Doing business in California — NOT

[David Foster has again been kind enough to take seriously my request for guest blogger content. I wish more of you would. There's so much going on out there that, even if it weren't for my time constraints, I couldn't handle it all.]

A FOUNDRY SAYS FAREWELL

…to California.

For 60 years, Gregg Industries, a subsidiary of Neenah Enterprises, has run a foundry in a Los Angeles suburb. Employing 200 people, the foundry made components like engine and turbine casings, for companies like Honeywell and Caterpillar.

Last Wednesday, the plant closed down. It’s not because of a lack of business–the work will be moved to another Neenah facility, probably in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. Primary cause of the closure is continuing problems with local air quality regulators, who say the foundry violates standards on odor even after the expenditure of $3 million to mitigate the issue. But that’s not the only reason. “I think there are so many special interests in California, there is no common interest,” said Neehah CEO Bob Ostendorf. “It’s just a lot easier to do business on the electrical costs, lot easier to do business on the environmental costs, lot easier to do business on the quality of work-life costs (OSHA),” outside of California, he says. “I love the state, I love the people…but you sure as heck can’t do business here.”

Another company mentioned in the article is a much newer enterprise called Metalast, founded in 1993 and described as “a metal finishing company that has moved into “green” chemical solutions for companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing.” The writer observes that “these are exactly the kinds of jobs Governor Schwarzenegger has been touting as being California’s future.” But when Metalast wanted to expand and build, founder/CEO David Semas decided to move to Nevada. “Between taxes and traffic and just the bureaucratic red tape required to build a business or build a technology center, in California it would add three years to the process, as opposed to building the same kind of technical center here in Nevada.”

The Democrats talk a lot about saving “good manufacturing jobs,” but when it comes to maintaining an environment in which manufacturers can thrive, the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party–which now by far the dominant obstancle in that party–is usually the greatest obstacle.

I fear that the “progressives” are going to do to the country as a whole the same kind of damage hat has already been done to California.

link via ShopFloor

David Foster blogs at Photon Courier and also at Chicago Boyz.

Government views Americans as endless cash supply

I like the way Drudge tends to snapshot trends.  Here’s an interesting one, considering the looming deficits federal, state and local governments face:

What’s missing from the above list, of course, is CUTS.  Lawmakers are figuring out as hard and as fast as they can ways to drain more money from the taxpayers.  The one thing they seem incapable of doing, at any level, is cutting spending.  I’ve mentioned before that government is the only entity that, when deep in debt, can constantly demand more money instead of putting itself on a budget.  The above Drudge snapshot is a revealing insight into how we’re going to be sucked dry.  Government is busy trying to kill the taxpaying geese that lays golden economic eggs and, to switch sayings mid-sentence, once we’re dead, it will still try sucking monetary blood from taxpayer rocks.  Bleh!

Oh, to be in government

When I outspend my budget,* I have to make drastic cuts in my expenditures.  Sadly, I cannot march into my boss and announce that he must immediately give me a huge raise to cover the shortfall.  Fortunately for those in government, because they have the rare ability to boss around those who pay them, they can cover their shortfall, not by cutting waste (the government unions would never allow that), but by demanding a huge raise to cover the shortfall.  Hold on to your wallets, if you can, because 2009 is going to be a very costly year.

______________________________

*Just kidding.  Because I’m (a) frugal (some would say cheap) and (b) lucky enough that both Mr. Bookworm and I have stable incomes, I never outspend my budget.

Understanding government

I received the following in an email and I thought you’d enjoy these quotes too:

“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.”
-Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress…. But then, I repeat myself.
-Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity, is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
-Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
- George Bernard Shaw

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
-G. Gordon Liddy

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
-James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
-Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
-P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
-Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
-Ronald Reagan (1986)

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
-Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!
-P.J. O’Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
-Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!
-Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
-Mark Twain (1866 )

Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.
-Unknown

The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
-Ronald Reagan

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.
The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
-Winston Churchill

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
-Mark Twain

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong

Two anecdotes, and then I’ll get to my point (and the anecdotes do relate to that point):

Anecdote 1:  I get my medical care from Kaiser and feel that I get great care.  Within its four walls, Kaiser is an extremely efficiently run organization that takes surprisingly good care of vast numbers of people.  Kaiser has a weakness, though, and that’s outside contractors.  Here’s a story illustrating that problem:

Years ago, a doctor figured out that one of the contributing factors to my fairly chronic headaches was bruxism.  In plain English, I grind my teeth at night.  The treatment for bruxism is a plastic jaw guard that one wears at night.  Kaiser doesn’t (or didn’t then) make those guards itself.  Instead, I was given a prescription to take to a Kaiser-selected orthodontist, who would cast the mold and arrange for the guard.  Kaiser would pay for the orthodondist; I would pay for the cost of the jaw guard itself (which came from a separate lab).  I dutifully went along to the orthodondist.

My first visit, I said hello to the orthodondist.  Then, a a tech put a mold in my mouth, came back ten minutes later, and removed the mold.  That was it.  My second (and last visit), the tech fitted the jaw guard in my mouth, the orthodondist spent a couple of minutes making some adjustments, and I walked away with my jaw guard, never to see those people again.

I received a $210 bill for the jaw guard, which I promptly paid.  My records showed that Kaiser received a $750 bill for the orthodondic services, which it promptly paid.

While I was outraged that Kaiser would pay $750 for 20 minutes of time, Kaiser apparently didn’t care.  It had no idea, it seemed, what it was actually paying for, and made no effort to control outside costs.  I later learned that outside providers consider Kaiser an unending source of funds, since it will pay any bills, no matter how outrageous, without question — and keep sending Kaiser patients to the same outside provider.

Anecdote 2:  Lawyers are an unending source of mean-spirited jokes for the ordinary American.  Here, I’ve got a few:

Why didn’t the sharks eat the lawyer who fell off a ship?  Professional courtesy.

What’s the difference between a dead lawyer in the middle of the road and a dead armadillo in the middle of the road?  There are skid marks in front of the armadillo’s corpse.

What do you call 25 sky-diving lawyers?  Skeet.

I could go on, but I won’t.  It’s just too painful — and too unfair, because the problem really lies with the judges.

Our legal system (and by this, I’m referring to the adversarial trial system) is meant to be a clashing of two opponents.  It’s the crucible theory:  Each side in a case, armed with his lawyer, goes into court to do battle.  In the heat of the battle, the truth is supposed to emerge.  The lawyers have to follow procedural rules, they have to abide by the law, and they have to be honest with the court.

Even sticking with these rules, though, things can get out of hand.  I’ve seen $10,000 disputes mushroom into cases lasting years, with the attorney’s fees roaring into the high six digits.  In the heat of battle, the lawyers just pound away at each other.  Even though they’re supposed to be their client’s agents (cool professionals, if you will), they often start taking it personally, and use every bit of firepower legally available to them to attack.

Under those circumstances, there is one person uniquely well situated to bring the situation to heel:  The judge.  For those of you who are not lawyers, I cannot tell you how much power a judge has to control a case.  He can slap down ill-taken motions, sanction over-zealous lawyers (who may be technically correct but who have violated the spirit of good faith, reasonable litigation), and even throw lawyers in jail if they get completely out of hand.  Interestingly, few judges exercise these powers in cases run amok.  They just let things roll — because it really doesn’t affect them.

If Lawyer X and Lawyer Y aren’t fighting in the court, Lawyers A and B will be.  The judge sees his job as just ruling on any given motion before him, without bothering to take note of the fact that Lawyer X and Lawyer Y have each filed 15 really expensive motions over the deposition of a file clerk and that the case has become a runaway freight train, sucking up judicial resources and destroying people’s lives.  Judges are like circus ring masters in a cage full of fighting lions who put down their whips and just watch the show.  It is a complete abandonment of judicial responsibility (usually spelled out in statutes) calling for a judge to keep control of cases.

And lastly, before I get to the meat of my post, one old saying:  “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

What sparked these anecdotes is an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today entitled “Conservatives and their Carnival of Fraud,” by Thomas Frank.  In it, Frank points rightly to the fact that many private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan have committed fraud and to the fact that there have been vast cost overruns.  I don’t quarrel with those facts.  They are what they are.  However, it’s his conclusion to those facts that strikes me as just wrong:  He wants to have all those jobs handed right back to the government, something he hopes will happen instantly under an Obama presidency.

What Frank doesn’t realize is that the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan are less of a contractor failure and more of a complete government failure.  Handing a task over to someone else doesn’t mean that you lose responsibility for oversight.  Whether you’re Kaiser outsourcing jaw guards, or a judge responsible for lawyers complying with both the letter and the spirit of the law, if something goes wrong with the jawguard process or the case, it’s your fault.  You had the ultimate responsibility. There are always going to be lazy, inefficient or corrupt people taking on tasks.  It’s the overseer’s responsibility to quash those negative behaviors.

Here, I would certainly convene the task force that Frank demands to examine the corruption, but I would make sure government heads roll.  That is, I wouldn’t just look into punishing those contractors who committed out and out fraud, or those who simply took advantage of a lax system.  I would examine the myriad government failures that saw the government pay the piper, but utterly fail to call the tune.

And frankly, if the government isn’t even up to the task of watching someone else do the job, how can we possibly trust the government to do the job itself?  All that Frank has done is to highlight the government’s complete inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and failure to shoulder responsiblity.  I’d feel very uncomfortable giving it the even harder task of actually getting things done.

Your nanny state at work

The sign at the baseball game said “Mike’s Lemonade $7.00.” So, when Christopher Ratt asked his 7 year old son what drink he’d like, and the boy said Lemonade, Ratt ponied up the money. It was only later in the game that a security guard noticed the bottle in the boy’s hand and asked the father if he knew that it was an alcoholic beverage. The father did not (as I would not, although I would have probably already have checked the ingredients for artificial sugars, which I hate). From there, things got really, really ugly:

The 47-year-old academic says he wasn’t even aware alcoholic lemonade existed when he and Leo stopped at a concession stand on the way to their seats in Section 114.

“I’d never drunk it, never purchased it, never heard of it,” Ratte of Ann Arbor told me sheepishly last week. “And it’s certainly not what I expected when I ordered a lemonade for my 7-year-old.”

But it wasn’t until the top of the ninth inning that a Comerica Park security guard noticed the bottle in young Leo’s hand.

“You know this is an alcoholic beverage?” the guard asked the professor.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Ratte replied. He asked for the bottle, but the security guard snatched it before Ratte could examine the label.

An hour later, Ratte was being interviewed by a Detroit police officer at Children’s Hospital, where a physician at the Comerica Park clinic had dispatched Leo — by ambulance! — after a cursory exam.

Leo betrayed no symptoms of inebriation. But the physician and a police officer from the Comerica substation suggested the ER visit after the boy admitted he was feeling a little nauseated.

The Comerica cop estimated that Leo had drunk about 12 ounces of the hard lemonade, which is 5% alcohol. But an ER resident who drew Leo’s blood less than 90 minutes after he and his father were escorted from their seats detected no trace of alcohol.

“Completely normal appearing,” the resident wrote in his report, “… he is cleared to go home.”

But it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte’s wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.

And if you think nothing so ludicrous could happen to your family, maybe you should pay a little less attention to who’s getting booted from “Dancing with the Stars” and a little more to how the state agency responsible for protecting Michigan’s children is going about its work.

You can read the rest here and I can guarantee you that, by the time you’ve finished the article, little Leo won’t be the only one nauseated.

Hat tip: Earl

Government versus private business — and the dictatorship of one

In several posts over the last few days, I’ve commented about Disney efficiency.  Thousands of people are fairly painlessly shuffled from place to place; Fast Passes are a think of beauty, especially if individuals handle them well; everything is immaculately clean, including the overused bathrooms; the equipment functions superbly well considering the demands made upon it; and the people who work there are pleasant and handle their jobs with competence.  The whole place is a testament to corporate efficiency.  Many, however, think corporations are bad things (Obama, anyone?) and, if elected, assure us that they will see to it that the government will manage more and more aspects of our lives (healthcare, anyone?).

For those of you who think this liberal vision is a good thing, I’d like to give you a little example of how the government handles things, along with the added bonus of some insight into how disability advocates view society’s obligations to them:

Where else but San Francisco City Hall could a 10-foot-long wheelchair ramp wind up costing $1 million?

Thanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.

What’s more, the little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.

“It’s crazy,” admits Susan Mizner, director of the mayor’s Office on Disability. “But this is just the price of doing business in a historic building.”

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Tuesday that the issue went to the heart of liberal guilt that often drives the city’s decision making. He also choked on the price tag, and asked that the board take some more time to come up with an alternative, like maybe just getting rid of the president’s elevated seat.

The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled. The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.

The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible. But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.

City architect Tony Irons and representatives of the state Office of Historic Preservation – which had to be consulted to make sure the city was sensitive to the building’s designation as a state landmark – were called in to take measurements.

Then preservation architects from the San Francisco firm Page and Turnbill worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.

No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.

The ramp won, which means lowering the president’s desk, which means eliminating three of the “historic” stairs and tearing out Manchurian oak panels that are no longer available, which in turn will mean finding a historically correct replacement.

And because the ramp was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment, officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.

Here’s what else is going into the million-dollar ramp:

– $77,000 for the city’s Bureau of Architecture project manager, design and construction fees.

– $455,000 for the actual construction, plus asbestos removal.

– $28,000 for a construction scheduling consultant.

– $3,500 for an electrical consultant.

– $68,000 for the Bureau of Construction Management to oversee the construction and various consultants.

– $12,000 for Department of Technology and Information Services oversight.

– $16,500 for permits and fees. (Yes, believe it or not, the city charges itself.)

– And as much as $65,000 for bid overruns.

All for a total of: $1,123,000.

And counting.

The supervisors considered signing off on the work Tuesday but put it over for another week. Even if the board gives its final blessing, however, construction of the ramp won’t be completed before the end of the year – midway through Alioto-Pier’s second and final term.

“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million.  [Emphasis added plus this point:  One million in taxpayer money, that is.]

Incidentally, I am not unsympathetic to the hurdles the handicapped face in this world.  It’s also true that many handicapped access ramps and bathroom stalls extend an unexpected benefit to moms with strollers.  However, as I’ve blogged before, there has to be some cost/benefit analysis before we give over huge sums of public money, not to benefit all or most of the handicapped, but to benefit one person (as in Alioto-Pier, the only wheelchair bound supervisor ever) or, as is often the case with relentless bureaucratic initiatives, no persons at all.

The pursuit of happiness

Here it is, my first day back from a long-ish vacation, and I’m not finding any blogging inspiration in today’s news. Instead, it’s exactly the same stuff that was in the news when I left: unrest in Pakistan; Hillary’s free-fall; alleged campaign shenanigans from the Hillary camp aimed at the Obama camp; Obama’s problem with Israel and Jewish voters; student unrest in Iran, which is intriguing but, currently, ineffectual; and the usual bad CBS polls trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing Democratic candidates. Ho-hum. Boring. Rather than commenting on things as to which I’ve commented a hundred times before, therefore, I’ve decided to dust off some notes I made weeks ago about about happiness and government. Nothing I’ll say is new, but I still thinks it’s worth thinking about.

You all know, of course, these stirring words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Emphasis mine.)

Did you know, though, that California has a Constitution that grants to its citizens a distinctly different right when it comes to being happy? Here:

All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. (Emphasis mine.)

Although the words look similar (with “pursuit” and “happiness” showing up in both places in the same sentence), the meanings are spectacularly different. As I understand it, the Founders, with that simple phrase “the pursuit of Happiness,” were saying that Government cannot step in and regulate too closely the decisions that people make with their lives. Government cannot insist that you engage in a certain trade, or marry a specific person, or socialize only with a pre-determined group. Instead, government must stand back so that you can make those decisions about your life that you believe will lead to your greatest happiness. It is up to you (and fate, I guess) whether you do, in fact, achieve success in that pursuit, or whether happiness remains a chimera, forever out of your grasp.

In California, however, the government guarantees that you will not only pursue that happiness but that you will obtain it. The question then becomes, how does a state determine whether its citizens have obtained happiness? As Dennis Prager likes to say in his happiness hour, happiness can vary from minute to minute. When I’m blogging, I’m happy; when I’m folding laundry or summarizing really, really boring depositions, I’m probably not very happy. When I’m riding Soarin’, I’m happy; when I’m plunging backwards into the darkness on Expedition Everest, I’m probably not happy, just motion sick. And then there are those situations when I’m feeling both emotions, such as boredom about standing in line, coupled with happy expectation about the pleasure of an upcoming experience.

Clearly, unless the government has some probe stuck in my brain 24 hours a day, it’s going to be impossible to tell whether I’m obtaining that guaranteed happiness (and the probe would have a challenge when dealing with conflicting emotions). Additionally, since my happiness level probably averages out over a day, a week or month or even a year (with a preponderance of individual “happy” experiences determining whether I’m happy over an extended period of time), such a probe, even if it existed, would be useless.

Given the impossibility of monitoring every individual’s actual happiness quotient, the only thing left for the government to do is to define happiness and then force it on its citizens. A lot of governments, usually socialist or theocratic governments, have tried to do that. They’ve defined happiness in economic terms and in terms of an individual’s relationship to the state. In communist countries, you will be happy because the state has provided you with housing (no matter how abysmal); with food (no matter how unappetizing or limited); and employment (no matter how dangerous, demoralizing or dreary). In religious countries, the government forces you to live according to its religious dictates, and then declares that you are happy because it has enabled you to please God.  End of story.  The state has defined happiness and then provided it. That your wishes, inclinations and abilities might leave you feeling personally unhappy is irrelevant, because once a state guarantees happiness, it can no longer afford to let the individual provide the definition of what that happiness looks like.

As you probably expected, all of this talk is going to wrap around to encompass this year’s elections and the differing visions of the Left and the Right. Although compassionate conservatism shows bad signs of tipping over into guaranteeing happiness, conservative principles still hew closer to guaranteeing opportunities to pursue happiness. Thus, it holds a greater promise that government will provide security (both at home and abroad) and economic flexibility so as to enable people to do what they want to do.  In a weird inversion of the hippies’ promise, it is the conservatives that create the environment in which citizens can “follow their bliss.” Each citizen can define happiness as he wants, whether it’s where the person lives, what he does, how he spends his recreational time, who he chooses as friends, etc.

This is the same principle that appears in the conservative belief that people should have equality of opportunity, although the government (wisely) refuses to guarantee equality of outcome, or even a successful outcome. There was certainly no guarantee in the 1970s, when Steve Jobs was futzing about in a garage, or Bill Gates was dropping out of college, that either would be anything more than a long-haired loser. We benefited from the fact that the State was unable to force them to stay in school or use their skills toward particular forms of employment. Instead, they followed their dreams and, as luck and the capitalist system would have it, they and we reaped a profit from their efforts.

The Left, however, keeps scootching closer and closer to a situation in which government doesn’t create a petri dish within which we can cultivate our own happiness, but actually tries to define happiness. Two examples spring to mind, but I suspect that you can supply more. The first example is the promise of universal health care. The Democrats want to determine what constitutes quality health care for all Americans (what will guarantee us “medical happiness”) and then to bypass the market to impose that vision on all of us. There are a lot of problems with the government approach.

To begin with, as Britain and and Canada keep demonstrating over and over and over again with regard to health care, the government does not end up providing something that guarantees health happiness. Instead, it provides a bare minimum service that leaves a few people happy, and most people resigned to the scraps doled out to them. The rich, of course, opt out entirely.

Moreover, there are indications that not all people want health care. Studies show that, while there are people who are genuinely at economic health care risk (mostly the elderly), there are also people, well-to-do people, who make a conscious decision to opt out of obtaining health care that they could otherwise afford. They’ve clearly decided that the odds are that their health is good and that they can better pursue their happiness by putting their money with an entity other than an insurance company. A 25 year old guy may decide that he’d rather than have a BMW, which he knows will increase his chances with the ladies, than a Blue Cross policy he probably won’t use. He also knows that he will get health care if he needs it, since ERs are barred from turning people away, and he’s willing to take the risk of subsequent bills. This guy might be very unhappy if Hillary coerced him into turning over even more of his money to the government, leaving him healthy (as he probably would be anyway), but driving a used Hyundai — a car that is most decidedly not a chick-mobile.

The second example of the Left defining happiness occurs with Obama’s relentless calls for unity. First off, this assumes that people want unity. As for me, I feel that unity can turn into brainlessness, with people effortlessly coasting along in what may be a dangerous status quo. It is the vigor of the marketplace of ideas, the fact that different ideas rub up against each other and have to defend themselves, that creates energy and quality. If you don’t believe me, look at a government office that doesn’t face competition — it’s slack, a fact that’s very irritating to those people in the office who, by temperament, crave efficiency and effectiveness. People and institutions need rigor to keep themselves polished. (Rigor, of course, is not the same as horrible threats.)

Second, as the above argument indicates, the only way in which one can actually obtain this unity that Obama impliedly promises will make us all happy is for us all to think the same way. That is, unity exists only when everyone is in agreement. But, as with the happiness problem, how do we define agreement? In my family, we all liked Disney World, but I hated Expedition Everest, and my children loved it. Were we unified or not?

On the political side, Obama is careful not to define the unity he insists he is capable of providing, but I’m quite certain that, as with government guaranteed happiness, this promised unity can exist only if Obama can also define the issues about which we will be unified. And if you look at his perfect liberal voting record, the one that makes him the most liberal Senator in government today, I can promise you that his definition of unity (read: happiness) will not match your definition of unity. Indeed, it will probably match the definition of unity only in a few select communities, such as Berkeley, San Francisco, parts of Boston, Austin, and Manhattan.

Obama’s definition of unity won’t even match the ideas of all those African-Americans who now overwhelmingly support him. His idea of unity requires abortion on demand and no school vouchers — but most African-Americans, as Larry Elder reminds us in the wonderful Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card–and Lose are pro-Life and want vouchers. They’re unified behind his being black (aren’t identity politics wonderful?), but they actually don’t support some of his core policies.

Heck, as Elder points out, even Obama himself isn’t unified, playing the race card to black audiences and disavowing it to white audiences.  To make a very extreme analogy, in this he is reminiscent of the Arab spokesmen who speak peace to the West in English and, in the next breath, preach Jihad to the Muslims in Arabic.  The analogy goes even further in that, just as Western papers listen only to the English pronouncements from these death-seeking Muslims, so too do mainstream American papers listen only to Obama’s “race isn’t a problem” speeches, while assiduously ignoring his more inflammatory pronouncements and affiliations. When it comes to the press, Ostriches and monkeys, the cliched examples of avoidance, spring to mind.

The guarantee of happiness sounds like a wonderful thing.  Heck, we all want to be happy.  Before you get too excited, though, about the candidate who promises you that happiness (even if he phrases it in soporific terms of “unity”), think long and hard about what government-provided happiness really means.  It sounds great in theory, but history and current events show that, when it plays out in fact, they only happy people are the fat-cat bureaucrats who simultaneously define the happiness imposed upon us from on high and, usually, opt out of it themselves, preferring instead to pursue their own happiness.  As for me, I’d infinitely prefer living in a country where the government stands aside as much as possible, merely creating situations in which I can make those decisions I believe are most likely to provide me with the happiness I seek.