In Paris, the exuberant beauty and extravaganza that defines Fashion Week has been overshadowed by the shocking revelation of a rogue trader's 3.7 billion euro (about $7 billion) fraud at Societe Generale, France's second-largest bank. The fallout is just beginning!
A tragic loss
My husband was in Brussels yesterday, speaking at an European Parliament workshop. While he was on the train back to Paris, I turned on French television to find an unscheduled showing of Brokeback Mountain. Alas, I'd missed the first half, but I'd seen the film in the theatre in 2005. Watching last night I was reminded of what an extraordinarily-gifted actor Heath Ledger was. He should have won that Oscar! Ledger's death too young, too soon is of course heartbreaking for his family and friends. And his presence on our cinema screens will be missed by all who admired his amazing talent; his startling ability to virtually disappear into a role.
Politics as usual
You may have heard news from the McCain campaign in South Carolina that some voters were turned away when electronic voting machines failed and no paper ballots were available. With multiple failures of voting machines in recent elections, it appears paper ballots are the most fair and reliable. Sometimes simple is best.
Also, Rudy Guiliani's latest campaign ad really takes the biscuit, as the Brits say. The ad contains actual 9/11 footage.
I shudder to think of the despicable mud-slinging still ahead in the presidential campaign. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been playing old-style political games lately, forcing the issue of race and trying to distort and manipulate the truth about Barack Obama. They're resorting to the same dirty tricks and underhanded tactics they previously accused Republican opponents of using against them. One would think their time would be best spent extolling Hillary's plans for a better America, rather than wasting time and energy criticising an opponent. After all, the Clintons have made plenty of mistakes of their own.
It seems to me that Hillary - spurred on by Mark Penn, who runs her campaign by encouraging practiced statements, combined with deliberate Karl Rove-style attacks on her opponents - will do and say anything to get elected. Many Democrats, including Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, have criticised the Clintons' behaviour. Why doesn't Hillary just address the issues? She is losing my respect by playing fast and loose with the truth. Although I once was a Hillary fan, I voted for Edwards via absentee ballot in the California primary. And I'll be happy to vote for Obama, if he's the Democratic nominee in November.
Update Jan. 25 - Endorsing Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, the New York Times wrote: "As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton, who is often tagged as divisive, in part because of bitter feeling about her husband’s administration and the so-called permanent campaign. (Indeed, Bill Clinton’s overheated comments are feeding those resentments, and could do long-term damage to her candidacy if he continues this way.)"
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the millions expended on political campaign advertising - largely designed to muddy the waters with misleading allegations - were instead spent on worthy causes? I've mentioned previously that French presidential campaigns are run with each candidate receiving equal air time. Television advertising is forbidden.
Of course in the US, the advertising agencies and television stations would be up in arms at the thought of losing all that revenue. Sad that in most countries, political candidates trying to campaign without numerous financial backers don't stand a chance. It all comes down to money, doesn't it?
Those 935 lies
The Bush administration's 935 lies leading into the Iraq war have been catalogued by the Center for Public Integrity and Fund for Independence in Journalism:
"President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
"On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war."
The Associated Press reports that as of Jan. 23, 2008, at least 3,931 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget office said war funding cost American taxpayers about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rising to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007. President Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008.
The Bush administration's deliberate duplicity - and sheer incompetence - is breathtaking.