Le blog de Daniel Warner

  • Change, Mutation, Evolution and the Real End of History?

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    The latest pandemic threat, Omicron, raises contrasting theories. If change is inevitable, then the recent spat of viruses only reminds us that we were too comfortable in our previous lives. We should always expect some change. On the other hand, if Omicron is a mutation of a virus that came from a laboratory error, then there is nothing inevitable about the threat. Stuff not only happens, but we are also responsible for it. Finally, in the larger picture, we may be witnessing blowback for our hubristic way of life. Just like with climate change, the biosphere is telling us that we have gone too far.

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  • A U.S. Small Step for Womenkind

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    When Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the Moon on July 20, 1969, he said it was “One small step for a man, one giant leap forward for mankind.” The other day, after over 200 years, the United States of America finally had a female president. Although Kamala Harris’ term as president lasted only 1 hour and 25 minutes, it did mark a unique moment in American history.

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  • F.W. de Klerk: A Profile in Courage

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    Can people change? Can leaders radically change their countries’ policies? We all recognize the audacity of Richard Nixon in his opening to China. We also remember when Robert McNamara admitted years after the end of the Vietnam War that “We were wrong, very wrong.”  

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  • Geneva Impeachment: What Took Them So Long?

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    In late November, the citizens of Geneva will vote on a modification of its constitution concerning the possibility of removing from office a member of the cantonal executive. The procedure presented will be unique; when the constitution of Geneva was updated in 2012, no mention of impeachment was included. It was not included in any previous Geneva constitution.

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  • The Booster Dilemma

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    Swissmedic, the Swiss medicines regulator, has just given the green light for the third shot of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19. Available in mid-November, the boosters will target people over 65 who have already had two shots. The justification for the boosters is that evidence shows that immunity has lessened for those vaccinated many months ago; the risk of catching a severe form of Covid increases over time with the most vulnerable obviously at higher risk.

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  • Collective Responsibility and Our Moral Compass

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    It’s not easy to be further shocked these days when we are confronted with newspaper reports on: How up to 17 Christian missionaries, including five children, were kidnapped in the capital of Haiti while visiting an orphanage; the contents of a report estimating that 300,000 children in France were sexually abused within France’s Catholic church over the past 70 years; the ceremonies held in France commemorating the one year anniversary of the October 16, 2020, death of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded by an Islamist fanatic because he had allegedly shown his students Charlie Hebdo's 2012 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in an unflattering manner. I assume that each of these stories shocks. Each story is well outside legal limits and a traditional moral compass. 

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  • Anti-Vaxxers and Climate Change Deniers: Living in a Post-Fact World

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    How many people who are anti-vaxxers are also climate change deniers? Both anti-vaxxers and deniers raise serious questions about the role of science in our everyday lives. While facts confirm that people properly vaccinated have less chance of serious illness from Covid-19, and that scientific reports continue to confirm that we will be overwhelmed by climate change if we don’t change our behavior, there are still many people who continue to call into question vaccinations and climate dangers. 

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  • OO7: Licence to Kill?

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    Geneva is now flooded with advertisements for the latest James Bond movie, Mourir peut attendre (No Time to Die). On buses and on trains, on television and in the local newspapers, the 25th Bond film and the last starring Daniel Craig, has overwhelmed the city with its publicity. But how can one celebrate a hero such as Bond who has killed roughly 600 people throughout his cinematic career? From Geneva, the world’s center for the protection of human and humanitarian rights, one should ask the obvious question: Who gives James Bond a licence to kill? 

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  • Tone Deaf: Obama, Biden, AOC and the Swiss Purchase of F-35s

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    The dictionary defines tone deaf as “having or showing an obtuse insensitivity or lack of perception particularly in matters of public sentiment, opinion, or taste.” Four recent examples fit the definition perfectly: Obama’s 60th birthday party; President Biden’s jilting the French with a surprise submarine deal with Britain and Australia; AOC’s attending the posh Met Gala and the Swiss buying American fighter jets at a time of tension with their major trading partner, the European Union.

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  • Contradictory Cries for Freedom: Vaccinations and Abortions

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    The word “freedom” is being bantered about these days in different contexts. On the one hand, those opposed to mandatory vaccinations claim they have the freedom to be vaccinated or not. It’s their choice what to do with their bodies. The government cannot force them to be vaccinated; they are free to choose. On the other hand, many of the same people say that pregnant women cannot choose to have abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Their argument is that women’s choices should be limited by the government. In this case, the government can intervene; the women are not free to choose what to do with their bodies in the interest of the unborn.

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  • September 11, 2001 and True Heroes

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    The following is a translation of a speech I gave in French on September 11, 2021, at the Musée Departmental des Sapeurs-Pompiers de l’Ain in Gex on the occasion of the Exposition “Les Pompiers de New-York et les attentats du 11 septembre, 2001," which runs from June 5 to October 30.

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  • Past comments after September 11, 2001: What have we learned?

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    The United States and indeed most of the world is going through a process of shock, mourning and anger in reacting to the horrific events in New York and Washington. The anger includes calls for retaliation, and the elimination of terrorists and the governments that support them.

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  • Lessons from Afghanistan

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    Doesn’t everyone want to live in the United States? Don’t all tourists want to visit Disneyland? Don’t all students want to study at Harvard or Stanford? Don’t all actors want to star in Hollywood? Don’t all financiers want to work on Wall Street? Isn’t the American Dream universal? Well, maybe it’s not so in all of Afghanistan. 

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  • Taliban Vengeance and an Algerian Exception

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    Vengeance is in the air. The recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has caused fear and consternation among Afghans that the newly victorious fundamentalists will carry out reprisals against those who worked with the Americans and their western allies during the past 20 years. The Taliban are known for their intolerance of girls and women; they have also proven to be brutal towards their opposition and allied collaborators. The Kabul airport is a chaotic scene of those trying to flee. 

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  • The End of the Endless War

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    The hasty withdrawal of American troops and citizens from Afghanistan marks the end of the longest war in U.S. history. For 20 years, U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat, with the help of NATO and allies, have had a continued presence there. The mission evolved from reprisals and security to a form of undeclared nation building. Thousands of soldiers have been killed in the conflict, more than $83 billion dollars spent on material for the Afghan army and more than $1 trillion dollars wasted. (The Afghan army had over 300,000 soldiers outfitted and trained by the United States; the Taliban roughly 75,000 fighters).

     

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  • An Olympian Decision

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    The best story coming out of the Olympics did not make many headlines We have been overwhelmed by reports of national heroes who won medals as well as human stories such as U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles’ mental health issues or the Belarussian sprinter's request for political asylum in Poland. Most prominently, nationalist competition has been highlighted in charts that show which countries won the most medals, focusing on U.S. versus China as the world’s dominant sports power. But those are not the best story.

     

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  • Robert Moses: An Equal Rights Militant in a Land of Unfulfilled Promises

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    Robert Parris Moses died last week. He was a champion of civil rights through voter registration in the American South in the 1960s and later through his Algebra Project.  He was also my teacher.

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  • Would Jean-Jacques Rousseau Get Vaccinated?

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    In the name of liberty and inherent individual rights, many people are refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Demonstrators demonize political leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron who have the audacity to impose obligatory vaccinations. Government interference in citizens’ health choices is equated with fascism; anti-vax websites flourish, all prioritizing the right of the individual to choose versus society’s need for herd immunity. More than 80 million American adults are not vaccinated. 

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  • Letting Go: How Do Idols Say Good-Bye?

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    What can one say about a tennis player at the end of his career who loses to an inferior player on the sport’s biggest stage? Are you thinking of Roger Federer and his quarter-final loss to Hubert Hurkacz at this year’s Wimbledon? Are you still shocked at Roger’s losing in straight sets at his favorite tournament with a bagel (6-0) in the third set?

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  • The Joy of Sports

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    As the pandemic appears to be loosening and summer vacations approach, the joy of sports is essential to our new-found liberation.

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  • Biden’s European Tour: “The United States is Back” and the Limits of Nostalgia

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    Joe Biden opened his first foreign trip as president by announcing that the “United States is back.” What the president didn’t clarify was back where. The obvious answer is that the United States is returning to working with its allies. 

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  • “The United States is Back” and the Limits of Nostalgia

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    The Biden-Putin upcoming summit in Geneva is being compared to the ground breaking 1985 meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev. The circumstances surrounding the summits are very different. 2021 is not 1985. While there are tensions between the United States and Russia, we are not in the midst of a Cold War. The United States and Russia are important geopolitical players, but China is not at the table, nor are billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg or others whose wealth cannot be excluded in serious global negotiations. 

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  • Biden-Putin Summit and Swiss Hotel Diplomacy

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    International Geneva is abuzz with the announcement of a Biden-Putin summit during Joe Biden’s first trip outside the United States as president. After meetings of the G-7 in Cornwall, and NATO and the European Union in Brussels, Biden will come to the City of Calvin in mid- June to meet with the Russian president. The Geneva excitement harkens to memories of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985, which is considered a major step in the end of the Cold War. (Hopefully, it will not harken to the Hillary Clinton-Lavrov reset button failure in Geneva in 2009.) It also is a major victory for Geneva’s reputation as the Rome of multilateralism and Switzerland’s historic neutrality.

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  • Israel-Palestine and the Limits of Strategic Ambiguity

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    The United States has blocked a United Nations Security Council statement on the continuing violence. According to The Times of Israel, “the draft statement urged Israel to prevent the looming evictions of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and called for ‘restraint’ and respect for ‘the historic status quo at the holy sites,’ diplomats involved in the meeting confirmed. The original statement also urged both sides to act in order to de-escalate the situation, they said." The United States was the only member of the Security Council to block the statement. Any hope of a radical change from the Trumpian all-in backing of Israel is disappearing. 

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  • Is Joe Biden Schizophrenic?

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    Fully cognizant of the unofficial Goldwater Rule in the U.S. that “it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements,” I do find Joe Biden’s early administration to be schizophrenic.

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