30/01/2012

I Prefer Tennis to Politics

Two heavyweight competitions have and are taking place. The match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the finals of the Australian Open was breathtaking in intensity, physical endurance and tennis mastery. For close to six hours, the two battled in a fashion unseen in the history of tennis. What a pleasure to watch, what a tribute to sports.

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25/01/2012

Still Sister Republics ?

The revelation that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a Swiss bank account has once again raised the specter of Switzerland's U.S. image as a place for rich Americans to hide their money.

The former Governor of Massachusetts' posting of his tax forms not only indicated great wealth, suddenly a sin in a country where rags to riches has always been part of the American dream, but, even, worse, the manner in which he placed his money further tarnishes his image. First, he was accused of working for Bain Capital and firing people instead of creating jobs.

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19/01/2012

Hldebrand, Muller: The Public/Private Divide and Inclusion/Exclusion

Two recent events in Switzerland highlight its specificity as well as the difficulty in navigating between two distinctive poles. The resignation of Philipp Hildebrand as President of the Swiss National Bank made headlines around the world. In essence, while he did not break a specific rule, he admitted to a certain moral error in judgment concerning his private banking affairs. In a larger sense, the question raised is the relationship between his private life and his public function. Whereas in the United States public figures are subject to intense scrutiny by the press, Swiss journalists go out of their way to respect privacy.

In this specific case, Hildebrand  and/or his wife was/were accused of using his public position for personal profit. Surprisingly, for the moment, Switzerland does not require public figures like Hildebrand to put their resources in a blind trust just as local politicians are not supposed to vote on issues related to their outside professional work. The private life of a very public figure was opened to national examination.

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12/01/2012

The Thrill is Gone: The 2012 U.S. Presidential Election

My friends in the financial sector keep reminding me that history is the last 15 seconds on the Reuters screen. And I am aware that we are living in accelerated time. However, a short reflection on the presidential campaign of 2008 compared to where we are today is not without interest.

On the Democratic Party side, the primaries between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were riveting. A most qualified woman, former First Lady and New York Senator was battling a dynamic, articulate African-American. History was being challenged. If either got the nomination, if either won the presidency, history would be made and a new era would begin in the United States. A sense of excitement was palpable; a transformation was taking place; the young and many of the disenfranchised were energized.

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03/01/2012

Let the Games Begin

"Let the games begin" is an expression usually associated with the Olympic Games. However, it might also be used for the United States primary season. The Republican primaries began on Tuesday with 6 Republicans competing in the Iowa primary to be followed on January 10 in New Hampshire. More than 1,700 local caucuses will be held on Tuesday in a state with a population of 3 million and 6 electoral votes, 1.1% of the total electoral votes.

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