Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

State cronyism takes a hit in Louisiana

At least temporarily.  You may remember when we pointed our the story of the monks in Louisiana who were making coffins and the state was moving to stop them.  Under Louisiana law, a place must be a “licensed funeral establishment” in which only “licensed funeral directors” may sell “funeral merchandise”.

Now everyone knows that around here we equate choice with freedom.  And, what the state of Louisiana had done, at the behest of the The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is place a restriction that set the bar to entry into the “funeral merchandise” business at a place where it essentially barred entry to anyone who wasn’t a licensed member of that guild.  And, of course, the The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors controlled who did or didn’t get licensed.

So when the good brothers at St. Joseph Abbey began making hand crafted wooden coffins and selling them, they were in direct violation of the law the board had helped craft.  More importantly, they were in competition with the carefully crafted state granted monopoly these people enjoyed.

They were told that the only choice they had was to do the following if they wanted to sell their caskets:

[They] must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.

That’s even though they only desired to make coffins.

When they refused, the board threatened.

[T]he Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors sent the monks a cease-and-desist letter, threatening thousands of dollars in fines and up to 180 days in prison based on a law prohibiting the sale of coffins without a funeral director’s license.

And then sued.

In July of last year, a Federal judge ruled in the Abbey’s favor, as we reported.

The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”

So now the 5th Circuit has ruled and guess what?  The monks have won again.  And the 5th was not at all kind to the State Board or the state of Louisiana in its ruling:

In a sometimes harshly worded ruling, a panel of federal appellate judges Tuesday evening smacked down the Louisiana funeral board’s continued attempts to prevent the St. Joseph Abbey monks from selling their hand-crafted caskets. “The great deference due state economic regulation (does not require) courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth,” wrote Judges Patrick Higginbotham, Catharina Haynes and Stephen A. Higginson of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. “We insist that Louisiana’s rules not be irrational.”

The appellate judges sent the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court, refusing to consider the funeral board’s appeal of a previous court’s ruling that found it unconstitutional for the state to give funeral directors exclusive rights to sell caskets.

“Simply put, there is nothing in the licensing procedures that bestows any benefit to the public in the context of the retail sale of caskets,” U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled in July 2011. “The license has no bearing on the manufacturing and sale of coffins. It appears that the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry,” which he wrote is not “a valid government interest.”

Of course, there’s no telling what the LA Supreme Court will do.  However until then, the monks are free to sell their significantly less costly caskets in Louisiana without having to clear the high bar of entry set by the crony state.

Oh, and here’s the irony and another reason the court found for the monks:

“To be sure, Louisiana does not regulate the use of a casket, container, or other enclosure for the burial remains; has no requirements for the construction or design of caskets; and does not require that caskets be sealed,” according to the court. “Individuals may construct their own caskets for funerals in Louisiana or purchase caskets from out-of-state suppliers via the internet. Indeed, no Louisiana law even requires a person to be buried in a casket.”

As plain and transparent state enforced cronyism as one can find. There are certainly more, as we all know, and they’re practiced by all levels of government. But all of them, each and every one of them, should be identified, challenged and dismantled – root and branch.  Government has no business using its force and power to protect businesses from competition because doing so limits choice and thereby limits its citizen’s freedom.

Cronyism has no place in a free society.

~McQ

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Obama’s Navy: Ignorance or intent?

A little more on the abject ignorance Obama displayed concerning the Navy.  Or was it, instead, the usual attempt to have it both ways?  You know, talk about how everything is under control while in reality it is spinning out of control?  Or, as we’ve warned many times, don’t believe a thing the man says, look at what he does.

In this case:

The Obama administration’s neglect of the Navy can be typified by the early retirement of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and its plans to decommission other naval assets. In August of this year, I outlined on NRO why the Enterprise should remain in service, but the Big E is only the most prominent asset slated for premature retirement. The administration also plans to decommission and scrap six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, although the vessels have as many as 15 years of service life left (even without further overhauls). Maintaining freedom of the seas requires hulls in the water — and the Navy hasn’t even started building the replacements for these cruisers. At present, all we have is a design study called CGX, which may or may not enter production.

Got that?  6 Ticonderoga-class cruisers being decommissioned, all with at least 15 years service life left.  These are the cruisers, as mentioned yesterday, which protect those things we have called aircraft carriers.

Here’s another report that makes it clear that the administration’s plan is, in fact, leaving the carrier strike groups even more vulnerable than they are now:

As noted at the Navy-oriented Information Dissemination blog, when the proposed cuts were first outlined in late 2011, the decommissioning plan will take out of service cruisers that can be upgraded with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) package – now a core capability for the Navy – while keeping five cruisers that cannot receive the BMD upgrade.

Emphasis mine. That borders on criminal.  After bloviating about technology and capability, his plan is to reduce both.

Meanwhile, here’s the stark reality of the situation the Obama administration has created:

His administration, in an effort to cut costs, proposed the retirement of the USS Enterprise (which his allies in Congress passed in 2009) and the six cruisers. Numerous crises are heating up around the world, as recent events show, but there is no indication that Obama has reconsidered these retirement plans. Certainly, it would not be hard to halt the retirements, and extenuating circumstances clearly warrant a supplemental appropriations bill. None of our carriers or submarines — no matter how high-tech they are — are capable of covering the Persian Gulf and South China Sea at the same time, or the Mediterranean Sea and the Korean Peninsula simultaneously.

Or, said a much simpler way, and despite Obama’s ignorant claims, we don’t have enough ships to cover all the contingencies that his failed foreign policy has helped foment.  Technology still can’t have you in two places at once.

Instead, we have a Commander-in-Chief who apparently thinks those things we call aircraft carriers are like magic unicorns.  You kind of wave one toward a crisis and everything works out.  He has no concept of force protection.  He has no idea how a carrier strike group operates.  He just knows we have these things called aircraft carriers and they’re apparently magic because, you know, we have this “technology” and we’re much more “capable” than when it was all about horses and bayonets.  Or something.

Reality?

Yet in 2010, the Navy could only fulfill 53% of the requirements for presence and missions levied by the combatant commanders (e.g., CENTCOM, PACOM).  Cutting this Navy will reduce further its ability to fill warfighter requirements.

This guy is dangerous, folks.  His ignorance is both appalling and frightening.

He needs to go.

~McQ

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Benghazi emails leaked

Reuters is reporting tonight that, "Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show."

These emails were sent from the State Department’s Operations Center to the White House, Director of National Intelligence, Pentagon, and FBI, and the first email was sent within 1/2 hour of the start of the attack. Two hours after the attack began, a third email was sent, bearing the subject line, "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack".

The president then nipped off to bed, as he had to fly to an important campaign fundraiser in Las Vegas the next day.

~
Dale Franks
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3rd Debate: Snarky Obama reveals his military ignorance (update)

Obama the arrogant had quite a time last night … being arrogant, that is.

And, as usual, anyone who knew reality had to laugh at his posturing, since it revealed a horrendous level of ignorance.

What am I talking about?  His quip about “horses and bayonets” and his nonsense about the size of the Navy.

We’ve all heard, I’m sure, the line that “amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics”.

Question: Are those “more capable ships” more capable of supply and support than ships of old?  No.  There’s a “tooth to tail” ratio that is required for any fleet to function and function well.  We have 11 carrier strike groups out there.   They have a certain number of ships in each battle group that are designed to do what?  Protect the carrier.  But those ships have to be resupplied.  Having stood on the deck of the USS Kearsarge and watched at sea refueling take place, I can confidently tell you it requires another ship.

Additionally, there’s now concern, given the lethality and accuracy of weaponry out there, that the ships assigned to protect the carriers may not be adequate to the job.  In other words, we many need more (presently they have 2 Ticonderoga class Ageis guided missile cruisers, two to three Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers and to LA class attack submarines plus a carrier air wing).  We’re talking about the possibility of overwhelming missile attacks as they’re presently configured.  Reality.

Then, consider we have a “gator navy” as well, which is also in need of further protection.  Put the new littoral combat ships into the mix and you are again in need of the ability to refuel and resupply.  Pretending the current fleet configuration and number is adequate to the new expanded mission pointed toward the Pacific is about as “horses and bayonets” as one can get.  Pure defensive nonsense and ignorant posturing.

And by the way, we still use bayonets.  The reason we don’t have as many as we once had is because this President had cut the Army and Marine Corps during his tenure.

But to the point, all that bloviating by Obama about how he carefully set out the fleet size with the SecNav etc. is just that, bloviating.  He made unilateral and deep cuts in defense spending all by his lonesome.  $500 billion over 10 years.  That’s his.  No one else’s.  They have nothing to do with sequestration which promises another $500 billion in cuts.

And don’t believe his promise that “sequestration won’t happen”.  While it may not, it won’t have  a thing to do with him.  He’s provided nothing in terms of leadership on the question and no one believes he will.  He’s just “hoping” it won’t happen and prove him right.  But don’t expect him to actually do anything to try to prevent it.

Oh, who won?

Given the spin, pretty much a draw at worst.  Both sides are claiming victory.  A prickly, defensive and condescending Obama, given his abysmal record, didn’t help himself at all.  He just proved how small he really is.

UPDATE: Like minds.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 23 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index for September dropped sharply to a very contractionary –7 from 4 in September.

In retail sales, Redbook reports a weak 1.3% year-on-year sales increase, as the trend continues to decline. ICSC-Goldman reports a decrease of –0.7% over last week, and a flat 2.9% over last year.

~
Dale Franks
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Polling, preference cascades, etc.

I wanted to make a quick point here. First this:

Mitt Romney has taken a narrow national lead, tightened the gender gap and expanded his edge over President Barack Obama on who would best grow the economy.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — taken from Sunday through Thursday of last week — shows Romney ahead of Obama by 2 percentage points, 49 percentage to 47 percent. That represents a 3-point swing in the GOP nominee’s direction from a week ago but is still within the margin of error. Obama led 49 percent to 48 percent the week before.

A lot of discussion on polls this time around. We talked about them extensively in the podcast. The thing to realize is regardless of how the polling concerns have set up their split among self-identified Republicans and Democrats, the one thing that has been fairly consistent in each of them is Romney trending up. So while they may all show different percentages and even an Obama lead, the fact remains that the challenger has continued to gain even while the incumbent was declared the winner of the last debate.

That, my friends, signifies, at least as far as I can tell, a preference cascade beginning to swell.

As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the most important debate this year was the first debate. In that debate, the challenger had to appear to be an acceptable alternative/replacement for the incumbent. Romney was able to exceed expectations in that department. That’s when the tide began to turn. The second debate, while somewhat important, but only if the challenger really goofed it up, just didn’t carry the weight of the first. And as hard as the left has tried to make the debates about Big Bird, binders of women and an alleged “Libya gaffe” (as I see it, there was no gaffe at all, we saw an incumbent President pretend/allege he said something he didn’t say). They’re not selling except among the partisan base.

We’ll see if this debate this evening adds momentum to the challengers upward trend or whether the incumbent is somehow able to slow or stop it. I’m not sure what the President could say or do that would accomplish that given his dismal foreign policy record (and his previous declaration that his lack of foreign policy experience just wasn’t a show stopper).

Like Dale says, I think, as far as Romney is concerned, we’re in “dead girl or live boy” territory.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 21 Oct 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the vice presidential debate and game the electoral college.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Has the preference cascade begun?

As I’ve been saying for months, the “atmospherics” which surrounded the Obama win in 2008 just don’t exist in 2012. They’re just not there.  The excitement has vanished, the “hope” has been dashed and the “change” – well, it’s not at all what those who hung their own meaning on the word thought they’d see.

In other words, the President is and has been in deep electoral trouble for some time.  The only thing that has really helped him and propped him up is the media.  Many in the media have spent an inordinate time trying to explain away or cover up very serious failings on the part of his administration.  The media has also constructed a strawman Mitt Romney which they used to “help’ Obama as well.

Two events have sort of tipped the scales against the incumbent, however.  The first debate (Romney unfiltered, Obama unenthused) and Benghazi.  It is those two events which have, in my opinion (note the word), started the preference cascade toward a Romney win.

Indicators?  Well there are quite a few.

One, for instance, is a newspaper endorsement from a very liberal paper.  That would be The Tennessean.  Why is that significant?  Well, as Glenn Reynolds points out, it provides “social permission” to deviate from the Democratic norm.  And that sort of permission is necessary to begin a preference cascade.  Today the Orlando Sentinal also endorsed Romney.  Expect to see more of these sorts of endorsements in the coming days.

Another is found in polls showing the unexpected.  For instance, Romney with a chance in PA? Really?  Well apparently, if this poll is to be believed, it’s more than a chance.  And that may have downstream effects if true.  Meanwhile, in MO, the odious Todd Aiken has gone ahead of equally odious Democrat Claire McCaskill (great choice you have there, MO).  That’s important for a very good reason – it has do with enthusiasm and which side appears to have it.

Additionally, both the Romney and Obama campaigns are pulling out of NC. Why?  Because it appears the state’s results are no longer in doubt.  It will not go to Obama this time and, apparently, that’s not even iffy.  Florida seems to be going that way as well and my guess is VA too.

In OH, coal miners are mad as hell.  While that may not put OH in total jeopardy, it doesn’t make a state that was comfortably Obama’s in 2008 the same in 2012.

Other indicators?  How about the defection of this one-time solidly Democratic demographic?

Romney’s surging poll numbers in the crucial state of Florida reflect his growing success with Bubbie Molly and her unemployed grandson Adam, who both thought their right hand would wither if it ever pulled the lever for a Republican.

The signs and portents are everywhere, beginning with the special election of a Republican in Anthony Weiner’s heavily Jewish, New York congressional district one year ago. Now a startling new poll even has Romney performing the ultimate miracle: the parting of the blue states, winning the Jewish vote by a healthy 44% to 40%!

Florida activist Alan Bergstein described his recent experience advocating for Romney in the Jewish stronghold of Delray Beach. “Of about 100 entering and leaving the Bagel Tree eatery in that plaza, we ran into only two Democrats and loads and loads of Romney supporters. They stopped to talk to us, to congratulate us and to support us with their views of the Ryan/Biden debate. They were militant and fearless.”

Why?  Well, for every effect there is a cause.  In this case, it’s pretty clear:

The Democratic Party booing God and Jerusalem: At their national convention, Democratic leaders attempted to do undo the political damage of stripping all mention of God and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from their party platform. But when they asked for a floor vote to add God and Jerusalem to the platform, the delegates loudly booed – three times. As the cameras revealed the hate-filled faces of the jeering delegates, some Jews felt frightened by the ugly scene.

Obama’s open contempt for Prime Minister Netanyahu: From the beginning of his presidency, Obama has seemed to enjoy humiliating Israel’s elected leader. He walked out on Netanyahu in the White House, claiming he had to eat dinner, and refused to pose for an official photograph with him. Now, as Iran races to complete a nuclear weapon, Obama rejected Netanyahu’s request for a meeting in New York, choosing to appear on The View instead. And when Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations, Obama instructed both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice not to attend.

Fawning over the Jewish people’s enemies: Obama bowed to the Saudi king, gave a high-profile speech in Cairo, apologizing to the Muslim world, and ordered NASA to make “Muslim outreach” its foremost priority. Over the objections of Congress, he gave at least $1.5 billion to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates for “holy jihad” against Israel. And when Muslim terrorists murdered our Libyan ambassador, Obama responded with a speech at the UN, in which he stated, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Appointment of anti-Semites to high government positions: Obama just appointed a Muslim leader who blames Israel for the 9/11 attacks to serve as US delegate to a Warsaw human rights conference. Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), openly supports Hizbollah and Hamas. Al-Marayati is only the latest of Obama officials hostile to Israel, including foreign policy advisor Samantha Power and UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

Obama’s long association with anti-Semites: Obama spent 20 years in the Chicago church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who maintains, “The state of Israel is an illegal, genocidal…place.” Obama’s biggest contributor is George Soros, who is a prime funder of anti-Israel NGOs. And Obama’s close association with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is still being kept under wraps by the Los Angeles Times, which refuses to release a video of a reportedly inflammatory toast to Khalidi by Obama at a 2003 dinner. Breitbart News is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with a copy of the tape.

Iran’s Growing Nuclear Capabilities: Obama has seemed more interested in deterring Israel from defending itself than in stopping Iran. His Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff explicitly stated he doesn’t want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran, implying such an attack would be criminal. Now counter-terrorism expert Reza Kahlili is reporting that Obama’s emissaries have struck a secret “October surprise” deal with Iran, in which Iran will announce a halt to their uranium enrichment, in order to enhance Obama’s presidential prospects. The deal reportedly was negotiated in Qatar with former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velyati, who’s wanted by Argentina for the Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people. If Obama has lost the trust of Jewish voters, they may not dismiss these reports as completely impossible.

That’s a very long and compelling list.  Long and compelling enough to see a usually reliable demographic begin to seriously question their support for the incumbent.

And other reliable demographics are either deserting Obama or just not very enthused about his re-election.

Indeed, what Obama is facing for the first time in his life is having to live up to his real performance.   No excuses.  No BS hype and pretending.  No Nobel prize his first day in office.  He is being judged on performance, merit and judgement.  He’s apparently being found less that adequate in all three by a huge part of America.

Add to that the fact that he seems to have no discernable plan to alter or correct his deficiencies or those of his administration and policies.  That’s probably because he doesn’t think he has any (remember, he thought he won the first debate).  How does one “change” if there’s nothing that needs changing?

So, all that being said, it is my opinion (again note the word) while reviewing the evidence at hand that the preference cascade we’ve talked about for months is beginning if not well underway.  Look for a lot of “whistling past the graveyard” as the Obama campaign and their surrogates downplay and ignore the gathering bad news.

But in the meantime, watch the indicators. At the least, they promise an excruciatingly tight vote.  And, if they say what I think they’re saying, Obama will be back in Chicago on January 21, 2013.

And what a mess the new president will inherit from him.

~McQ

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