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 the Editor-at-Large 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, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.





It seems that the whole world is following America’s presidential election. As with the Brexit vote in Great Britain, the result will affect not only America’s future but that of a number of other countries as well, if not the whole world.  

One of the benefits of not voting and refusing to participate in the flawed American presidential election process is that I favor no one. You take no sides. You take no prisoners. You have no dogs in the fight. You are an equal opportunity detractor, a free agent without constraint to visit a pox on both the Republicans and Democrats’ Houses.

This election cycle has been full of charges, allegations, innuendos and suggestions of wrongdoing by both candidates. I, like Colin Powell in his recently hacked emails, find them badly wanting.

I will refrain from repeating Powell’s ad hominem remarks but note that the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Hillary Clinton’s misuse of emails and a private server while Secretary of State and that the Internal Revenue Service fined Donald Trump and his Foundation for illegal political contributions. These are just tips of icebergs when it comes to the candidates.

Both Hillary and The Donald have decades long checkered pasts. Hillary has Whitewater with lost documents miraculously found to contend with, not to mention her uncanny good luck with Refco cattle futures bets earning $100,000 on a $1,000 stake. The Donald has the Polish unpaid illegal alien demolition workers, the Trump not-really-a-University fraud and a bunch of sketchy investments that just skated by local and federal indictments, all earning him millions.  

Politifact, an organization that verifies political facts, as quoted in today’s New York Times reported that thirteen [13%] percent of Hillary Clinton’s statements as a candidate for President were “false”, not true, simply lies. Likewise, it reported that fifty-three [53%] percent of Donald Trump’s statements were “false”, likewise not true, likewise lies.

As a non-partisan observer, I suggest that we invoke the provisions of Title 18 United States Code § 1001 and indict both candidates and be done with them, throwing the election to an independent candidate, whoever that may be. He can’t be any worse than these two. At least we will have broken the unsavory and undemocratic monopoly of America’s two party political system.

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The Trump Penthouse Foundation announces a major fund raising campaign to support the Foundation’s efforts to have The Trump Penthouse – the top three floors of 725 Fifth Avenue - designated a New York City Landmark. Recognition by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission would confirm the architectural, cultural and historical significance of the site and ensure its existence for future generations. 

For The Trump Penthouse to achieve landmark status it “must be at least 30 years old, have special historical or aesthetic interest, value, or character as part of the development of the city, state or nation”. The Trump Penthouse meets these criteria in spades.

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Graduation New York Military Academy, June 4, 1964 ■ Photograph courtesy Luxgram and Donald J Trump

Since June 16, 2015, the day that Donald Trump formally announced his run for President of the United States, a least a million words have been written about the man. The words he has spoken, written and twittered in support of his candidacy have been recorded and are a matter of public record. They may not be rational, they may be contradictory, they may be racist, they may be lies, they may be self-serving but they have been uttered are what they are.

The million words that have been written about him range from condemnation of his business ethics to paeans to his art of the deal. Once he became the Republican nominee and a threat to the establishment words have been written to assess his mental state. What makes him tick, what makes him what he is.

As for me, just one photograph, the one taken at his June 4, 1964 graduation from the New York Military Academy featuring his mother, his father and The Donald in full dress blues, tells it all, no additional words are needed.

In the photo on the left is Fred Trump - well to do, white, upper middle class prosperous. Yet even for 1964 his suit is dated, reminiscent of Dwight Eisenhower’s second term. This was the time that Mad Men reigned on New York’s Madison Avenue. Their sense of style and entitlement had not rubbed off on Fred, still just a guy from Woodhaven, Queens who had made it to Jamaica Estates but was afraid to cross the river to Manhattan, the Promised Land.

Remember in 1950 something called the Fashion Foundation of America “named Fred Trump one of the country’s best-dressed men, joining General Dwight Eisenhower, Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto, and musician Guy Lombardo”. Seems that Fred stayed put and did not keep up with the times.

Fred is nonchalantly clutching a straw porkpie hat with a bold silk ribbon band - the symbol of 1950’s middle class propriety, a symbol The Donald would never, ever wear. Have you ever seen Donald Trump in a hat? Fred’s everyday uniform is in stark contrast to The Donald’s plumed, be-medaled and gilded costume. The Donald had already crossed over to a world of his own making where he was unique and extraordinary.

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A woman wears a burkini in the sea Image FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

France, the birthplace of the bikini, just drew a line in the French Riviera sands – the towns of Nice, Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet have banned the burkini, the feminine Islamist bathing costume. Other towns have followed suit and a firestorm of arguments pro and con have erupted.

I weigh in with my paltry 2 cents, for whatever that’s worth, for I love a First Amendment separation of church and state kerfuffle.

The burkini “is a swimming costume which covers the whole body with the exception of the face, hands, and feet [and is] suitable for wear by Muslim women”.  It is also a piece of clothing that defies common sense. It is counterintuitive – like getting dressed to take a shower. It reminds me of the loose ankle length, full sleeved chemises that were once in vogue.

The bikini, on the other hand, is a scanty two-piece bathing suit designed in 1946. Named for the Pacific atoll where the atom bomb was tested, it is like the bomb “small and devastating”. It is the real McCoy only if it can “be pulled through a wedding ring”. It leaves little to the imagination, and you can shower quite nicely while wearing one.

Islamic countries have religious laws that mystify non-believers. Pedestrian actions which we take for granted are subject to the death penalty. Adultery, promiscuity and homosexuality - enjoyed with such passion and élan in France - carries a death by stoning sentence in Saudi Arabia. To drink a glass of red wine in public in Teheran is not recommended. Any manner of dress that does not meet the hijab standard is illegal and contrary to law.

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Delivery of United State military aid to Lebanon, Port of Beirut, Lebanon, February, 2015 – photo courtesy al Arabiya – Agence France Presse


Beirut, Lebanon, once the Paris of the Middle East is the apocalyptic poster child for sectarian civil war. Lebanon is the battleground where the proxies for regional and international powers – the United States, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Army, Hezbollah and others –  tear the country to pieces on what seems a regular schedule. The country is in a forever unsettled state of affairs, its future allegiance always up for grabs. Into this cauldron of instability, the United States has just dumped $50 million dollars of military equipment. Are you fucking crazy? 

The present dicey situation goes back to the 1975 Lebanese civil war, a war between a Christian coalition and the PLO, Druze and Muslim militia alliance. Syria intervened with the Syrian Arab Deterrent Force in 1976. Followed by years of Israeli raids and incursions. By 1982 a multinational military expedition force made up of American, British, French and Italian units were in place occupying Lebanon. The civil war ground on until 1989 when a Saudi-Algerian-Moroccan led peace initiative resulted in the Taif Agreement which provided for a cease fire and withdrawal of foreign forces, still not fully implemented to this day.

But peace was not to be. Civilian coalition governments formed and collapsed; military actions, assassinations and suicide bombings continued.  Israel, the PLO and Hezbollah made Lebanon a contested war zone. “A report leaked by the Al-Akhbar newspaper in November 2010 stated that Hezbollah ha[d] drafted plans for a takeover of the country…” By 2013 the Syrian civil war had spilled across the border with 700,000 refugees in camps within Lebanon’s national borders. The surge of refugees continues unabated suggesting that “the country’s sectarian based political system is being undermined” and is at risk.

Whichever way you look Beirut, Lebanon is just a stone’s throw from the Middle East’s most volatile flashpoints. From geopolitical point of view Beirut is only 114 kilometers [70 miles] away from Syria’s capital Damascus, home of embattled President Bashar al-Assad who is waging a human rights violations war against his own people. Aleppo the city that he has laid siege to for so many months and that is making the nightly news daily is only 350 kilometers [217 miles] away.  

As the crow flies Nablus and the Palestinian West Bank are 186 kilometers [116 miles] away and Gaza by road is a mere 283 kilometers [285 miles]; Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel are much closer. Amman, Jordan is 220 kilometers [137 miles]. ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s temporal power starts at Ar Rutba on the Iraqi border 363 kilometers [226 miles] away. To make my point, I drove from New York to Washington DC yesterday in less than 4 hours, a distance of 340 kilometers [211 miles].

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