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Atma’s LA Voting Guide – 2012

A virtue driven analysis of election day options

What goes into choosing sides? To begin with it is important to acknowledge the need for opposing views. Debate and discourse on matters of societal importance are important. Deliberation provides the opportunity to strengthen good ideas and exposes weakness and flaws in the logic of bad ones. A robust exchange between philosophies that are left, right, and center is also a prophylactic to fascism and totalitarianism.

With that in mind how might one go about deciding what side they are on?

  • Should we side with those who have the most passion? Perhaps not since passion could be attributed to good acting and not necessarily wise counsel.
  • Should we go with what feels right? This is probably a bad idea since it assumes that our cultural conditioning, and the state of our nervous system (source of emotions) are the best arbitrators of political science. They are not and history has proven this (think National Socialist Workers Party, or Cultural Revolution).
  • Should we rely, as the cliché states, on the courage of our conviction? The problem with that is life is so complex and changes so quickly. This fast pace of changing life usually out paces the rate at which personal convictions can change.When we fall behind intellectually we are left with the irrational ideology of ‘believing in what I believe’; a very poor substitute for clear thinking.

In order to rise above all this we must in the words of William James, be dedicated to the obstinate pursuit of clear thinking. This is a multifaceted practice. It requires courage (which involves being comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing). Courage or fearlessness will allow you to question your assumptions. Assumption questioning is the super-human feat that breaks down barriers, spurs innovation, expands consciousness and empowers both the individual and the collective to succeed.

In evaluating the politicians and propositions I will combine face reading, game theory, and historical antecedents. Face reading is a means of arriving at a psychological diagnosis based on the way a subject has reacted and interacted emotionally with his or her environment.  Game theory is a method of studying strategic decision-making. Historical antecedents are a review of what has happened before in similar situations or with similar people. In this way I hope to build on psychological, logical and philosophical evidence.This is how I have attempted to evaluate the options facing my fellow Los Angelenos.

In addition to this I have used virtue as a standard for valuing the merit of an idea. This is not a black and white process. It is more like a hierarchy of ideas. Some ideas are better than others. So if you agree that compassion is a better idea than selfishness, honesty is a better idea than deception, and courage is a better idea than anxiety, you will most likely appreciate my suggestions. To put it another way, “It is the thinking person’s job to be on the side of the exploited.”

Atma’s Voting Guide –

United States President – ?!
In this case I cannot offer a suggestion between Barack and Romney. After evaluating them both against all standards of virtue they both fall way short of being likely to bring this country to its full potential and secure the rights  of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.  Although between the two Mr. Romney scored lower on most aspects of virtue (particularly in sincerity and compassion). Obama also failed on a number of points (he shouldn’t have killed innocent kids or diminished the rights of US citizens). Although he is the lesser of two evils, I cannot vote for him in good conscience.  Because I reside in California I can have the luxury of a protest vote (most likely will go to the Green or Peace and Freedom). For people living in swing states I understand they may not feel comfortable with that option. But California will certainly go blue.

U.S Senate – DIANNE FEINSTEIN
I’m not a huge fan, but her opponent is a flawed, inexperienced candidate with a very muddled thinking process.

Proposition 30 (taxes for education)  – YES
Whether this one passes or 38 passes the majority wins – it means more money for education

Proposition 31 (more power for bureaucrats) – NO
This one is a poor idea to increase government authority without insuring the best interests of all.

Proposition 32 (curbs political spending) – NO
This is too little-too late in the fight over business spending on politics. First we must undo the effect of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ disaster and then work our way down. This is simply an anti-union effort.

Proposition 33 C(car insurance discount) – NO
The car insurance industry scam. This is a most disingenuous plan to reform car insurance. It could also add a financial burden to young drivers, poor drivers, and new drivers.

Proposition 34 (death penalty) – YES
In a utopian society the death penalty could be a karmically justified. In these United States it is an instrument of injustice aimed at the poor, and the dark-skinned. California should drop it.

Proposition 35 (anti-human trafficking) – YES
Kind of hard to say no to this. I did take a look at the proposition and it is very poorly written and worded. Laws like this can become a slippery soap. But still… hard to say no.

Proposition 36 (fix the 3 strikes law) – YES
This was long over due. We do not want to live in a state where a person could be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a piece of pizza (it happened).

Proposition 37 – YES
My friends would all be upset if I said no to this. But I read the proposition and it is very poorly written, and will not fully accomplish what everyone promoting it is hoping for. Still, who wants to be on the same side as Monsanto.

Proposition 38 (higher taxes) – YES
Similar to prop 30, the money goes to schools, while this will not solve our educational and economic problems in California, it won’t make them worse. (If both props pass the one with the most votes goes forward, not both of them.)

Proposition 39  (the Amazon tax) – YES
This makes national companies that do business in CA pay up for the right. We deserve the money and it may help the local economy.

Proposition 40 (redistricting)  – YES
The issue was settled by the state supreme court, but you can still vote yes and send the message that a voter-approved citizens commission was a good idea.

US House District 33 – HENRY WAXMAN

Los Angeles County District Attorney – JACKIE LACEY
She is so much better a person than Alan Jackson.

LA County Measure A (county assessor) – NO
Let’s keep it democratic.

LA County Measure B (condoms for porn stars) – YES
If nothing else just to mess with an industry that degrades women and nurtures pedophillia

LA County Measure J (better metro/subways) – YES
The caveat here is that we also need a bill to ensure that bus riders would not be negatively affected by this bill

So there you have it. I am not doing this because you are not smart enough to figure it out for yourself. I am doing it because I thought you might like the benefit of my 25 years of analyzing politics, media, and policy making.(And maybe you were too lazy to do all the research 😉  next year start out earlier O,o)

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Obama does Osama

This is why I didn’t vote for Obama and why Hollywood scripts should not guide foreign policy

First two personal assertions:

1)      Barack Obama is not the pathetic and intellectually incurious enabler of criminal doctrine that his predecessor G.W. Bush was. And he is certainly not the dark and Machiavellian spook that Bush senior was.  Cleary Obama is more affable and intellectually competent than GW.

Consequently, I prefer him over Bush the way I prefer a cautious panther to a rabid hyena. In other words, I find Obama potentially dangerous, albeit more reserved. After all in voting record and substantive policy practices Obama is not widely different from his predecessors. And he is arguably not bucking the status quo and putting us on a more humane and compassionate path.

2)      Neither this article nor any of my convictions have a disparaging attitude against soldiers who risk their lives to protect the lives of the innocent. It has always been my hope to use my research and work in industrial psychology and stress management to support and improve the way in which the warrior class is trained up. A class I believe will always be needed even in the best of times. But there are rules to war  and the way we abide by them defines us as people.

That said I can make the unpopular suggestion that the raid against Osama Bin Laden is nothing to cheer about. Yes, he was a bad man. Yes he deserved to be punished for exploiting religion to justify violence and murder. But there is a reason why we don’t approve of other governments illegally assassinating unpopular personalities. It is because contrary to the hormonally stimulating depictions in many Hollywood films, we as Americans (at least an overwhelming majority of us) do NOT believe in the doctrine that might makes right.  We want to be the land of the free, not the home of the Stasi or the KGB.

Each time we surrender to the emotionally appealing but ethically destructive lure of the ‘might makes right’ mentality, we take a step on to a slippery slope that ends in the destruction of the humane and uplifting fabric that if not in practice at least in principle has always been our defining value as country.

The concept that might makes right is central to any totalitarian regime and anathema to the land of they who would be free. It is the foundation of all racist movements and almost always leads to oppression and then genocide.

What makes us strong and free is our ability to be just and fair by resisting the emotionally easy displays of violence as a means to solve our problems. Destroying your enemies is understandable.  Destroying your enemies without becoming them is venerable.   This is why we win when we put off revenge for justice, and overcome rage with wisdom.

Remember we were the country that put off Stalin’s show trials and Churchill’s summary executions and brought the perpetrators of the Nazi regime to stand relatively bona fide trial in the city of Nuremberg. We set an important standard in that era, we were not afraid to be better than our enemies.

When we rally around the simplistic devices of a Hollywood action film as a means for assuaging our political fears we do not become stronger, braver or freer. Instead we are diminished; reduced to cowering animals that lash out at what they fear. Courage requires compassion or else it becomes just a subterfuge for despotism. This is why assassinating Osama was wrong and capturing him would have been the far more American thing to do.

As a people we should remember that (at least) philosophically we have always championed the opposite of might makes right. We are Americans and we have a duty to be the best example of all the important virtues; courage, kindness, and wisdom.

As Abe Lincoln said, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it”

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