Confidence and Confidence-Building Measures: Trump, Maudet and the Confidence Bank

“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible,” Trump boasted at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, during the 2016 presidential campaign. No matter what he did, Trump claimed, his followers would be loyal to him.

Lire la suite


Hubris On and Off the Court

The ancient Greeks used hubris to describe a personality of exaggerated pride or overconfidence. Often the hubristic person went so far as to challenge the gods, which inevitably led to that person’s downfall. The recent performance of Serena Williams at the U.S. Open and the exaggerated narrative of America’s greatness at John McCain’s funeral ceremony demonstrate how little we have learned from the past.

Lire la suite


Branding International Geneva

How many novels and movies have the villain stashing money in a secret Swiss account? How many references to dodgy bank transfers appear in James Bond movies? As Bond tells banker Lachaise in The World is Not Enough; “if you can’t trust a Swiss banker, what’s the world come to?” Although Ian Fleming began writing just after World War II, his portrayal of Switzerland as a haven for illegal funds continues to haunt Switzerland’s image.

Lire la suite


John McCain, the Unrepentant Warrior

The hero-worship of John McCain’s militarism misses the point that the Vietnam War was not World War II, and that individual heroism in the wrong cause cannot overcome the catastrophic errors of believing that might makes right. Physical bravery should not overshadow moral weakness. McCain’s military exploits deserve recognition only in so far as we do not forget the larger moral and political errors in which they took place.   

Lire la suite


Kofi Annan and Switzerland’s Decision on Nuclear Weapons: Moral Authority and Punching Above One’s Weight

Kofi Annan’s passing away Saturday touched many people. More than almost all his predecessors as secretary general of the United Nations, Annan was able to “radiate an aura of probity and authority,” according to the obituary in The New York Times International Edition. His moral authority stood despite scandals involving his son as well as his role as head of United Nations peacekeeping operations during catastrophes in Somalia, Rwanda and Srebrenica.  


Lire la suite


Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment

Fydor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment raises the complex problem of guilt. The hero, Rodion Raskolnikov, commits what seems to be the perfect crime but is torn by moral dilemmas. A poor student, he murders a pawnbroker for her money, a crime for which he could potentially justify his action. Luckily for him, the objective facts of his guilt are beyond verification; it is his internal feelings of guilt that finally led him to confess.  

Lire la suite


Locarno Film Festival and Extended Time

Accelerated time leaves little room for reflection. SMS and WhatApp keep us tuned in 24/7.  We are never behind or ahead; we are in the precise moment. Even international time zones have lost their meaning

Lire la suite


“All the News That’s Fit to Print” and an Idea to Save the Media

How many print newspapers do you read each day? Do you watch the evening news on television? On which station? These questions are more and more pertinent with the disappearance of local dailies and votes on how much citizens should pay for access to subsidized state radio and television.

Lire la suite


Battling Summertime Overload

So you think summertime is the season for rest and relaxation. What about last weekend? In no particular order: Finals of the World Cup? Wimbledon Championships finals? Tour de France? Trump’s summit with President Putin? In competition with the televising of these events, there was beautiful weather to lull on the beach, splash in the pool or walk in the mountains. (Notice no mention of following my beloved Yankees’ pursuit of the Red Sox or my forlorn Knicks outstanding performances in the NBA summer league. I’m trying to be proportional.)  How many people did all of the above last weekend?

Lire la suite


Multilateralism and its Discontents

Somewhere in a safely guarded desk in the White House or locked in a vault in a conservative think tank in Washington there is a list. The list has two columns. Paris climate change agreement: Check. Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): Check. Nuclear treaty with Iran: Check. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): Check. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Check. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): Check. Breast-feeding World Health Organization (WHO): Check.

Lire la suite


Is Roger Federer Being Unfaithful?

No, we don’t mean to question whether he is being unfaithful to Mirka or their four children. We have enough of those rumors with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and some of his predecessors. What we are questioning is Roger Federer’s sartorial choices. For those who haven’t noticed – being too busy watching the World Cup and basking in Swiss football’s moments of glory - Roger Federer is no longer being outfitted by Nike. 

Lire la suite


Shaqiri and Xhaka as Quantum Phenomenon

Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka were the stars of the recent 2-1 victory for the Swiss national team over Serbia in the World Cup on Friday in Kaliningrad. They scored the squad’s only goals. The precious victory placed the Swiss in an ideal position to advance to the next round of the prestigious tournament. But more than just soccer stars, the two demonstrated that what has been called “spooky action at a distance” can exist on the soccer pitch. They actualized one of the most counterintuitive aspects of quantum physics.

Lire la suite


A Day at the Fights: Valais Cows and International Relations

My favorite was number seventy-three. She had a certain dignity about her. When potential intruders approached her space, she gave off an aura of invincibility causing them to walk away. When potential enemies came too close, she chased them off with a simple flick of the neck. Those familiar to her stayed nearby, confident that if they were threatened she would come to their defense.
There was no question; number seventy-three was a natural leader.

Lire la suite


To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer

The soccer World Cup opened in Russia on June 14. The 32 competing national teams are hoping to lift the coveted trophy on July 15. Two hundred ten teams from six regional confederations vied to qualify for this global event. The last World Cup, in 2014, reached over three billion people through the media with more than one billion watching the final of the planet’s most popular and prestigious team competition.

Lire la suite


Globalists vs Tribalists: The False Debate Over Switzerland First

“Who should have the last word concerning laws within our country? Swiss citizens and the cantons or international organizations and foreign judges?” asked Roger Köppel of the right-wing People’s Party during a recent heated debate in the Swiss Parliament. “One puts the law of the European Union above our Constitution!” exclaimed a scandalized Hans-Ueli Vogt of the same party.

Lire la suite


Geneva’s Democratic Deficit

Each time there is a cantonal election in Geneva I am pleased and astonished at the system. It works. Ballots are sent out on time and eligible citizens can vote by mail, electronically or in person. Like a reputable Swiss watch, everything worked again this time. There were only minor complaints of irregularities. (I am still traumatized from the 2000 Bush vs. Gore Florida recount.) All this confirms Switzerland’s recognized position as an exemplary democracy.

Lire la suite


“J’accuse All Baby Boomers”

“It’s all your fault,” the Generation X 43-year-old scolded as she pointed her finger at me. “Holes in the ozone level, a crappy housing market, job insecurity, expensive college tuition, income inequality, lack of universal health care, derisory minimum wage, global insecurity, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, environmental degradation. And Harvey Weinstein.” She paused to catch her breath. She was just warming up. To her, the Baby Boomer generation, my generation, was the root cause of most, if not all, of the world’s problems.

Lire la suite


Of Babies, Marriages and Illiberal Democracies

Newspaper front pages are showing pictures of a royal baby and preparation for a royal wedding in one of the world’s oldest democracies while pertinent questions are being raised about the decline of democracy in Poland, Hungary, Austria and other countries. Why are people so fascinated by the birth of Louis Arthur and the marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in Great Britain at the same time we bemoan the rise of autocratic rule around the world?
Is there a relationship between fascination with royalty and the decline of democracy?
(Full disclosure: I have not been invited to the royal wedding or reception.)

Lire la suite


Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump: Why Should We Believe Either of Them?

In times of rapid change, what was true yesterday is not necessarily true today. For example, the leader of North Korea has threatened to wipe out Seoul and reduce it to rubble while the government of South Korea has confirmed it has a plan to assassinate President Kim Jong-un. Nonetheless, on April 26, 2018, amid lingering handshakes and embraces, the leaders of North and South Korea promised to establish “lasting peace” by formally ending the Korean War of 1950-53 which divided the peninsula 65 years ago.

Lire la suite


From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes

Much is and will be written comparing the student uprisings in the late 1960s in the United States and the current turmoil in some French universities. Like the nostalgia for the Cold War, the media is going back to what took place in the United States at a time when prestigious universities like Columbia and the University of California at Berkeley were shut down. Strikes by various unions accompanied and accompany the strikes in France so that, on the surface, comparisons between the late 1960s in the U.S. and 2018 in France seem to have some validity.

Lire la suite


Of Bombs and Ballots

The recent bombing of Syrian chemical facilities was much less “bomb them back into the Stone Age,” a cliché that has a history in United States threats against Vietnam, Pakistan and ISIS. It was a “surgical strike,” coordinated with Great Britain and France, against three suspected chemical weapons sites. At the same time over 100 missiles were launched in retaliation for the supposed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, Geneva citizens were voting for members of their government.


Lire la suite


The US and Russia: Back to the Familiar Cold War

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, continues to condemn the Russian Federation in the Security Council. Recently, she condemned Russia for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Previously, she had condemned Russia over spy poisoning in England, for its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine, and for the occupation of Crimea. Beyond the Security Council, details of systematic athletic doping have also sullied Russia’s image in the West.

Lire la suite


John Bolton: President Trump’s Newest “Adviser”

President Trump’s recently named national security adviser and I have several things in common. He is about my age, wears glasses, and has a mustache and white hair. We are also white males.
Other than that, we have nothing in common. (A dear friend says that at least I can smile once in a while.)

Lire la suite


Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: Is the Medium Really the Message?

The 1972 photo of a young girl running naked in Trang Bang screaming in pain from the effects of napalm had a profound influence on the public’s perception of the horrors of the Vietnam War. The 2015 photo of a three-year-old refugee boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey also had a profound influence of the public’s perception, this time on the desperate plight of millions of refugees. The images of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and Aylan Kurdi are iconic representations. Both capture larger stories; both images express powerful narratives. 

Lire la suite


Are Human Rights Truly Universal and Relevant Today?

The year 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1948. The 70th anniversary allows us to look back upon the origins of the Declaration as well as to make some observations on the status of human rights today.

Lire la suite