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.'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.