Le blog de Daniel Warner

  • How Should Former Presidents Behave?

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    There is something disconcerting about watching former United States President Barack Obama being interviewed on French television to market his new book “A Promised Land.” Already the author of several best-sellers - publishing about one’s life seems to be a prerequisite for presidential candidates – Obama was all the literary figure during the interview on a book tour looking to justify the $65 million deal he and his wife had signed. The Obamas do have two daughters in expensive colleges, but ethical questions remain: How should former presidents behave? Should they profit from their prestige as the former highest elected public servant?

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  • Can multinationals be responsible?

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    As part of anger against the 1%, many of the 99% are turning against multinational corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. On November 29, the Swiss will vote on a referendum concerning corporate social responsibility.

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  • Voting Heroes

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    Pictures of U.S. citizens waiting in line for up to eight hours to vote in Georgia are stunning. Ordinary citizens, Mr. and Mrs. tout le monde, some sitting on folding chairs, many reading to pass the time, show a determination to cast ballots that deserves recognition and reflection. Recognition as Time magazine’s Citizens of the Year? Heroes for those worrying about the end of democracy in the United States? Proof that the common man voting remains the bedrock of liberal institutions? There are no signs of cynicism among them. No posters or posturing. They are simply people waiting in line to exercise their constitutional right to choose their representatives in Washington.

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  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

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    Moments of disruption always lead to nostalgia. If only we could go back to where we were before. Remember how free we were to socialize before the pandemic?  Remember what it was like not to wear masks in public places or scrub hands several times a day. And even further back: remember how easy it was to go to airports to board planes before September 11 and security checks?

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  • The Act of Voting and Democratic Deficiency

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    I recently voted by mail in Switzerland and the United States. Historically, less than half of registered Swiss voters actually vote, although the number was higher this time. In the United States, the percentage is slightly higher depending on whether the vote is for the president, vice-president and members of Congress or only for members of Congress in mid-term elections. In both Switzerland and the United States, supposed beacons of democracy, the percentage of eligible voters actually voting should be higher. Beyond the obvious analyses of the Swiss results on September 27 or the U.S results on November 4, there remains the question of why more people don’t vote.

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  • Watching Sports While the World Spins Out of Control

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    Confined and anxious because of the pandemic? Fearful for your home and having trouble breathing because of smoke from raging wildfires? Overwhelmed by high winds and floods because of Hurricane Sally?  Afraid to go out because of violent altercations between police and Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators? Worried that your partial employment checks will run out and that your job will disappear in the near future? Ashamed at how many child migrants your country will accept from the devastation on Lesbos? Distraught that Trump might win on November 3 and not sure if a Biden victory would make a significant difference?

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  • Wolves and immigrants: Votes expose our fears

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    I was once asked to give a talk on security in a town in the Swiss Alps. I began by telling how many locks I had on my door when I lived in New York.  I told stories about how fearful it was for me to ride the subways late at night. My stories were met with quizzical looks. Most people in the town didn’t lock their houses or cars. They had no subways. Two different worlds. 

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  • Basketball Plays Outside the Bubble

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    Professional sports are trying to function within the constraints of the coronavirus. The National Basketball Association, in a most novel solution, has tried to finish its interrupted season within a bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida. The remaining games have been played under strict supervision; the players have been in virtual lockdown. But the bubble has burst, and not because of the virus.

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  • Election Creative Destruction

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    For over 200 years the United States has had regular federal elections. In times of war, in times of economic hardship, there has been regular voting for presidents and members of Congress. This phenomenon – and it is a phenomenon – is unique. No other country can boast of having similar peaceful transfers of power over such a long period of time. If the heart of a democracy is voting and normal elections, the United States can be seen as a shining example of how the process should work, although there have been elections with dubious or contested results as my historian friend Matthew Stevenson loves to remind me.

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  • Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes

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    Anniversaries call for celebrations. The 75th anniversary of the United Nations was supposed to be the event of 2020 for the multilateral system. The list of scheduled events and publications is too long to mention. Should we celebrate? What is there to celebrate? A global pandemic with no multilateral response? Increasing economic and social inequality with little international leadership? Wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan? Growing U.S. – China tensions? Lack of progress on Sustainable Development Goals? World Trade Organization blocked? U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization?

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  • Departure of OSCE head a setback for dialogue and negotiation

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    Thomas Greminger's departure from the European security body shows that Swiss ideals of neutrality and humanitarianism are being challenged in the multilateral system. What is the difference between politics and neutrality/humanitarianism? Political theorist Michael Walzer, in a famous 1973 article titled “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” argued that getting one’s hands dirty in politics is inevitable. For Walzer, and many others, politicians and politics are fundamentally dirty. (We know that diplomats are jokingly referred to as honest people who are paid to lie for their country). Neutrality and humanitarianism, on the other hand, are supposed to be apolitical, hence clean and above the fray.

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  • Audacity and Hope in the Summer of Discontent

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    We are in the summer of discontent, overwhelmed by the pandemic, civil unrest and economic hardship. In what seems ages ago, Barack Obama talked of the audacity of hope. That audacity now appears as neither audacious nor hopeful. Obama’s “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” seem more like a nightmare than a dream. With the pandemic growing in many parts of the United States and the world, and with civil unrest increasing because of greater awareness of gross violations of human rights, that euphoria has long gone.
    Where is the audacity today? Where is the hope?

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  • To Mask or Not, That is the Question

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    On recent tram ride I ran into a friend who was not wearing a mask. When I asked him why not, he responded, “I had the virus. I have been tested for immunity and have a letter from doctors at the HUG saying I don’t have to wear a mask. I am a danger to no one.” Just as he finished his explanation, a passenger came up to him and berated him for “putting the lives of other people in danger.”

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  • Bike Lanes: Perspective and Proportionality

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    The brouhaha over temporary increased bike lanes in Geneva puzzles me. As someone who does not ride a bike or use a car to go to work, I have no dog in this fight. What I do see, and definitely hear, are vehement comments on both sides. Some say: “Traffic is piled up. We can’t get around Geneva to go to work without traffic jams.” Others comment: “The new lanes are encouraging people to use bikes instead of polluting cars. And, it makes it safer to bike around.”

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  • Mobilize, Organize, Legislate, and…

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    Millions marched across the United States in protest and celebration of Juneteenth on June 19. There have been localized million people marches, specifically in 1982 in New York for a nuclear freeze; in Washington D.C. in 1995 the Million Man March to “convey to the world a vastly different picture of the Black male;” the Million People March in the Philippines in 2013 to abolish the Pork Barrel fund, and the 2019 million people march in Santiago, Chile, to protest economic inequality.

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  • Is this the Big One?

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    San Francisco sits on the Hayward Fault. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed in 1906 by an earthquake. Los Angeles is near the San Andres Fault. A 2006 study found that a massive earthquake on the southern section of the Fault would cause significant damage throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles.

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  • Resilience

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    What does it mean to be resilient? As an individual? As a country? My father lived through the 1918 Spanish flu, the Great Depression and the Second World War, and retired as a successful school principal. The United States, which has had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, is witnessing unemployment rates not seen since the 1930s and is now going through protests and riots across the county resulting from one more police homicide.

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  • Who Got the Virus Right?

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    Now that Covid-19 seems to be receding, it’s time for second guessing to start judging how world leaders reacted. “Could have, should have” will fill the headlines in the next weeks. Ratings will come forth, there will be positive and negative ledgers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was perfect in New Zealand; Taiwan’s Vice-President reacted swiftly and effectively; Dr. Anthony Fauci became the darling of the Left in the United States. On the opposite side, Trump’s delays cost 36,000 lives. Brazilian President Bolsonaro and Russian leader Putin got it all wrong as did the health authority in Sweden whose bet on herd immunity does not appear to have paid off in the short run.

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  • The World Trade Organization and the Demise of Multilateralism

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    Seventy-five years after the creation of the United Nations in the wake of the Second World War, the recent resignation of the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo, does not bode well for the international trading system, multilateralism and International Geneva.

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  • Breadlines in Switzerland

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    “Switzerland Punches Above Its Weight” “The Small Alpine Country Is a Financial and Diplomatic Global Player” “Geneva is the Rome of Multilateralism” We have all heard and read these headlines. While not quite touted like the United States as the “indispensable nation,” Switzerland is often presented as something special.

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  • Covid 19: Who Do We Trust?

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    In God We Trust is the motto of the United States. It became official in 1957 as a counter to Soviet atheism and appears on all American paper currency. At this time of terrible uncertainty, most of us would not say that we trust God to make decisions for us. Most of us don’t pray when we decide about going out, wearing a mask, socializing, washing our hands, going to the dentist or going to the coiffeur.  At a time when we are overloaded with advice and information, who do we trust?

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  • COVID-19 Reveals Deep-Seated Inequalities

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    Among the many tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic have been startling revelations of glaring political, social and economic inequalities. For example: In the Geneva Observer, Djemila Carron and Paul O’Keefee describe the “overcrowded and difficult spaces” in certain refugee camps in Africa as well as the deficiencies of the humanitarian system for refugees. 

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  • Mathilda Cuomo vs. Peter Singer: Sympathy for the Old or Utilitarian Rational Decisions

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has presented several ethical dilemmas. Which country, state or canton should have first access to made-in-China masks? Stories abound that the United States paid cash three times the going price for masks ordered by France. If countries incrementally reopen, which stores or businesses should have priority? Children and schools? Which factories? And the list of tough ethical choices goes on. Officials from around the world are delicately balancing public health and business reopening.

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  • Donald Trump and the WHO: Predictable and Precarious

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    Should we be surprised at US President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization (WHO)? Not at all. It’s part of an attempt to distract and grab power, and his administration’s track record of anti-multilateralism is well known. But that doesn’t make it easy to swallow.

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  • Homage to a 21st Century Luddite

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    Social distancing has been a boom for electronic communication. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp have replaced the face-to-face. Amazon has replaced the local bookstore. Scrolling on a Kindle screen has replaced turning pages. Tuning in to teleteaching has replaced sitting in the classroom.  COVID-19 has forced us to use modern communication.

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