By Viktoria Rajnak
Photos by Viktoria Rajnak
In the heart of Geneva, well-hidden in a gorgeous inner courtyard, Le Baroque Restaurant just opened its doors. Its predecessor, Le Senso had a classic, Italian, conservative decor with white tablecloths.
It has been completely transformed into a contemporary club-like place.
The canapés are deep purple velour, along the wall hang heavy velour curtains, the lobby bar is covered in leather with metallic studs and the big hanging neon violet crowns light up the place and are reflected in the high ceiling. How pretty when the snow sits on the glass roof!
People surround this main bar, where the DJ mixes very well. I had dinner in the lobby, the calmer place of the two.
The main restaurant is a couple of shades darker, the music pumps louder, and you can expect to see people dancing.
The music caters for all tastes and so does the food.
The concept is festive dining, much like La Mangeoire in Courchevel, or Villa Romana in St Tropez.
This is where the pre-party is, and if you’re craving more, dancing continues at Le Baroque Club, just a stone throw away, until the early morning hours.
Viktoria Rajnak is a frequent contributor to GenevaLunch
By Matthew Stevenson
Photos, Matthew Stevenson
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Not since the 1960s, in particular the campaigns of John and Robert Kennedy, has the question of Appalachia determined the outcome of a presidential election. Then it was a backdrop for speaking about domestic poverty, educational failures, the importance of labor unions, and the sense that the Democratic party cared more for mine workers than the corporations that owned them. Now it counts more as a clue in crossword puzzles.
The political legacy
In 1960, when John Kennedy won the West Virginia primary (in this case his father was bootlegging the Scotch-Irish), it signaled his arrival as a serious national candidate.
To replay this era of good feeling, in 1968 Robert Kennedy held Senate hearings in the field around the themes of Appalachia’s downfall, equating the hardships of miners to the failures of the federal government to provide wage support, health care, retirement benefits, educational support, and help for impoverished women with children. He contrasted its neglect against the waste in Vietnam.
In February 1968, Robert Kennedy went to Whitesburg, Kentucky, where he met with the best-selling author, Harry M. Caudill. His 1963 book about Appalachia, Night Comes to the Cumberlands, had enlightened JFK and the nation at large about the depressed coal regions of Appalachia, which were shown to have powered, but then missed out on, the American dream. He wrote: “Coal has always cursed the land in which it lies.”
Admiring both John and Robert Kennedy (meeting the latter while in the eighth grade), I read Night Comes to the Cumberlands as a senior in high school. When it came time to select a topic for independent study near graduation, I chose the coalfields of Appalachia, even though I had grown up in suburban New York.
As part of the research, my friend Kevin Glynn and I spent ten days riding the train and hitchhiking across West Virginia, to understand better what the Kennedys and Caudill were saying.
We followed the line of the Baltimore & Ohio as it headed northwest from Washington, D.C. and made stops in Grafton, Clarksburg, and Fairmont before turning north for the steel mills around Wheeling and Weirton.
We spent our nights in station hotels, guest houses, and even the city jail in Hundred, WVA, where the sheriff kindly offered us the only spare beds in town (after beating us at pool in the local bar).
Until recently I had not traveled again in Appalachia. This time, instead of boarding a tired day coach in Washington’s Union Station, I drove a rental car south by southwest, toward the coal counties of southwest Virginia (evocatively named Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Lee, Tazewell, and Wise). In particular I was following a freight line of the Norfolk Southern railway that ran through Rural Retreat.
The New York photographer O. Winston Link took some of the best photographs of Appalachia in the late 1950s, including several around the station of Rural Retreat, which lies in the valley near some of the grittiest coal seams in America.
A legacy of the region’s sense of cultural independence
Although Link was there to capture the last days of American steam engines, his black-and-white pictures are a legacy of the region’s sense of cultural independence, the belief that somehow Appalachia belongs more to itself and its inhabitants than to some larger government entity.
Nearby, the aptly named Dante, Virginia was just one of the hollows where I took stock of the fact that bituminous coal no longer makes anyone’s shortlist of fuels that would allow America to run on alternative energy. Much American coal now gets shipped to foreign markets that have more lax environmental regulation.
Whoever named the town had a sense of literature and irony for the town is a circle of depression along a narrow, dark valley of the Clinch River. It was once the headquarters of the Clinchfield Coal Company and is now as forgotten as the tender on an abandoned steam engine.
From Dante, I crossed the Appalachian Plateau at Pound Gap, not unlike the Cumberland Gap, but farther north and celebrated for the Civil War battle in which a future president, James A. Garfield, helped to push Confederate forces out of Kentucky.
Down the hill from Pound Gap is the town of Whitesburg, KY, where Caudill wrote his books and where Robert Kennedy campaigned in 1968. When not writing or in the state legislature, Caudill was a local lawyer. Perhaps his engaging personality and sense of injustice can be glimpsed in the fictional persona of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Not knowing anyone in Whitesburg, a mixture of sad-looking storefronts and small houses, I headed for the Harry M. Caudill Memorial Library, hoping that a local librarian could steer me toward his house or tell me more about Robert Kennedy’s visit.
I found the staff willing to pull manuscripts and clippings that Caudill had donated to the library before he died, a suicide, in 1990. (He was suffering from Parkinson’s.) I was even shown a book, still out on the open shelves, that Robert Kennedy had autographed on February 14, 1968. Was it the last time a candidate traveled to meet an author and stopped in a public library?
For dinner I decided to eat in the Courthouse Café, where for about $11 I had a full meal, desert, and coffee, and a long conversation with the owner, Josephine Richardson, who had personally known Caudill well and who had first come to Appalachia in 1969 in the spirit of idealism so synonymous with the Kennedy visit.
She described how Caudill wrote his books on Appalachia in longhand or dictated them, and how his wife, Anne, had helped to polish the prose. He believed that the mining companies were digging the lifeblood out of the mines and miners, with little regard for the region’s environment.
Caudill was among the first to oppose strip mining. Were he alive today, she said, he would despair at mountain-top removal, in which the crests of hillsides are sliced open like a soft-boiled egg and the shells are dumped into nearby streams. Like others I met, she said that many companies found it expedient to walk away from their environmental indemnity bond rather than restore the mountain to the way it was first found.
Robert Kennedy, Jr., the senator’s son, recently helped to make a documentary film, The Last Mountain, about this mining practice. The film picks up the themes evoked by Kennedy’s father and Caudill—that coal is both the life and death of Appalachia. Relatively few miners now work the coalfields, as heavy machinery is employed to strip the hills clean.
Profits from the mines are cashed in corporate suites far from Kentucky counties such as Perry, Letcher, and Whitely. Nevertheless, having diversified from coal, Appalachia’s poverty and unemployment rates are now closer to national averages than they were when Caudill wrote his books.
To see some of the “removed” mountains, I drove around Harlan County, went to the excellent coal mining museum in Benham, KY (it has a mannequin of Loretta Lynn and a lunchpail collection), descended an old mine at Lynch, and decided to camp in a state park that has a panoramic view of Appalachia.
As I was there out of season, the park had the eerie feeling of a ghost mining town. I slept lightly, after a ranger warned me about bears and other campers described how joy riders caroused at night through the park.
Dawn on the industrial skinheads
The uneasy night was worth it to be on top of the world for dawn’s early light, which shimmered off several peaks that, from a distance, looked like heads shaved bare. Around these industrial skinheads were the scars from the excavators that had stripped clear the trees and vegetation.
Drinking my cowboy coffee and eating a day-old sandwich, I felt a continuing sadness about Appalachia. Beneath the hills where I was sitting were enough fossil fuels for America to ignore the Middle East for two hundred years. Coal is also part of a proud tradition of industrial progress, as evocative as Link’s pictures of fading steam engines.
Instead of selling itself as an alternative to Arabian instability or finding ways it can be environmentally clean, coal is still positioning itself as a commodity that, to be exploited, first has to sell out the region and its workers for the interests of the corporate store. Caudill writes: “It is an extractive industry which takes all away and restores nothing. It mars but never beautifies. It corrupts but never purifies.”
Matthew Stevenson, a Geneva writer, is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited, a collection of historical travel essays, and edited Rules of the Game: The Best Sports Writing from Harper’s Magazine. His next book is Whistle-Stopping America.
Economic notes from a recovery summer
By Matthew Stevenson
Photos, Matthew Stevenson
Because I live in Europe and only travel around the United States in summer—America-on-five-relatives-a-day—I am sure my economic observations from this last hegira lack the rigor of a Gallup poll or a Brookings Institution survey.
Nevertheless, I did cross about two thousand miles of the country—from Maine to New Jersey and then up the Hudson River to Montreal—and came to the conclusions that: in most communities the real estate market is still dead; economic development means putting up a CVS opposite a new Duane Reade; college is a protection racket; public transportation isn’t very kind to the public; Amtrak’s problem is that it doesn’t like trains; Americans all sound like Best Buy salesmen; and, finally, it’s hard to get away from the War of 1812.
Sellers beware: I would like to report that I saw signs of economic recovery in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Apart from the bubble that is New York City’s co-op market, most conversations I had about housing prices indicated that, to use Shakespeare’s phrase, the recovery “waxes desperate with imagination.” I drove through a working class neighborhood in Bangor, Maine where it seemed almost a third of the houses were empty or boarded up. In New Jersey, it has taken more than ten years for the houses and apartments in my father’s retirement community to sell, and still vacancies remain. Forlorn towns along the Hudson River look like they are waiting for a revival of the whaling industry.
Build it and they will shop: At each stop I found myself wondering about an economy that to show growth needs to build more drug stores. Banks aren’t lending to small- and medium-sized businesses, but they will fork out any amount of money to put up another drive-through pharmacy, no doubt because the government is now in the pill-giveaway business and doctors prescribe medications by the fistful. Whatever the benefits of Obamacare, it is a gold rush for chain drug stores. Even small towns have two or three of the national brands, all selling flu shots and Oreos. (Aisles 1 to 6 make you sick; in 7 through 12, you feel better.)
Knowledge is good, if pricey: Within the SUV classes, all anyone talks about is getting their kids into college, be it Pomona, Penn, or Perdue. It used to be, in summers, most high-school kids had jobs scooping ice cream or, in my case, pumping gas into motor boats. Now, summer work involves SAT booster courses, essay-writing tutorials, vocabulary enrichment, and application-building volunteerism that usually includes a side trip to Shanghai. I shouldn’t complain, as I value the liberal arts and and touring colleges is clearly a boom industry. But what society wants—on top of the $200,000 in college tuition costs—to limit its university applicants to those who can attend SAT summer camps?
Safe, dependable, cramped: I try to connect the dots of my family with public transportation, even when it involves a bus ride. On this trip, I took Greyhound from Burlington, Vermont, to Montreal. To catch the bus, however, I had to take taxi out to the airport, as the long dog no longer serves downtown Burlington or the University of Vermont. Greyhound is a dreary experience (don’t bet on its wi-fi working), and for many American towns it’s the only hound in the hunt—a virtual monopoly on long-haul bus routes. Nor does it bother with many secondary towns. When you are without a car in Homeland America, the country lives up to Dr. Johnson’s observation about the Giant’s Causeway in Scotland: “Worth seeing, but not worth going to see.”
Your stimulus money at work: A handful of American cities and towns are granted an appearance from Amtrak, although it’s generally so spotty that only those down on their luck or with time to burn chance it for a connection. (Down on my luck?) I took the all-day train from Pennsylvania Station to Plattsburgh, New York. The train was an hour late (at least we had views of the Hudson). The train crew of three conductors (who passed the time reading newspapers in the club car) still managed to strand onboard a passenger who tried to get off in Ticonderoga. The diner ran out of coffee. The old, but charming depot in Plattsburgh had a hand-lettered sign on the door: “This station does not sell tickets,” but noted an 800 number and stated “Reservation Required.” (Is that for the call or the train?) Amtrak is the same organization making the case to be in charge of President Obama’s $128 billion stimulus proposal for high-speed rail.
The attention span of iCats: During my vacation travels, most rooms that I was in had either a new flat-screen television or some other electronic device as alluring as Mecca. Chatting with Americans now is like talking to monks whose heads are always bent in prayer—on the altar of a smart phone. It used to be every American room had television; now it is every pocket. Most conversations touched on the next upgrade.
For solace, I retreated into Neil Postman’s 1985 classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. In delivering a bromide against the evils of television, making the distinction between a “word-centered culture” and an “image-centered culture,” he writes: “Together, this ensemble of electronic techniques called into being a new world—a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment then vanishes again.” He wrote this before there were iPhones.
The battlefield business: Given that Revolutionary and Civil War touring is big business, why not make more of the War of 1812? I enjoyed tracking down the decisive battle of Plattsburgh and its offshore equivalent, the Battle of Lake Champlain. I met Keith Herkalo, the president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association and its 1812 Museum, and he walked me through the now-forgotten battle that, more than Yorktown, preserved American independence.
On September 11, 1814, American soldiers in Plattsburgh and ships on Lake Champlain held off the attacking British forces from capturing the waterway, if not the Hudson, with a brave stand against numerically superior forces. In his history of sea power, Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan calls Lake Champlain “decisive.”
Plattsburgh might have saved the American republic, but the ferry across Lake Champlain to Grand Isle, Vermont left me high and dry, about twenty-five miles from Burlington and without a bus to the city. I ended up in an expensive taxi, in which the driver’s girlfriend talked for most of the ride about the novels of Stephen King. (“That’s the one where his head explodes…”)
The sun was setting across the lake, and Vermont had the summer smell of fresh corn and cut grass. It made me forget my late train, all those flat-screen TVs, fragmented conversations, and indebted students. In Burlington, it took me forever to find a hotel (they’re out by the interstate). At least the funky and charming downtown has lots of restaurants, boutiques, and even sidewalk bricks that celebrate cities like Ulan Bator and Chongqing—and, of course, drug stores.
Matthew Stevenson is the author of “Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited,” a collection of historical travel essays. His next book is “Whistle-Stopping America.”
By Matthew Stevenson
Matthew Stevenson is the author of Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited, a collection of historical travel essays. His next book is Whistle-Stopping America.
If the American presidential race ended today, based on the ratings sweeps of the television networks and national polling organizations, President Barack Obama would win reelection, the Republicans would control the House of Representatives, the Senate would have a Democratic majority but a conservative bias, and the United States would be in position for another four years of deadlocked politics.
The irony of the 2012 election is that while Americans tell pollsters that they have little confidence in Obama, none in the economy, and despise the Congress for shrill partisan politics, they will, nevertheless, reelect most incumbents in the November election.
A second irony is that while a majority of American deplore the inability of the president and Congress to compromise on such issues as the deficit, taxes, and spending, when they cast their votes in the various federal races (for the president, senators, and members of Congress), they will be endorsing the stalemate coalition in Washington. What explains such self-destructive voting patterns?
A large reason that electoral politics in the United States no longer “work” is because party affiliation to the Democrats and Republicans changes between the presidential race and those below it for the Congress.
So-called split tickets—when you vote for Obama but then a Republican member of Congress—will not be uncommon in the 2012 election, because in each case, the voter will likely be siding with the incumbent.
Why? I would argue that party affiliation means less and less in American politics, that voters choose their party identity from their parents (interestingly, it is usually from the mother), but then they cast votes depending on economic or emotional issues—regardless of their party label. Few Americans vote “the ticket,” meaning all the party candidates on the ballot.
Nor have the national political parties been successful in branding themselves uniformly across the country. A Democrat in New York might be for gun control, for abortion, and against the war in Afghanistan, while a Democrat in Colorado might have just the opposite views.
On the Republican side, Tea Partyers and those who gathered at the convention in Tampa had the look of extreme social conservatives—against abortion and healthcare reform, for school prayer and cuts to entitlements. Nevertheless, they nominated as their presidential candidate Mitt Romney, arguably (judging by his past policies as governor) the most liberal Republican to stand for the highest office since Gerald Ford or Dwight Eisenhower.
For the moment the biggest beneficiary of schizophrenic voting patterns is Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have languished below 50 percent for most of his presidency. When asked, Americans say that the country, economy, Supreme Court, and foreign affairs are all headed “in the wrong direction.” So why will he be reelected?
Because (I would argue) of a Constitutional muddle in 1789, the American Presidency is a hydra-headed office, combining that of a monarch with the responsibilities of a prime minister. In most countries, these jobs are divided. In the United States, the president has both.
If running for reelection just as prime minister, Obama would be swept from office. Despite running up $5 trillion in new debts over the last four years, the effective unemployment rate is close to 15 or 20 percent, and the only new jobs created have been by Washington agencies that tap phones and promote foreign wars.
If overwhelmed as prime minister, Obama has better standing as a constitutional monarch, someone whose daily branding exercises (all those speeches and beer summits) speak to American self-images about fairness, equality, and justice. By contrast, Romney and his knights errant look as they though they will come for your cattle.
The phrase used in newspapers about Obama is “likability,” but what it means is that he fills emotional and psychological requirements that Americans have about their head of state—even if he accomplishes little as the leader of the Democratic party or the government.
On the job President Obama is not unlike Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, who is admired for her guiding presence over some mythical English ideal, but who no one would want to lead one of the parties in Parliament.
Part of the reason that the American presidency has become detached from the politics of governance is that millions of dollars in corporate funding has transformed the office into cable television’s version of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.
Compare Barack Obama’s stately processions (his entourage is about 700 when he goes abroad, and includes food tasters) with that of the Swiss president, getting around with a Prius and one guard.
If the presidential election is about choosing a prime-time monarch, the races in the House of Representatives and Senate are about the division of national spoils. In chasing the greased pig, the Republican party is ascendant, because of economic discontent.
Whatever their feelings about presidential pomp and circumstance, on state and congressional levels more American voters today are nervous about the economy, the debt to the Chinese, their lack of jobs, and the country’s drift into insolvency.
This frisson will lead to a Democratic president and a Republican majority in the Congress, but a leadership vacuum in the governing coalition. In other words, a logical system of governance—as Mark Twain said “the best that money can buy”— will have produced an illogical government.
Ed. note: this article appeared in French in Le Temps 11 September 2012
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – American women made it clear in hundreds of US media Sunday that they intend to make their votes count in the upcoming presidential election, but just what the result will be is anybody’s guess.
Marina Mecl, Youth Vote Overseas Outreach Program director at the Overseas Vote Foundation, contributes her thoughts on the issues.
Women’s Equality Day, USA
By Marina Mecl
Did you know that the long and difficult struggle for women’s right to vote lasted 72 years? Certainly the struggle was compounded by the fact that women were not even allowed to speak at public forums in that era. Can you imagine that in this current election year?!
Now, both men and women in the United States celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th. It was on that day in 1920 – eight days after it had been ratified – that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was declared in effect, giving female citizens the right to vote in all U.S. elections. Sad to say, only one of the suffragists who attended the historical Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 was still alive to vote in the 1920 presidential election.
The 19th Amendment was not only a landmark for democracy in our nation’s history; it was the first step on a long path towards raising consciousness about equality – equality for women of all social ranks and equality for women and men of all skin colors and religious denominations.
Let’s turn to the present 2012 Presidential Election Year. Will this be an “election all about women,” as the title of an April 2, 2012 article in The Atlantic suggests?
The presidential and vice-presidential nominees
It’s an all male race in November with the exception of candidates chosen by the Green Party, which selected two women, presidential nominee Jill Stein and vice-presidential nominee Cheri Honkala. Women may not be running in the two largest political parties, but their votes will have a major impact on who wins. The candidates know that they will ignore them only to their own peril.
The issues are being hotly discussed, but according to a USA Today/Gallup Swing-State Poll in April, “Men and women (among registered voters in 12 of the top swing states) show somewhat different priorities when identifying issues that are ‘extremely important’ in influencing their vote for president.” And the closer we get to the election, the more women it seems are bringing up the issues specifically related to females.
Political discourse via social media tools
Everyone would probably agree that social media tools have become an increasingly important means for political discourse and information sharing today. So who is using these tools? In 2011, female Facebook users in the U.S. outnumbered male Facebook users in all age categories! Facebook reported that the 55 – 64 age group, which included two million more female users than male users, was almost the size of the 13 – 17 group, in which there were one million more females than males. An anecdotal observation is that these older female Facebook users may be just as likely to be sharing political links as they are to be sharing pictures of their grandchildren.
Most reports are also indicating that the number of females in the U.S. using Twitter is slightly higher than the number of male Twitter users.
The presidential debates
Largely thanks to the efforts of three teenage women, the moderators for this year’s presidential and vice-presidential debates will be evenly divided between male and female journalists. When sixteen-year-olds Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis and Sammi Siegel, all from Montclair, New Jersey, learned in civics class that it has been twenty years since a female journalist moderated the presidential debates, they started a Change.org petition. The 122,000 signatures they collected fell slightly short of the number needed but their campaign caused a lot of attention and in the end brought success!
Women in Congress
Little has changed since I started writing articles for Women’s Equality Day in 2006, when 81 of the 535 House and Senate seats were held by women. Now women hold 90, or 16.8%, of the 535 seats in the 112th U.S. Congress — 17, or 17.0%, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 73, or 16.8%, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In addition, three women serve as Delegates to the House from Guam, the Virgin Islands and Washington, DC. It is not a dramatic increase, but at least it is in the upward direction. We can all see we are not equal yet!
Voter turnout – the gender factor
If the turnout of voters in the upcoming presidential election follows the trend of the past three decades, the proportion of eligible female adults who will vote will exceed the proportion of eligible males who vote. According to The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, 70.4 million women and 60.7 million men voted in the 2008 Presidential Election. Even among citizens between the ages of 18 – 24, the percentage of women voting was higher than that of their male peers.
Taking these hard facts into account, you can see that a woman will very likely cast the deciding vote on November 6.
I close with this message:
May Women’s Equality Day be a reminder to ALL of us to express our precious right to vote! Remember this isn’t just a presidential election; it’s a general election, so lots of seats for Congress will be decided too. Look up your candidates, see where they stand on the issues, make your choice and vote on November 6, 2012 — whether you live at home or abroad!
Some helpful voter resources:
- Non-partisan information on elected officials’ voting records and candidates’ positions: Project Vote Smart
- Non-partisan information about Congress including more demographic information: Congress.org
- A non-partisan organization providing online tools and services for U.S. voters living abroad: Overseas Vote Foundation and their website for young voters Youth Vote Overseas – both provide a handy Candidate Finder
- A non-partisan organization that provides young women and girls with the skills and confidence they need to become the political leaders of tomorrow: Running Start
 “Swing States Poll: A shift by women puts Obama in the lead,” USA Today, April 2, 2012.
 “Candy Crowley, Anne Raddatz Chosen as Presidential Debate Moderators, Teen Girls’ Petition Succeeds,” The Huffington Post, August 13, 2012.
By Viktoria Rajnak
Finally, summer has arrived with temperatures making it perfect for lounging outdoors. The heat naturally attracts us closer to the water, and there is a wide choice of different places to have drinks and hang out. I like to enjoy the warm lakeside breeze at the following lounges:
Starting off at rive droite at La Terrasse (web cam), which has a sublime location right by the water. As soon as the summer sun appears, so does this terrace.
This is the perfect stop when walking along the quai at any time of the day. If coming by boat you can refresh yourself with a cold beer, while your boat is being re-fuelled.
After winding your way to the other side of the lake, you will find some well-known places that have been here for years, as well as some newbies.
The Moët floating bar – the Jetlounge – is brand new, decorated entirely in white. It is built on a barge lying between the Neptune boat and the Jet d’eau.
Even though it’s only temporary, they have managed to create a luxurious lounge with a chic feeling. It’s open until the end of July.
If you’re looking for more than a drink, the Geneva Art Festival has cultural programs for all audiences running until 26 August. The exterior is a re-assemby of the Colosseum.
They have performances, live music, entertainment for the kids, and also cinema evenings.
In the same place, but with a separate entrance, sits the Geneva Art café. It occupies two floors with a magnificent terrace overlooking the lake.
They share a stony beach with access to the lake if you wish to take a dip to cool down.
Others prepare their windsurfs for action, or just work on their tan, lying on the big rocks surrounding the beach. Instructors and equipment for most popular kinds of water sports can be booked or rented here.
All of the terraces have music, and there is no doubt the holiday mood is present.
Click on images to view larger
Viktoria Rajnak is a frequent contributor to GenevaLunch
Thomas Jefferson called the American presidency “a bad edition of the Polish king.” In the intervening two centuries, however, the office has become one that not even the Poles would trade for a Teutonic knight or Lithuanian count.
To elect a president now costs $1 billion, and the time needed ranges from two years to eternity. For all that invested capital, who gets to vote for a candidate who articulates their political views?
On paper, the Democratic Party stands for the working classes; government support for the underprivileged; skepticism about corporate concentrations of power; and a foreign policy that, from Woodrow Wilson, talks about trying to “keep us out of wars.”
Yet, the point can be made that a voter for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2012 will be endorsing corporate bailouts, sweetheart bank deals, unlawful search-and-seizure procedures and the flight plans of drone missiles flying over most countries in the Middle East — if not the Paramus Mall.
The Republicans, meanwhile, make claims of fiscal responsibility, limits on government powers, middle-class values and, abroad, a combination of realpolitik and trade.
Those slogans sound fine on bumper stickers. Except that the last time the voters chose a Republican president, they ended up with several undeclared wars, budget deficits, Orwellian federal agencies that tap phones and read e-mails — and mismanagement of the economy that robbed middle-class Americans of homes and equity.
Another reason a billion-dollar election yields up hundred-dollar candidates is because, the presidency has also become a bad edition of daytime television.
POLITICO regularly runs President Barack Obama’s daily schedule, which often goes something like this: brief morning conversation with aides in the Oval Office on the daily crisis; flight to some swing state, often Ohio, North Carolina or Colorado; speech to an adoring audience, featuring soccer moms or the sympathetic unemployed; uptown dinner with campaign contributors, all of whom want to meet George Clooney.
Who can run a serious government in between such a peripatetic schedule? Air Force One has been used, on average, every other day of the Obama presidency. In four years as president, Abraham Lincoln never even went to New York City. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to go to a foreign country; Obama has been to 32.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has to work harder for his sound bites, but he reminds me of those TV anchormen who interrupt “Judge Judy” to announce: “New revelations on the Obama deficit fraud. More at 6.” The screen freezes to an image of an anchorman with perfect teeth and hair — who looks just like Romney.
One reason this campaign has descended into a game show (“Who Wants to Be a President?”) is because the Original Intenters at the 1787 Constitutional Convention disagreed about the office of the chief executive.
Alexander Hamilton and John Adams wanted the head of state to have the aura of a European monarch, if not lifetime tenure or hereditary succession. Benjamin Franklin and others preferred the Swiss model — under which the office of the chief executive would be made up of a rotating federal council, so no one person would become an elected monarch.
At early State of the Union addresses, members of Congress debated passionately about whether they needed to stand up when the president entered the chamber — fearful that it would show undue reverence for just another public official.
Imagine telling those early members of Congress that the president now travels abroad with an entourage that reportedly includes “500 staff, 200 Secret Service agents, six doctors, personal chefs and the president’s own food and water, 35 vehicles, four speechwriters, 12 teleprompters and 15 sniffer dogs,” according to factchecker.org.
One reason that Obama spends so many of his days in the vacuous rounds of a British monarch — greeting the Chicago Bears, taking Bo to the mall — is because he has little chance to implement his legislative agenda, at least while Republicans control the House.
Because the Constitution is mute on the subject of political parties, no provision was made in government for a prime minister. Some countries, like France, have a president and a prime minister. But the U.S. combines the duties of the two in one position — though the president often lacks a majority of his party in one or both houses of Congress, leading to stalemates.
About all Obama can now do in Congress is to support bills (see the “Buffett rule” tax plan) that he knows will be turned down, then complain that the GOP majority is coddling billionaires.
Instead of being the most powerful man in the world, the U.S. president has become little more than a talk show host, not unlike Dr. Phil — obliged to script a daily program that has tragedy (Trayvon Martin), concern (meeting with autoworkers), music (the slow jam) and something upbeat (solar energy factory tour).
If electing a president costs $1 billion and takes up all of our time, maybe the solution isn’t yet another ratings sweep between two teleprompted anchors but to change the office?
The Swiss model, which so enticed Franklin and Jefferson, runs like this: The major political parties in the Senate and House elect, according to their political strength, the members of a seven-member federal council. This body, in turn, selects the main Cabinet jobs.
Each year, one member of the council serves as the president — to greet foreign leaders and speak for Switzerland in a crisis. The real chief executive, however, is the entire federal council, not one person. In recent years, the president has often been a woman.
Have ecolabels had their day?
The truth behind sustainability labels from the people who integrate them
By Ralf Seifert and Joana Comas, IMD business school in Lausanne
(republished with permission)
More than three decades after the first ecolabeling program was introduced, what is the verdict on their effectiveness? To find out we asked managers and sustainability practitioners – over a thousand from 70 countries and more than 20 industries – to share their views with us.
In a nutshell, ecolabels have been useful in increasing sustainability awareness and performance, but there are also credibility concerns given the proliferation and fragmentation of such labels. And indeed, by now the Ecolabel Index lists 431 ecolabels in 246 countries and across 25 industries. 
In our survey concerning the adoption of ecolabels, we asked practitioners about the perceived level of pressure on environmental issues from different stakeholder groups. They noted that the main trigger is regulation, followed by pressure from employees and internal management. Perhaps surprisingly, consumer and non-governmental organization (NGO) pressure were lower down the list (Figure 1). One possible reason for the latter is that although NGO campaigns may be highly visible, their resources allow them to target only a limited number of companies.
Figure 1: Managers’ perception of the level of pressure from different stakeholder groups on environmental issues.
Overall, 87% of our survey respondents declared that their company’s level of adoption of more sustainable practices had increased over the last five years. Against this backdrop of increasing adoption of sustainability practices, companies must decide whether ecolabeling can help relieve stakeholder pressure and, if so, which labels to pursue. Given the wide range of labels on offer and considering their limited geographic recognition, this is not always easy. Nonetheless, even for companies that do not adopt them, ecolabels have become more relevant as environmental attributes and are increasingly integrated directly into business-to-business (B2B) procurement and public sector spending. And these attributes often do follow the underlying standards of ecolabels even if the companies need not apply for corresponding ecolabels as such. In the European Union, for instance, directives on Green Public Procurement (GPP) were defined in 2004.
The growth in the number of ecolabels and green procurement guidelines can be interpreted as a sign of success. However, many practitioners believe that the ecolabeling landscape has become overwhelming and confusing for companies and consumers alike. We look at the pros and cons of ecolabels, as well as at strategies and future challenges.
By Viktoria Rajnak
The airplane mobile above my crib taught me the word “plane” before I knew the word “car”.
Having a father whose passion is aviation, I grew up in an environment saturated with airshows, aviation magazines, GPS’, weekly trips to airfields, and flying around most of Europe since the age of one.
It’s a privilege to have a dad with a pilot’s license, but in addition to the many enjoyable trips I’ve also experienced landing in violent turbulence and peeing in a Travel John bag.
Geneva hosts two major events each year, making the GVA airport a busy place. First the Motorshow, and second the EBACE event (European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition).
I’ve visited EBACE many times—last year, for a change, acting as a hostess.
EBACE is a 3-day event gathering the world of business aviation. There’s an impressive Static Display of Aircraft, ranging from Cessnas, TBM to Falcons, Gulfstreams and Boeing Business Jets. The display is my favorite part of the exhibition, to see the beautiful interiors along with the smell of leather and JetA1.
Inside of Palexpo planes like Pilatus and HondaJet are exhibited as well as helicopters. The exhibitors come from all over the world. They include the manufacturers, interior completion firms, business jet partners like TAG Aviation, jet charters like VistaJet and NetJets, airports, magazines, and all the possible accessories linked to flying such as Garmin navigation and Bose headphones.
Tickets may be pricy, but it’s definitely worth it for plane enthusiasts or the curious. Special rates apply for students.
14-16 May 2012
Palexpo and Geneva International Airport
Viktoria Rajnak is a frequent contributor to GenevaLunch
By Jon Ingram
This is going to sound crazy coming from a gym owner, but I’m about as anti-gym as it gets.
Something has gone very wrong with modern day gym culture the way that fitness is marketed to the public. Despite better awareness of the importance of being fit, the free and easy availability of fitness facilities (there is a gym on virtually every street corner in Geneva) and advances in science and technology, the world is facing an ever increasing problem in obesity.
I don’t think that Switzerland has as big a problem as some other big industrialised nations such as the USA, United Kingdom and Germany, but my own experience is that people are becoming less and less fit.
I see lots of people come into my fitness facility who regularly do some kind of traditional fitness activity like jogging, aerobics or a 30 minute circuit of weight machines at the local gym. Despite this, the majority have the mobility of a cement block and are about as strong as my 15 month old daughter. They are, by any objective measure, very unfit.
Personally, I put the blame squarely at the feet of the commercial gyms which are on the front lines of educating the general public about fitness.
Gyms should be service providers that take care of their customers’ needs
Gyms are business and as such should make money. However, they should also be service providers that take care of their customers’ needs. Unfortunately they have gone down the route of purely profit making enterprises that care little for the goals and desires of their members. In fact, their ideal client is one that pays for a year’s membership in advance and never actually turns up!
Most commercial gyms simply rent equipment to their customers. Beyond this there is no relationship, unless of course you forget to pay your dues. If that happens you can be sure you will hear from somebody! Despite making huge promises like buying a membership will give you the body you always wanted, there is no desire on their part for this to happen.
How many people do you know who have had this type of experience at a gym?
Customer: “My membership runs out in 6 months and I know that if I want to cancel I have to do it by tomorrow, otherwise it will automatically extend for another year (what is the deal with that by the way? 6 months in advance? Is that really necessary??). Here is my letter of resignation.”
Gym: “That is correct, but you have to send your cancellation notice by registered letter to our head office.”
Customer: “Ok, but I’m right here and I’m giving it to you now. Can you just pass it on?”
Gym: “No, our policy is that a letter must be sent by registered post.”
Customer: “But it is Saturday afternoon now. I can only send it on Monday, which is past the deadline. Can you please just take it for me?”
Customer: “So now I have to pay for another year, even though I have no desire to come back?”
Gym: “That is correct, yes.”
Fade out to the thwack thwack sound of the customer repeatedly banging his head against the reception desk.
It’s one thing to tie people into long term contracts, but gyms also do a horrific job of educating their members on how to achieve results. Everyone gets the same program of 3 sets of 10 on the machines followed by 20 minutes of cardio. Folks, this program did not work in 1970 when strength machines were first marketed to the public, it sure as hell is not going to work now.
You should look forward to going to the gym
I firmly believe that going to the gym should be a community-based experience, a place where “everybody knows your name”. A place where people work hard, support and encourage each other, compete where appropriate, compare notes, get results and have a good time in the process. You should look forward to going to the gym, not dread the prospect of 30 minutes of tedium on the treadmill (provided you can even find one free) surrounded by people just a little bit too in love with themselves.
I also believe that it is entirely unnecessary to join a gym if you want to get in shape.
So what’s a fellow to do? Self educate is a great option. The internet is a fantastic place to learn about proper fitness and how to achieve it and there are plenty of excellent resources out there.
Get out of the gym cycle entirely by going to a bootcamp or hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. There are plenty of great trainers around, they are not hard to find. Do they have a web site, a track record of testimonials and success, a passion for fitness and education? A trainer with those qualities can change your entire approach to fitness all for the price of a few sessions.
You don’t need expensive equipment like treadmills or leg press machines. All you need is some enthusiasm or a willingness to learn. There is a whole world of options out there away from the traditional gym so get out there and see what you can find!
Jon Ingram owns a small fitness facility in Geneva, CrossFit GVA.