DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is a Contributing Editor for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.

 

Media
Tuesday
Dec092014

KEEP LAUGHING & DO SOMETHING

 

Will Rogers was the first popular humorist to tackle serious political and social issues, to make light of them and then put them in context of the times. He realized that “people are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke” which is still true today.

The comedian/political commentators of today started with Lenny Bruce who poked fun and ranted on about politics, law, race, religion, Jews and the Ku Klux Klan, sex, patriotism and abortion all in minute obscenity laden detail. The Establishment retaliated prosecuting him for obscenity; convicted when clearly innocent he died before being exonerated on appeal.

He was followed by George Carlin with his “7 [we all know them] Dirty Words”, that the FCC objected to which led to a Supreme Court decision which tried to define “indecent” as OK and “obscene” as criminal. His comment on abortion that fetuses have more rights than kindergarteners: “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine, if you’re preschool, you’re fucked” struck a raw nerve. He too was muzzled by obscenity criminal prosecutions.

Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Lewis Black followed. But they, like Will Rogers, were one show at a time phenomena, a concert here, a special there. They had a following but they lacked continuity and follow through, which brings us today’s established weekly and daily comedy shows Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

Bill Maher reminds us too much of Jack Paar’s and Johnny Carson’ tired tame monologues interspersed with a couple of “fucks” and “shits” for flavor.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert push the envelope but not by much. It has taken HBO’s John Oliver, a buck toothed ex-pat British twit, to make This Week Tonight the current go to show for astute political comedic commentary that lives up to Will Rogers’ pronouncements such as “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for” and “Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated”.       

This Week Tonight weds American sensibilities with the outrageous burlesque of the old British vaudeville themed Benny Hill Show, full of pratfalls, visual gags and good old fashioned smut with Hill in an outlandish uniform  ogling and then goosing a buxom broad with his sword.

Not to be outdone this past season TWT featured a gecko like thing in costume, a break dancing caricature of Uncle Sam, a Supreme Court made of cuddly canine, a dimwitted Miss America 2015, a plucked chicken doing a pole dance and salmon shot from cannons.

The issues that were diced, parsed, parodied and made laughingly  relevant included but were not limited to the death penalty, student debt, civil   relevant included but were not limited to the death penalty, student debt, civil forfeiture abuses, net neutrality, gambling, the lottery, the Supreme Court, drones, dietary supplements, the monarchy, LGBT rights in Uganda, income inequality, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, incarceration in the United States, nuclear weapons, the Argentine debt restructuring, payday loans, police militarization, equal pay, Scottish independence, embargo against Cuba and the Kansas state budget shortfall. Quite a list if you ask me.

President Obama seems to have caught on: this past week he appeared parodying himself and Obama Care on the Colbert Show – the politician now taking on the role of comedian and poking fun at himself.

So keep laughing with the comedians but take their irreverent humor to heart: address the issues and demand change and do something about it. 

Tuesday
Dec092014

KOSOVO, CATALONIA & CRIMEA

Versions of this article were published in Pecat as “Kosovo, Catalonia & Crimea”, December 9, 2014 and Britić as “Kosovo, Catalonia & Crimea – Self Determination, Independence or Chaos”, December 14, 2014

 

SELF DETERMINATION, INDEPENDENCE OR CHAOS 

AN EXCHANGE OF IDEAS BETWEEN A RETIRED ATTORNEY AND HIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT GRANDSON  

DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH :    

International law is bedeviled by the conflict between the “all countries are created equal” and the “all countries are equal but some countries are more equal than others” points of view. The United States is an example of this dichotomy.

The American Revolution was an armed rebellion in support of self determination, independence - the “all countries are created equal” rule. Except for France, the Great Powers sat out that conflict out of a shared fear of Great Britain. The Civil War was the reverse – it allowed the North to deny by force of arms the South’s quest for self determination and independence. The Great Powers abstained not wanting America’s sneeze to turn into a European cold, which goes to prove that international law and justice depends on your point of view.

Notwithstanding its constitution and the United Nations Charter the former Yugoslavia was allowed to disintegrate by NATO, today’s Great European Power. Serbia, a former constituent republic, has Kosovo, a semiautonomous province with a predominantly Albanian Muslim population within its borders. Kosovo has declared independence which, as of now, is only partially recognized.

Should Kosovo’s self determination and independence be allowed? No, if you apply international law. Yes, if you follow world opinion. Yes, if you are pragmatically inclined – Serbia could shrug off the burden of financially propping up a failing state and pass it on to the international community thus avoid dealing with a bellicose minority.

Spain has refused to recognize Kosovo - its constitution like Serbia’s prohibits regional self determination and independence. Catalonia, an autonomous region of four northeastern provinces, has been demanding independence and recently held a prohibited non binding referendum with 80% of the votes favoring independence. Eight million Catalans have the highest per capita income in Spain and the region’s economy is by far the most profitable and advanced.

Catalans do not wish to financially support Spain’s poorer regions, a flawed monarchy or a Brussels dominated foreign policy. Independence? No, as in Kosovo’s case based on international law. Yes, based on self determination and selfish pragmatism, let the rest of Spain fend for itself.

Historically Crimea or better yet the Crimean Peninsula was never part of the Ukraine that has Kiev as its capital. By the 18thCentury it was an independent “Khanate” before being conquered by the Russian Empire and turned into an “oblast”, a controlled province. After the 1917 Revolution it became one of USSR’s Soviet Republics and in 1954 it was administratively merged into the Ukraine; throughout it was the seat of Russia’s naval power.  

This year during the Ukrainian crisis fueled by unprecedented political corruption pro-Russian forces seized control of Crimea. A referendum seeking self determination and annexation by Russia passed and Vladimir Putin graciously obliged. Was this an exercise in self determination or annexation by force by a not-to-be toyed with Russia?

Self determination and independence are nothing but regime change, some good, some bad all born in chaos but so were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

LOUIS J. MORLEDGE, JR. : 

Throughout centuries, people have longed for freedom, dignity, and a voice. Since Adam and Eve we have wanted more than is manageable and deserved. But, where is the line in the sand, where do we delineate what is rightfully ours from what was always theirs? Human ambition hasn’t changed but landscapes, territories, kingdoms, regimes, efforts, initiatives have all risen and fallen, in the blink of an eye, casting their dice into the sands of time, leaving what is lost for who is left and what is won for the conquered.

In early 1999, Louise Arbour, the ICTY’s lead prosecutor, called Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, “one vast crime scene.” Albanian Muslims are dominant in the region, defecting because of the rejection and dissent from the Serb majority. This unraveling of a controversial relationship has been taken place since the “popular dictatorship” of Slobodan Milosevic, and now has the province declared its independence.

In this situation, it is fair to say that the Muslim minority in Kosovo has had a rough go, but does it truly deserve its own nation? After the Holocaust, the great powers ceded Palestine to the newly created Zionist state of Israel and the Mesopotamian-Mediterranean area has been in turmoil ever since.  That being said this “nation-state,” alluding to the Clash of Civilizations, seemingly deserves its own “homeland,” and if the territory is where the new nation exists, so be it.  Knowing now the alleged war crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army, i.e. black market auction of Serb bodily organs, reconciliation is impossible and disadvantageous. In short, let them have their selfish independence; it will be bitter sweet for “Fortuna vitrea est, tum cum splendet frangitur “- “Fortune is glass, just when it gleams brightest it shatters”.

Meanwhile Catalonia, the north-western shoulder of Spain bordering France is the most affluent province in all of Spain. Catalans, whose taxes pay for the poorer regions’ growth and industrial inequity, was recently called by Joan Vidal, Chief of Staff for Catalonia’s President as being to Spain “what Germany is to Europe”.  

To respond to yet another tight situation with a lame cliché, “take the money and run”. In Catalonia’s defense, not a single, smaller province wants to pay for another’s less-successful shortcomings; it is not in their “national interest.” Now to take that philosophy one step further and from a US vantage point, no state, out of its own volition, chooses assume the slack of their counterparts, which is why Hamilton’s Plan for National Funding, Assumption and Bank failed to pass in Congress. Legally this perspective is ever-so tricky, but Catalonia, for its own selfish needs, should felicitously, fortuitously carpe diem, and cut the rest of Spain loose.

Crimea, the most complicated of the three, is a key Ukrainian port and province on the Black Sea once host of the Yalta Conference which failed to resolve earlier territorial differences. It has struggled with internal violence and leadership change over the past six months. Due to international tension, foreign relations, and human rights issues, the United Nations has grappled with a seeming anachronistic pro-Russian, Red Army, Cold War aggression and the ensuing takeover of the Crimean peninsula. 

Any clever politically inclined Russian will say that takeover is a “harsh” conclusion, and that the seizure was not really forced - a referendum was passed and Putin annexed the region – problem solved, question answered. No, the area is now a wasteland, quietly holding its breath under the sway of a weak, power-bloated puppet government. In this instance, Vladimir Putin, over-stepped his own clearly enumerated boundaries, and over-exercised his seemingly unlimited power, unleashing pure havoc onto the innocents throughout all of Ukraine.

Self-determination, independence, and chaos are all lethal bullets in a world game of Russian roulette. You want to be free? Spin the cylinder, pull the trigger.

 

 

 

 

                                                  

 

Wednesday
Nov262014

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM'S FAILED PIAZZA

           met-museum-fountain-carts-6inc.jpg (600×317)

The Met proudly calls the recently redone space fronting the museum the David H. Koch Plaza. I call it a failed “piazza”, a banal public space with dull orange market umbrellas more appropriate to a down-at-heals provincial Sicilian trattoria than New York’s grand Fifth Avenue.  

The piazza has one hundred and six trees imprisoned by iron collars planted in two banal rows in an arid wasteland of paving, some 70,000 square feet stretching four city blocks. Nothing breaks the angular monotony of the plain geometric granite blocks that anchor the fountains and the orange parasols that mar the Museum’s classic façade. The very best of second rate architectural design that money, some $65 million can buy.   

This piazza boasts two marble fountains prominently branded with David Koch’s name in gold letters. They sit in what has become a de rigueur feature of modern affluence, the infinity pool, if you can bend that low to enjoy the view. The fountains’ 48 computer controlled streams of water remind of Brussels’ famed Mannekin Pis, the naked little bronze boy statue urinating into a fountain; the Met’s fountains however just keep pissing away without discernible rhyme or reason.

About the blight of garish food carts that sell halal souvlaki, hot dogs and $1 water bottles, please do not patronize or placate me by claiming this Civil War tradition allows disabled veterans to be gainfully employed. If the best we can do for our disabled vets is to give them a sidewalk on which to freeze their asses off in winter and sweat their balls off in summer, then we are indeed a sorry country.  

When originally announced it was promised that the plaza would not be branded with the Koch name. Two years and $65 million dollars later Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director “thought it was the right thing to do”. Money does talk. I guess I should be thankful that I do not have to walk by the Donald J. Trump Plaza on the way to work.

Friday
Nov212014

THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW

A version was published as the lead Op Ed article “There Oughta Be a Law”, Litchfield County Times, November 20, 2004

In 50’s and 60’s the cartoon “There Oughta to Be a Law” mocked the foibles and frustrations of everyday life: arriving at a supermarket with the cashiers idle and then trying to leave when they were overwhelmed; the guy pleading poor mouth while living in luxury; the couple who dropped by for a minute and stayed ‘til midnight. Occasionally it targeted larger issues: your New Year’s resolution for patience, toleration and consideration while the rest of the world was going to hell in a hand basket with wars and revolutions.

That comic strip was the bellwether of what has become a national disaster – hundreds, thousands of laws submitted, debated and passed to solve each and every one of our problems, no matter how large or small.

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Tuesday
Nov112014

MONEY - THE NEW CENSOR

A Romanian language version of this article was published as “Banii – noul censor”, Scrisul Romanesc, November, 2014

Censor - to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable; to suppress or delete as objectionable. Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Once upon a time The New York Times was one of the yellow press -newspapers that sensationalized crime, war and scandal. The truth of the lies was not the point, selling thousands of newspapers was the goal. Over the years The Times exercised self-restraint and evolved into “The Grey Lady”, America’s newspaper of record that has “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

The Times had to fight public and private censors to achieve this exalted status. L. B. Sullivan, the Public Safety Commissioner for Montgomery, Alabama tried to censor and suppress an advertisement supporting Martin Luther King’s civil rights struggle. The Supreme Court in New York Times v Sullivan decided in The Times’ favor making publication subject only to the laws of libel and slander.

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