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
Aug182015

THE NEW YORK TIMES FOLLOWS MY LEAD

It took The New York Times a full month to follow my lead and position of my July 21, 2015 column “Greece – The Right or Wrong Way”. The Times’ version follows:

EUROPE, LISTEN TO THE I.M.F. AND RESTRUCTURE THE GREEK DEBT 

By THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD    AUG. 18, 2015

The International Monetary Fund is doing the right thing by not participating in a deeply flawed loan agreement that European leaders have negotiated with Greece.

Years of misguided economic policies sought by Germany and other creditors have helped to push Greece into a depression, left more than a quarter of its workers unemployed and saddled it with a debt it cannot repay. The latest European attempt to bail out Greece will make the situation even worse by requiring the country’s government to cut spending and raise taxes while increasing the country’s debt to200 percent of its gross domestic product, from about 170 percent now.

The I.M.F., which joined European countries in their first two loan programs for Greece, says it cannot lend more money because Greece’s debt has become unsustainable. In a statement on Friday, the fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, said Greece’s creditors had to provide “significant debt relief” to the country. Last month, the fund said creditors needed to either reduce the amount of money Greece owes or extend the maturity of that debt by up to 30 years.

This is a much tougher position than the I.M.F. has taken before. In 2010, it did not insist that Greek debt be restructured. That was a big mistake because it left Greece with more debt than it had before the crisis and reduced the government’s ability to stimulate the economy. What Ms. Lagarde, a former French finance minister, says matters because European leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany want the fund to be a part of the loan program since it has extensive expertise in dealing with financial crises.

European officials have said only vaguely that they might be willing to consider debt relief. Many lawmakers and voters in other European nations oppose providing more help because they think the Greek government has failed to carry out the economic and fiscal reforms that would make the country more productive.

There is no question that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece needs to do more to raise economic growth. But even if he does everything European leaders are asking him to do — a list that includes cutting pensions, simplifying regulations, privatizing state-owned businesses — the country will still not be able to pay back the 300 billion euros it owes. Rather than go through a messy default in a few years, it is in Europe’s interest to heed the I.M.F.’s advice and restructure Greece’s debt now

Original Article At:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/18/opinion/europe-listen-to-the-imf-and-restructure-the-greek-debt.html?ref=opinion

 

 

Tuesday
Aug112015

HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI AND NOW TEHRAN ON MY MIND

A version of this article was published in Pecat, August 11, 2015

August 6, the anniversary of the day Little Boy, the atomic bomb, exploded always brings Hiroshima to mind. Last Thursday was no different except that I walked downstairs rather than using the elevator – they had just painted the floor of elevator landing in my office building. Walking down the little used stairwell I came across a faded yellow sign - “Fallout Shelter” in block letters bordered in black - a remnant of time past.

The dimly lit stairs tricked me into going on to the basement. The building was built before WWII and in the basement were still more civil defense signs with one reading “Survival Supplies – Drinking Water”. I had stumbled upon the remnants of a cold war, a fallout shelter. 

That brought back memories of the 1950’s when as kids we would have monthly civil defense drills. We would sit at our desks and be ordered to “duck and cover”. The shelter of our wooden desks was supposed to shield us from the blast of an atomic bomb. But I remember photographs of the mushroom cloud, the destruction, the wasted bodies, the rubble, the men with white masks picking up what looked like extra-large barbecued spare ribs. How delusional we were back then.

I often wondered what ever happened to that city, the Hiroshima Mon Amour of the film with the unforgettable “You are not endowed with memory” line. After seeing On the Beach, Mad Max and Planet of the Apes I thought Hiroshima a vast arid plain doted by twisted steel girders, a manmade radioactive desert devoid of human life. 

Is that the Hiroshima of today? No, judging by the photographs Hiroshima is a modern, all bright, shiny vibrant city pulsing with life. The images of the explosion and its aftermath are as faded and forgotten as that “Fallout Shelter”. And no one speaks much of Nagasaki and the Fat Man atomic bomb that exploded three days later on August 9, 1945. The second atomic bomb was unnecessary, overkill and as, some claim was the first, because Russia with one million soldiers attacked Japan in Manchuria on August 8.

The stark reality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was kept from public view and remained classified for years on national security grounds – the full extent of destruction that Little Boy and Fat Man wrought is still not fully acknowledged.

The United States never used the bomb again but force continues to trump diplomacy and has become America’s national foreign policy weapon of choice.

There was enough destruction to be had by conventional means without having to resort to atomic weapons. Korea was the first failure in this new approach to shape the world to our image by force – North Korea is still there after 60 years.  We tried to bomb the shit out of North Vietnam and when that didn’t work we defoliated the place with Agent Orange. We admitted defeat and left with “Peace and Honor”. After 15 years we are still mired in Afghanistan and once liberated Iraq is now a battleground for the newly minted war against ISIS.

Economic sanctions are another exercise of foreign policy by means of brute force. Do not be fooled in believing that economic sanctions do not cause physical harm. The United Nations reported that 576,000 Iraqi children died because of sanctions in the period 1990-1995.

Harsh economic sanctions did not deter Iran’s nuclear program for civilian ends, as the Mullahs claim, or military goals, as Israel and her allies claim. This state of precarious affairs seems to have been resolved after years of negotiations and diplomatic wrangling in a proposed multilateral treaty. This treaty appears to be a nearly unanimous expression of world opinion with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council [United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China] participating together with Germany and the European Union.

Yet there are some in Congress including New York’s Senator Chuck Shummer who oppose the treaty, notwithstanding near universal support and seek to derail it.

I have tried to read the 159 page long “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and the many annexes, which is probably more than most members of Congress. I do not have the knowledge and expertise to voice an opinion on the efficacy of the treaty. I must rely that the nations and men and women involved have used their best efforts to prevent another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki. It is without question better than the present dangerous status quo.

On Saturday twenty nine leading American scientists “including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers” wrote an open letter in support of the treaty. The authors are “some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in the field of nuclear weapons and arms control … [who] have advised Congress, the White House [and] federal agencies over decades” include six Nobel laureates, Philip W. Anderson of Princeton University; Leon N. Cooper of Brown University; Sheldon L. Glashow of Boston University; David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Burton Richter of Stanford University; and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I doubt that this will make a difference. I predict that the Congressional debate will go into an “I am not a scientist” mode. This allows those that oppose to concede the legitimacy of the scientists’ expert opinion “while simultaneously allowing [them] to ignore that expertise altogether”. As for me I will heed the advice of the experts. I do not want to see another Hiroshima, another Nagasaki in my lifetime.

 

 

 

 

   

Tuesday
Jul212015

GREECE – THE RIGHT OR WRONG WAY

The European Union has just kicked the Greek crisis down the road with an €86 billion [$96 billion - ₤62 billion] euro bailout supported by draconian austerity measures. The plan is to stabilize the Greek economy in 3 years’ time and ensure repayment in full of the national debt. The EU is just whistlin’ Dixie. It just ain’t going to happen.

Christine Lagarde is right in predicting failure and calling for debt forgiveness. Angela Merkel is wrong in demanding repayment in full and denying reality.

I am not Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner, New York Times columnist and Princeton University economics professor. Nor am I Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor or Wolfgang Schäuble her Finance Minister - all of them with advanced university degrees, all players in today’s Greek tragedy. The best I can offer is a year of university economics and a nodding acquaintance with division and multiplication.

But by applying basic arithmetic I come to the conclusion that Greece is the land of the Walking Dead, death defying financial zombies and here is why: 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jul122015

THIS THING ABOUT GREECE • I TOLD YOU SO

THESE "PIGS" WILL NEVER FLY - PUBISHED MAY 13, 2010 - LEAD OP ED ARTICLE - LITCHFIELD COUNTY TIMES  

You have to tip your hat to the wily French, the cunning Germans and the perfidious Brits, the economic giants of the European Union. These guys have just engineered a financial rescue plan for Greece, the current holder of the “Sick Man of Europe” title, to the tune of $146 Billion Dollars or €110 Billion Euros - or so they would have you believe. 

What these slick guys have accomplished is a massive bailout of their own financial institutions at the expense of the smallest and poorest member of the original cartel, the European Community. They are going to repeat the scam in the coming months, with Portugal and Ireland, the guys in the on-deck circle.

These five poor little “Pigs” (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) thought they could fly - soar with the eagles - but pigs can’t fly. Soar they did, for a little while, their economies fueled by the sun. Their sunny climates, except for Ireland, drove people mad, like “mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun” mad. People went just plain loco, fueling a building boom that had never been witnessed before. Money was poured into real estate investments, taking advantage of the climate without regard to supply or demand. Arid fields became gated retirement communities. Parched meadows were transformed into golf courses—until the aquifers ran dry. Money and credit were readily available. Illusory paper fortunes were made overnight, generating more cash to fuel more speculative investments.

As for the Irish, the Celtic Tigers, whiskey gave them that warm and mellow feeling; that sun in their gut clouded their reason. Initially primed by an influx of new economic investments, supported by government subsidies, they built with abandon and they bought with abandon. Rainy, cloudy skies looked sunny with the economic boom.

Governments encouraged the bubbles, very much the way that our government allowed us to get sucked into the sub-prime mortgage mess. Governments borrowed money to finance folly. Greece spent a reported $22 billion for the 2004 Olympic Games. That’s in addition to $28.9 billion paid for the necessary infrastructure to support the Olympics. All told Greece has a total foreign debt of €300 billion Euros or $441 billion Dollars today.

The Pigs have crashed, they couldn’t fly. They now have to pay—pay by being rescued by the European Union, all 27 members, including impoverished Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Slovak Republic. The international community will chip in through the International Money Fund. This isn’t a “rescue,” it’s just another loan that will have to be repaid with added interest. Some of the money is being put up by the home countries of the financial institutions guilty of irresponsible lending but a lot by countries with no dogs in that fight.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul072015

DOING THE CRIME - PAYING THE FINE – NOT DOING THE TIME

Congratulations, you have just contributed to BP’s, that’s British Petroleum’s payment of historic $18.76 billion dollar criminal violation fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster. Not only does the United States and the States of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama thank you, BP’s management and shareholders thank you as well for you generous if unwitting/unwilling financial support.

“No, I have not contributed to the BP settlement” you say. Yes, you have, says I. Do you really believe that BP’s shareholders, officers and directors are going to write a check and pay for their “grossly negligent” management of the oil wells? Of course not, let me explain how this works.

This past July 4th weekend, the nation’s busiest and most travelled, some of you pulled up and filled up at one of the several thousand of green, white and yellow sunburst branded BP gas stations in United States. When you paid for that gas and when you buy it for the next 18 years – a small portion of the price will be for the payment of “natural resource damage assessment” costs and fines for criminal Clean Water Act violations.

The settlement will be paid from current revenues and adding insult to injury, the settlement will be a tax deductible expense. For American tax payers it is a lose, lose and lose proposition. Lose on a befouled environment, lose on contributing to paying the fine and lose on lost tax revenue.

British consumers do not despair, you too will contribute. BP is a fully integrated world-wide company. When you buy BP petrol and products in the UK you will participate in the payment of the Deepwater Horizon crime fines. The same is true for most EU countries where BP also operates.

Criminal acts led to a disaster that left 11 dead and 3.1 million gallons of crude spilled into our environment. The co-conspirators, Halliburton and Transocean have paid additional billions to settle criminal cases. Yet some 5 years later no one has done hard time for the crime.

A Halliburton manager pleaded guilty to destroying evidence and was sentenced to probation. A BP vice president charged with lying to Congress is still awaiting trial. A BP engineer found guilty of obstruction of justice has granted a new trial on a technicality. Two on site hardhats had 11 counts of manslaughter dismissed by an appeals court and will go to trial on lesser charges in February 2016.

On the other hand if you are a black 18 year old and after shoving a clerk steals a couple of packs of cigarillos from a convenience store in Fergusson, Missouri you are hunted down by the police and summarily shot dead with no charges filed. In New York a 16 year old black kid accused of stealing a back pack spends 3 years in a Rikers Island jail without so much as a trial. Once free with all charges dismissed the young man commits suicide. Yet no one is charged with a crime in this miscarriage of justice that resulted in his death - go figure.

In May five of the world’s largest banks [Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and UBS] settled criminal charges that they had engaged in “brazenly illegal behavior … on a near-daily basis” in fixing spot foreign exchange markets. The fines paid totaled more than $5 billion dollars. Half a dozen employees were fired but no one was prosecuted - a slap on the wrist, business as usual.

Last week the Whole Foods Markets chain was accused by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs of “systematic overcharging”, that’s stealing money from you and me. Coconut shrimp were short by $14.84; chicken tenders were overpriced by $4.13 and vegetables shortchanged by $2.50 to $6.15. This “mislabeling”, I call it theft, was the worst NYC inspectors had seen in their combined careers. Just last year Whole Foods had agreed to pay $800,000 to “settle allegations it overcharged customers” in 74 California locations - a lesson not learned.

Paying criminal fines did not deter Whole Foods from again breaking the law. It does not deter other polluters and law breakers. Time and again banks and financial institutions have agreed to deferred prosecutions, admitted to crimes, paid fines only to repeat the process with a new set of accusations - turnstile justice for corporate America.

The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people too. You can’t send a corporation to jail but you can jail corporate officers and employees. A month or two in Rikers Island, a couple of years in a federal lockup – doing hard time not just paying a fine - would quickly change the way business is done.   

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