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Archive for the ‘people’ Category

I often write about politicians running for office but I am rarely really excited about any of them. (When I say really excited, I mean excited enough to donate serious money, and passionately hope, and perhaps volunteer, and do everything else I can to help them win.)

A little clarification here: I am talking of serious politicians here, not someone who is eloquent and thoughtful but with no political skills or chance of winning.

With that prologue, let me talk of Gary Johnson.

He is a serious politician. He was twice elected governor of New Mexico where he, by all accounts, did an excellent job and still enjoys remarkable popularity in that state. He is a republican in the Ron Paul libertarian mould, only much better, for unlike Paul, he is also pro-immigration and pro-choice. He is as libertarian as a mainstream American politician can get.

According to insiders, he is  running for President in 2012.

Now, I am a guy who knows both probabilities and American politics very well — I won about $500 over the last few months betting on various outcomes of the midterm elections on the futures market site Intrade — and Gary Johnson, plainly speaking, is very very unlikely to win. But yet his win, while very very unlikely, is not so unlikely as to not excite me. And besides, the thought of him winning even one primary, and possibly being on a nationally televised debate with the rest of the lot excites me. I mean really, really excites me.

Here’s a very nice profile of Gary Johnson at the New Republic.

An excerpt from the article linked above:

Ask about church, and he says he doesn’t go. “Do you believe in Jesus?” I ask. “I believe he lived,” he replies with a smile. Ask about shifts in position, and he owns up to one. “I changed my mind on the death penalty,” he tells me. “Naïvely, I really didn’t think the government made mistakes.” Ask about his voting history, and he volunteers (without regrets) that he cast his first presidential ballot for George McGovern (“because of the war”). Ask about his longstanding support for marijuana legalization, and he recalls the joy of his pot-smoking days. “I never exhaled,” he says. (An avid athlete, Johnson forswore marijuana and alcohol decades ago when he realized they were hurting his ski times and rock-climbing ability.)

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Whatever you think about Obama — and he is not very popular these days — the fact remains that he is one of the most talented politicians of our age. At his best, he gives a heck of a speech, he is undoubtedly intelligent and thoughtful, and while I disagree with most of his policies, he did inspire a lot of hope and passion during his amazing  — and succesful — campaign for the Presidency two years ago.

When I see Marco Rubio, I see the same qualities that Obama has — charisma, charm, a great personal story, and an excellent speaker. He is the star of this mid-term election. He will be a senator in 5 days. And I believe he will become President within the next ten years. Mark my words.

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I have written derisively about Michael Bloomberg on this blog before. His positions on various issues are patronising, insulting and completely antithetical to individual freedom.

Yet, there’s one topical issue where his strong stand has won my wholehearted admiration — it is this one. It takes courage to stand up for your principles even when doing so is deeply unpopular, and in the last couple of months Bloomberg has shown he possesses both courage and certain right principles.

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I was surfing the web aimlessly when I came across this sad news:

Swedish mountaineer and professional skier Fredrik Ericsson died Friday while trying to summit K2 in Pakistan, his friend David Schipper told CNN in a telephone interview.

The incident occurred between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. as Ericsson was attempting to become the first man to ski from the summit to base camp, said Schipper, who said he learned of the accident on the world’s second-tallest peak in a satellite call from fellow climber Fabrizio Zangrilli.

[…]

Ericsson, along with his climbing partners Trey Cook and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, had begun the summit push between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. in low-visibility weather.

After several hours of climbing, they approached the bottom of the bottleneck. At this point, Cook returned to Camp 4, leaving Kaltenbrunner and Ericsson to continue their ascent.

As Ericsson was attempting to fix ropes to the snow and ice along the route he “lost his purchase and was unable to arrest his fall,” Schipper said.

Ericsson’s body, resting at about 7,000 meters, will remain where it fell, Schipper said on Ericsson’s website.

“His parents have requested it remain in the mountains he loved,” he wrote. “Retrieval would be exceptionally dangerous.”

Such incidents are of course not uncommon — many climbers die similarly each year.  The comment thread to this news report was also fairly predictable. One user wrote: I never understood poeple that would do a suicidal activity then call it sport! Another was full of scathing sarcasm: At least he died for a cause. Oh thats right he didn’t!

But what really caught my eye was one particular comment that I post below. It was in response to the derisive “Oh that’s right he didn’t” comment, and it is the reason why I am writing this post. It expresses exactly what I feel about such activities and says all that’s needs to be said to those who don’t get it.

“He didn’t even die for a cause”…

Yes he did; he died doing what he loved. He died pushing himself to his personal limits. He was in better shape than all of you combined. He didn’t rant on web sites, he was living life to the fullest for… (God forbid), HIMSELF. How many of you will die for a “cause”?

Ericsson isn’t a martyr. He isn’t a hero. He is just a man who went ahead and pursued his particular passion. How would the world look like if everyone else did the same?

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This is probably the best article that I have read so far on the Woods affair.

Whether you choose to have one partner or many, it is crucial that you invest in their emotional well-being if you care for your own. And try to be as honest as possible. Not just for their sakes, but for yours too.

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(Post edited)

Since Sharon’s death [Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate was murdered] … and despite all appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete.In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon’s murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd.

I still go through the motions of being a professional entertainer… but I know in my heart of hearts that the spirit of laughter has deserted me. It isn’t just that success has left me jaded or that I’ve been soured by tragedy and by my own follies. I seem to be toiling to no discernible purpose. I feel I’ve lost the right to innocence, to a pure appreciation of life’s pleasures. My childish gullibility and loyalty to my friends have cost me dear, not least in my relations with the press, but my growing wariness has been just as self-destructive.

I am widely regarded, I know, as an evil, profligate dwarf. My friends–and the women in my life–know better.

The last page from Roman Polanski’s autobiography, which I happened to re-read last night.

(But then, those who know only tangentially about Polanski have perhaps been looking at my last few posts with the same kind of bewildered skepticism that I have when I see intelligent people believing in God, or astrology, or communism.)

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Many of those who believe Polanski forcibly raped Geimer rely on the Grand Jury testimony as their primary piece of supporting evidence. So I think it would be nice to also take a look at the actual probation report, made at the time of the incident, by Santa Monica deputy Irwin Gold. The whole report — which recommended no jail time — is here. I would like to quote a couple of relevant portions:

Neither the mother nor the doctor are in any vindictive. They have asked for a demonstration of remorse and have requested the defendant not to be incarcerated.

[…] Neither doctor has found the defendant to be a mentally disordered sex offender. Dr. Markman has indicated that the present offense was neither a forceful nor an aggressive sexual act.

[…] There was some indication that circumstances were provocative, that there was some permissiveness by the mother, that the victim was not only physically mature but willing; as one doctor has additionally suggested there was the lack of coercion by the defendant, who was additionally, solicitous regarding the possibility of pregnancy. It is believed that incalculable emotional damage could result from incarcerating the defendant whose own life has been a seemingly unending series of punishments.

Not that this report should be viewed as necessarily the whole truth; I just ask those who condemn him that they take into account all the pieces of evidence available  from the time before reaching a conclusion.

***

I would also like to say a few words about  how I generally form credibility notions about people I have not met or do not know personally. This is less of an explanation and more of a personal note.

A commenter to my previous post on the Polanski arrest implies that it is hasty and unwise to make conclusions about personal credibility from other areas. I agree, generally. There are a lot of people whose work I admire. I love every movie made by Quentin Tarantino. Would I make any claim to knowing him? No. Ditto for Kubrick, Copolla or any of those many other people who I have immense regard for.

But there’s high admiration and there’s feeling that a certain piece of work speaks to you in that indefinable way– where the boundaries between art and life get blurry, where you think you could have made this piece of work, had you enough talent.

Let me put down a few pieces of work that belong to this rare category, which I will refer to as identification. Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead”. Hardy’s “A Mathematician’s apology”. Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gastby.” And yes,  most of Polanski’s movies, most notably “Bitter Moon”, “Knife in the water” and “Rosemary’s baby.”

But even that does not necessarily translate into my apportioning credibility into other areas.

I identify with Hardy’s view of mathematics. But I would never claim to know him on the personal, sexual or political plane. I would never claim to speak for Rand’s view of mathematical logic, even though I know a great deal about her thoughts on those matters, or about her sexual integrity, even though the sex/SM description in “The Fountainhead” (Dominique wants Howard, yet purposely resists with all her strength and makes him conquer her) is one of my favourite passages. Nor would I claim to speak for Fitzgerald’s integrity on anything except dreams.

And it would be foolish if I did. Even with identification acquired from creations, this identification should be restricted to only those aspects of the creator which those creations tell you significantly about.

But I say that I trust Polanski when he says he didn’t coerce sex on that girl. Why do I make such a claim?

First of all, as I have already mentioned, it isn’t just that I deeply admire his work. It’s that I see things in them that I think most do not. For I identify. And that allows me to get a glimpse of some aspects of his psyche in a peculiarly strong way.

But it is not just his work. It is also his autobiography, which, whatever else one can say about it, is one of the most harrowingly honest things ever written. It also sheds an immense amount of further light on his thinking on many of these subjects.

Even with all this, I would not claim to know Polanski completely. I just claim to know some things about him that are related to sexual matters, to his vision of evil and innocence and domination, and to his personal integrity. As I mentioned, this is a composite of both knowing and identifying with his work, and to reading his memoir.

So yes, credibility in work does not necessarily translate to credibility in other arenas. But in Polanski’s case, and restricted to this particular incident, it does for me.

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