“You’re Fired!” President Trump Dismisses F.B.I. Director James Comey

We have now passed the 100 day mark in Donald Trump’s presidency. If there has been one outstanding feature of this period, it has been the inconsistencies of the 45th United States president. One day Taiwan is important, soon after he announces no change in the United States’ One China Policy. For a while, Russian President Putin was a potential ally; soon after President Trump appointed advisors who are strongly anti-Russian. Trump has also retreated from his position on NATO. In January he said that NATO was “obsolete.” A couple of weeks later, the White House confirmed that Trump will attend a NATO summit in May. Campaign Trump threatened import duties on China and on Mexico. He said that on his first day in office, he would designate China as a currency manipulator. These things didn’t happen.

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Macron, Sanders and Trump: Is the Party Over?

Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election. Not only is he the youngest French president ever elected, but he was able to create his own political party – La République En Marche! – to defeat the traditional left and right French power structures. Similar to the success in the U.S. presidential primaries of the independent Bernie Sanders and to some extent Donald Trump in the general election, Macron’s win is further evidence of the decline of historical party organizations.

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How Free Is Our Speech?

Richard Falk and Ann Coulter have had their speeches cancelled at major universities. The freedom to speak our minds is one of the cornerstones of liberal democracies. But that freedom has its limits. We know we cannot shout fire in a crowded movie theatre. We know we cannot incite people to violence. We know we cannot purposely tell lies about someone or print racist invectives. What we can and cannot say has been circumscribed by the law.

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“Vive La France, Vive La République” “God Bless America”

The French presidential race is now down to two candidates. On the evening of the final selection, the winners and losers addressed their supporters and the television audience. Almost all of them concluded their remarks by saying: “Vive La France, Vive La République.”

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Negotiating With a an Enemy

My friend Verlon taught me many lessons. One of the most interesting was how he and his wife negotiated. Each Sunday evening they would sit down to divide up the household chores such as shopping, cleaning and cooking for the coming week. Each chore had a coefficient. Each week they would negotiate who would do what on the basis of time and availability. Each week they would come up with a satisfactory list of how the household chores would be done with similar totals for each.


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The Uber President

Donald Trump’s first 100 days as the 45th president of the United States are fast approaching. He continues to fascinate, startle and amaze. He orders the bombing of Syrian aircraft, dines with the president of China and welcomes a new Supreme Court justice all in 24 hours. A whirlwind of activity by a true multitasker.

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Roger the Liberated

Roger Federer is a phenomenon. He has won more Grand Slam tournaments than any male tennis player in history. He has won the Davis Cup; he has an Olympic gold medal. And at 35, he won the last Grand Slam in January in Australia after a six month layoff and the two major non-Grand Slam tournaments this year. He has 91 tournament victories after Sunday’s win in Miami. All this is phenomenal. He also appears a devoted husband and father. He is a true role model in addition to his tennis prowess.

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Expertise and Its Discontent

When my friends refer to me as “Doctor Warner,” I know I am in trouble. They are mocking my Ph.D. Indeed, democracies are based on the equality of citizens. Each qualified person has the same vote whether or not they have degrees in political science, listen to the news or read several newspapers a day. My friends are gently reminding me that “one man, one vote” means just that. We are all equal.

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The Passing of Jimmy Breslin

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin died last week. Berry, an icon of rock ‘n roll, was globally known for hits like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” He was the first true rock ’n’ roll superstar. Breslin was a superstar to New Yorkers, especially to those who looked forward to reading his byline to find out what was behind the news. He was also idolized by fellow writers.

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Are Human Rights Universal?

Do women’s rights mean the same thing in New York and Jeddah? Are individual rights a Western concept opposed by collective rights in Africa? Is advocating for human rights a form of hegemony by the United States and its allies? Why are economic, social and cultural rights prioritized by certain countries while civil and political rights are prioritized by others in spite of the fact that they are supposed to be interdependent?

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The Tweet Too Far?

Donald Trump likes to tweet. Donald Trump likes to attack. Like many New Yorkers, he believes that the best defense is to be offensive. He has attacked the media as “enemies of the people;” he has attacked the intelligence services. He has now attacked a former president, Barack Obama. And he did this in an early morning tweet.

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We Live in Interesting Times

A Chinese curse says “May he live in interesting times.” In a 1966 speech, Senator Robert F. Kennedy said: “Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” Are we living out the Chinese curse or are we living in “the most creative of any time in the history of mankind”?

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In Praise of Chaos Theory

The first weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have been exciting, to say the least. Veteran Senator John McCain described the White House as being a place where “nobody knows who’s in charge and nobody knows who’s setting policy.” The head of the military’s Special Operations Command said publicly: “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out because we’re a nation at war.”

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People Do Remember

Roger Federer gave us a brief respite from the Trump news, but the thrill of his victory will only last so long. Other memories will remain etched much longer because people do remember where and how people stood at certain moments. In spite of the fact that we live in a world of tweets, where history has been reduced to the last 15 seconds on a Reuters screen, there is a collective memory, at least for some. In special moments, what elected officials do can leave a lasting impression, even if it does not change the course of history.  

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The U.N., Trump and Cassandra

Under the radar in Geneva, but an ominous foreboding of things to come, a bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3 calling for the disengagement of the United States from the United Nations. The bill, H.R. 193 – known as American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 – has been referred for deliberations to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Trump/Obama and Being Critical

Donald Trump lives in the impulsive world of Twitter. While tweets do put him in closer contact with the general population, the Twitter world he favors is an uncritical sphere inhabited by those who have no critical capacity for levels of analysis. Watching him during his recent press conference was to watch someone with few powers of reflection. He does not weigh his words; he has instant reactions. He is not critical.


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Trying to Unravel the Russian Hacking Scandal

Influencing elections in foreign countries is part of power politics. While the recent Russian scandal involves hacking and modern devices, it does not change the basic idea of countries helping those they prefer get to power. In the most recent example of this tradition, the American intelligence community issued a declassified report on Russian intervention in the November U.S. presidential election. After leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency testified before Congress, the agencies released a report which said that “Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

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Roger’s Back

Trying to be positive in the cold, dark haze of snowless Geneva, anxiously anticipating the January 20th inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States and all that will follow, continuing to be overwhelmed by pictures of the carnage in Syria and the unfolding denial of hospitality towards those fleeing violence, shocked at random attacks against innocent people in the name of a religion that purports to be humane, one searches for momentary relief and reasons to smile as 2017 begins.

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The Commodification of Politics

The object of capitalism is the accumulation of capital. That’s obvious. What is not obvious is the relationship between an economic system and a political one. While capitalism may drive how countries organize their economies, political systems are supposed to be separate. Democracy and capitalism are not the same.

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Who’s at the Table?

With the Christmas season and New Year’s Eve upon us, you may feel particularly sensitive about invitations. Why was I not invited to this party? Why was so-and-so invited? In fact, although this is the season to be generous and altruistic, distinctions between insiders and outsiders cannot be ignored. Sending cards and inviting for festivities involve making choices. It is often intriguing to note who was not invited.

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“We Won.” Is it that Simple?

The dizzying unfolding of the post-November 8 election results in the United States continues. As the buildup to the Electoral College vote on December 19 approaches, there is uncertainty about how to react to the results. Grass-root protests, boycotts of the Inauguration and planned marches are in the works. Recounts in several states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, allegations of Russian hacking, condemnations of the C.I.A. by the President-elect, Clinton’s substantial popular vote majority, and Trump’s ethical conflicts of interest all contribute to this uncertainty not seen in presidential elections since George Bush v Al Gore in 2000.

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Can We Have Escalade More Often?

The Escalade race is said to represent “the best of the Spirit of Geneva…,” “Geneva at its highest,” according to Pierre Ruetschi in the Tribune of December 4. He wrote that 40,000 people running in numerous categories and a thousand volunteers all contributed to “a remarkable collective effort.”

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The Communication Gap

The recent votes for Brexit and Donald Trump as well as populist movements in Europe reflect an anti-globalization backlash. There is no question that rising unemployment and the technological revolution have caused insecurity. People are afraid for their jobs; millions are worried about the future. Many in democratic countries fear increasing instability.  

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November 8 Shocks and Aftershocks

The unexpected result of the November 8 election in the United States continues to have aftershocks. And they will continue for a long time. Just as the implosion of the Soviet Union, September 11, 2001 attacks and the Arab Spring changed world politics, the election of Donald Trump represents a transformative event.

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We Blew It

I admit it; I blew it. I was convinced that Hillary Clinton would win. The election of Donald Trump is the culmination of a series of mistakes by experts, media, pollsters, politicians and diplomats. In other words, the intellectual class got it all wrong. But not only did it get it wrong on this election, it also got it wrong in predicting the end of the Soviet Union and the Arab Spring. 0 for 3; in baseball terms three strikes means you’re out.

This demands serious reflection.

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