedly learned a few things about race. That seems true of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But Trent Lott is waxing nostalgic about the Confederacy and Dixiecrats."

Besides, as George points out, Republicans can offer any number of superior alternatives, from Bill Frist to Mitch McConnell to Don Nickles, who actually stand for something and would not embarrass the party, its faithful, or the nation, for that matter.

Monday, December 09, 2002

THAT THING CALLED LIFE: Just got started in the blogosphere, and already I need a vacation. Seriously, though, postings may be light for awhile. I'm still digging out from the graduation party we threw for Lola (UNLV Hotel College, Class of '02) Saturday. She has left for L.A., where she'll have hand surgery Thursday. I'll join her Wednesday night, and thanks to the Postrels, I'll have a place to crash while she's in the hospital. We'll be back in Vegas Saturday or Sunday.

Speaking of the Postrels, Virginia is seeking reader input for a new photo for her site. Vote early and often.

I'M A LITTLE BEHIND THE CURVE ... but if you're a frequent visitor to blogdom, you're aware that Reason, where I spent nine wonderful years, launched its own in-house blog this weekend. It'll be a must-read, I'm sure.

Friday, December 06, 2002

END OF AN ERA? I've been a fan of the Atlanta Braves since their 1969 division title, and Tom Glavine ranks among my personal favorites since I've been following the team. He's the thinking man's pitcher, perhaps more so than Greg Maddux, because Glavine's had really only one grade A pitch his entire career ... a change-up. Glavine's had a lower margin of error than any other successful control-type pitcher of the era. At least Maddux has featured a top-notch slider and change-up, not to mention control that suggests a deal with the devil. (In case you're curious, the list of fave Braves is comprised of Dale Murphy, Henry Aaron, Phil Niekro, John Smoltz and Glavine, with honorable mentions for Ron Gant, David Justice, Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke, since I also saw these guys play Class A ball for the Durham Bulls.)

Well, Glavine's a Met now, and I'm not all that broken up about it. He'll be 37 next year and wanted a three- to four-year commitment from any potential suitor. ESPN.com's Rob Neyer, who like me is an aficionado of baseball analyst extraordinaire Bill James, put together an analysis of other pitchers who could be considered similar to Glavine at 36 and, using them as points of reference, wondered how Glavine might perform over the next several seasons. The bottom line: " (If) I'm running a major-league team, I'd let somebody else conduct the experiment. Because the odds are pretty good that whoever signs Tom Glavine -- even if it's for 'only' three years -- will be paying roughly $30 million for a couple of decent seasons."

I'd be pleased as punch if Glavine would have taken the Braves' offer of two years with an option for a third, but he didn't. He went to the Mets, which is puzzling. (My baseball phone buddy Gary Peck, who also runs the Nevada ACLU, wondered why Glavine would go to New York, because "they don't have a clue.") The Phillies are a lot closer to the postseason than the Mets ... and they added Jim Thome and David Bell.

Nonetheless, the Braves remain in pretty decent shape for next year. Rumor has it that Maddux may accept salary arbitration and come back for one more season. If so, a rotation of Maddux, Millwood, Hampton and Moss would be the best/deepest in the NL. If Maddux walks, there are competent, younger pitchers available, and the Braves are loaded with young arms who could be used as trade bait or brought to the bigs next year. Re-sign Chris Hammond, find a couple of guys to soak up innings in middle relief, and they'll be fine ... if they can find a couple more bats, of course.

HEADS ROLL: Paul O'Neill resigns from Treasury. No big surprise there, since it's been rumored for weeks, he was never considered an insider and was always a bit of an odd choice, distinguishing himself primarily for highlighting the inane complexity of the tax code. The resignation of Larry Lindsey, however, is more of a head-scratcher, since he has been a confidant of Bush for awhile and is a sound guy. Maybe he's embarrassed for having to defend the steel tariffs and the farm bill -- which, IMHO, might be contributing to the lack of confidence by consumers and investors in the economy. Both of these moves -- and the rejection of the EchoStar/DirecTV satellite merger -- make zero economic sense but have scored political points for the White House. I'm guessing we'll know about the back story of the Lindsey decision soon.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

THE DRUG LOBBY: The Marijuana Policy Project, a principal sponsor of Question 9, the unsuccessful ballot measure which would have legalized possession of up to three ounces of marijuana in Nevada, wants to get federal drug czar John Walters fired. The group makes a credible argument Walters was lobbying when he made two trips to Nevada this year to urge people to vote down the measure. (I editorialized about them here.) Lobbying by a federal employee is prohibited by the Hatch Act. The group is also asking Nevada's secretary of state to fine Walters $5,000 for failing to file a "campaign report" with election officials.

MPP has petitioned the federal Office of Special Counsel to strip Walters of his duties and bar him from future government employment.

The response from Washington? "It's a Cheech and Chong interpretation of the law," Walters flack Tom Riley told the Review-Journal. "Part of the description of the job description is to fight drug legalization."

The Office of National Drug Control Policy does not conduct research. Nor does it enforce laws or issue regulations. It's little more than a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-financed propaganda mill for drug warriors, paying a cadre of wonks and writers top dollar to churn out speeches, op-eds and advertising matter. Walters should not just be sacked; the entire agency ought to be shuttered. Permanently.

The complaint is likely to go nowhere, and that's too bad. As Dane Walters of the Initiative and Referendum Instititute told the R-J, it's unusual for a federal official to become so intimately involved in state ballot drives. The best we might hope for is that some sort of guidelines would emerge that limit the activities of federal officials in state political campaigns. Of course, that's partly why the Hatch Act was passed in the first place.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

5-1: Carolina looked like the Baby Heels last night, getting blown out 92-65 by a surprisingly good Illinois team. The Heels played like a team whose eight-man rotation is made up of five freshmen and three sophomores, and the Illini's balance and deep front line paid off. IMHO, the Illinois backcourt -- step-for-step as quick as Felton and McCants -- was the key to the game. The Heels' guards are clearly not accustomed to playing against guys that fast, and it showed up in turnovers, rushed shots, etc. Kentucky at the Dean Dome is next.

I remain juiced about this team, its athlecticism, its smarts, and its chemistry ... particularly after I witnessed one of the eight victories last year -- a one-point win over Binghamton, for crying out loud -- in person. It should be a great season to wear Carolina Blue.

RAINES OF TERROR? The New York Daily News reports the brass of the Times has killed sports columns by Harvey Araton and Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson which opposed the Gray Lady's editorial stance on the Augusta National flap -- a controversy, BTW, that's been completely ginned up the Times and USA Today. Add to that the Times' recent front-page hatchet job on Robert McTeer of the Dallas Fed, skillfully dispatched by the WSJ's Bill McGurn, and you wonder whether the title "newspaper of record" is up for grabs.

As Virginia Postrel, Mickey Kaus and others have pointed out, NYT Executive Editor Howell Raines cut his journalistic teeth as a Southern newpaper editor during the early stages of the civil rights movement. Back then, Raines, Tom Wicker and others were heroes. Unfortunately, their worldviews are frozen in that era and as a consequence they've become some of the most pernicious advocates of racial preferences since.

IF IT AIN'T REGULATED, IT'S ILLEGAL: Soon-to-be Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid decides to make a federal ban on Internet gambling a top priority next year. My editorial is here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

EVERYTHING'S WAITING FOR YOU ... This afternoon, the mayor of our fair city, Oscar Goodman (the former mob lawyer who played himself in Martin Scorsese's Casino), will light a knockoff of the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. (As my friend and colleague Steve Sebelius notes, the old sign is on the south end of the Strip, all of which is outside the city limits, so even after you drive north past the landmark, you're still not in Las Vegas, you're in Clark County. Oh well.)

The new version, "Welcome to Fabulous Downtown Las Vegas," will be located downtown, of course, and it marks about the bazillionth attempt at downtown boosterism on Goodman's watch. At least this one's relatively harmless, and is unlikely to ding local taxpayers that much.

Since coming to office in 1999, saving downtown has been Goodman's quixotic quest. He's had no shortage of ideas: Build an arena for an NBA or NHL team; a stadium for a Major League Baseball franchise; a carbon copy of the upscale residential/commercial development in Arlington, Texas (the city had even entered into negotiations with one of Arlington's developers); a furniture mart to supplant the one in High Point, N.C. (hey! that's hitting close to home); the barely open and already sinking toward bankruptcy "Neonopolis" retail/entertainment establishment; a French Quarter-style region lined with taverns and night clubs (but only if the establishments serving alcohol are at least 1,500 feet apart); a state-of-the-art medical research campus ... everything but, say, a modern megaresort, which actually might generate some serious commercial traffic, not to mention residential migration from the suburbs to downtown.

Goodman's heart is in the right place, and lord knows, his desire to succeed is genuine. But the downtown casino owners have the local pols in their hip pockets and are able to block anything which threatens their tiny fiefdoms. (My buddy Vin Suprynowicz made this point painfully well. Anyone who believes Vegas is a freewheeling place knows nothing of the tyranny of central planning.)

Make no mistake: Downtown Las Vegas is ugly, consisting of two decent casinos (the Golden Nugget and Main Street Station), a cluster of seedy gambling halls, tourist-trap gift shops and topless joints, homeless people, and not much else. Not even the "state-of-the-art" -- circa 1972 -- light show at the Fremont Street Experience can overcome the bedraggled atmosphere there.

Goodman and the other downtown cheerleaders can never be convinced that yuppies won't leap at the chance to invest a quarter-million bucks on faux Victorian brownstones in some downtown New Urbanist enclave. Until they'll no longer have to trip over vagrants on the way to their garages or be greeted each morning by the wafting aromas of beer and urine when they pick up their Review-Journals from the stoop, upscale Las Vegans will gladly remain in Summerlin, Green Valley and the Northwest, thank you very much.

But at least you can still get a shrimp cocktail for 99 cents at the Golden Gate.

Monday, December 02, 2002

PUCK, POST AND CENTRAL COAST CUE: The first day after a holiday weekend, and I'm recovering from a tryptophan hangover, so my first "real" posting is about food.

The inimitable Bob Senn, proprietor of our favorite wine shop, the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium (nestled between Santa Barbara and Santa Maria on California's stunning Central Coast), reports that the legendary Hitching Post restaurant in Buellton, Calif., will be featured on Wolfgang Puck's Food Network show Dec. 5. Owner Frank Ostini will demonstrate Santa Maria-style tri-tip barbecue. Tri-tip is a sirloin cut available mainly in the West that's slow-cooked over an open spit (or on a Weber kettle, for the backyard barbecue crowd), marinated or seasoned with a rub. It's my favorite variety of beef (and one that I try my hand at on occasion). From a boy who grew up in the midst of the warring regions of North Carolina barbecue, discovering tri-tip was an epiphany, though it'll always finish second to a mess of Eastern N.C. pork. With hush puppies.

Lola and I have pigged out (as it were) at both Hitching Posts, Buellton and Casmalia (thanks, Bob!) and can say without hesitation that we've never had better beef. If you're within a day's drive of either location, plan to visit. And while the original Casmalia location is really off the beaten path, it's our favorite. Another reason to go to the Casmalia Hitching Post: Bob put together the wine list.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

ABOUT ME (updated January 2010)

Greetings. I'm Rick Henderson. Since April 2009, I've been the managing editor of Carolina Journal, the monthly tabloid produced by the free-market John Locke Foundation in Raleigh. It's a terrific gig, assigning stories, editing, writing, and producing stories for the Web site daily. It's great to be home again.

I live with my wife Cara and our four pets in Raleigh.

From January 2006 - February 2009, I was an editorial writer at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. (Then the paper shut down.) Previously, I was on the editorial page of The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., the final seven months as deputy editor of the page. Before that, I spent four terrific years at the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada's largest newspaper!) as an editorial writer and columnist. My first paying gig in journalism, 1989-1997, was a labor of love at Reason magazine, five of those years as the monthly's first full-time bureau chief in Washington, D.C.

I'm a North Carolina native, alum of UNC-Chapel Hill (class of '79), and an unshakable fan of Tar Heel sports.

Politically and philosophically, I'm a classical liberal/libertarian (join the crowd, right?). By beginning a blog in December 2002 I've clearly overlooked the entire "early adopter" strategy ... but perhaps something interesting remains to be said in this format.

ABOUT THE BLOG NAME: For all you history buffs, the Regulators of North Carolina were a ragtag band of yeoman farmers in colonial Piedmont N.C. who protested British taxation, in particular the practice of the royal governor of assessing arbitrary fees on small landowners and then seizing their property if they didn't pay. A couple thousand of them engaged the Crown's militia in the Battle of Alamance in 1771. The Crown won, but the skirmish is considered the first battle of the Revolution.

To the extent that the Regulators had any political philosophy, however, they were anarcho-socialists of a sort. They advocated the execution of public officials and lawyers and the redistribution of property.

I used the term Deregulator as the title of a little tabloid-style rag I self-published for about a year and a half in the mid-1980s while living in the backyard of the Regulators, Chapel Hill. Think of it as a nonvirtual me-zine.

My somewhat grandiose goal was to put out an advertiser-supported free weekly that would be easy to distinguish from the two, high-quality left-wing weeklies that existed at the time. The title was meant to let readers know they'd read things from a different perspective.

On one level, my plan didn't work out that well (meager advertiser support), so the zine ended up being a rather expensive hobby. But taking the larger view, the Deregulator was a smashing success. I used the experience to eventually land a career as a professional journalist. It's been a great ride, and I hope it continues for a long time.

Hence, the blog title, in tribute I suppose to what brung me here.