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.

 

 

Past Entries
Media
Friday
Dec072018

A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR A PROPER PROTEST

THE DIRECTOR FRANK CAPRA ON THE SET OF “MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON”, 1939 OSCAR WINNER, THE ORIGINAL UNITED STATES SENATE PROTEST STORY – PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES

Representative democracy is an endangered species. When destroyed it resurrects as a totalitarian democracy. “Not so” you say, “Is so” says I - but I write from the catbird seat as I point to Victor Arbàn in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Ertoğan in Turkey, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Andrzej Duda in Poland, Milo Ðjukanović in Montenegro and, lest we forget, Donald Trump and the United States.

I can’t suggest appropriate protest for the rest of the world, see what’s happening in France, but I have a modest proposal for the United States. 

On January 20, 2017 Trump became the 45Th President. The very next day, Trump launched the first lie of his presidency. He had his Press Secretary, Reince Priebus claim that while “no one had numbers” the crowd “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period”, notwithstanding stark photographic evidence to the contrary. No one protested that lie, reporters and the media in the White House press room just snickered.

On that day, the President’s first full day in office, some 500,000 to 1,000,000 people, many of them women bedecked in “pussy hats”, pink hats complete with cat ears, marched in protest in Washington while another four million protested elsewhere in the United States. A proper and lawful protest indeed, but two years later of little impact.

Thereafter Trump lied day in and day out, including in the dead of night. The Washington Post keeps a Fact Checker’s database which “analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president”. As of October 30, it documents 6,240 Trump lies and misleading claims, a world record I believe.   

In January President Trump will give his second State of the Union address and “give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” If such “information” contains blatant lies, what would be a measured and proper protest?

In 2009, during a joint session of Congress President Obama informed Congress of the proposed health care legislation that would be the Affordable Care Act. In mid speech Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican shouted “you lie” twice at the President. His “you lie” protests were met with a scattering of boos and a reprimand by the House of Representatives. It seems that his outburst was an acceptable protest – to this day Joe still represents South Carolina in the House. 

When discussing a proper protest during a Presidential State of the Union address, one potentially laced with lies and prevarications, you must differentiate between the Office and the man occupying that office. The Office must be given deference and respect, the man not much so.

When President Trump takes the podium and speaks this January, the presence of our elected Representatives and Senators, Cabinet Members, Supreme Court Justices and senior government officials is a mark of respect for the office he presently occupies.

If President Trump tells a lie or misstates the truth during the State of the Union, as he has done time and again, the proper response for the Representative, Senator or official is not to yell, scream or make a scene, or sit mute like a bump on a log but to stand up and make for the aisle and walk in mute but respectful protest walk quietly, somberly out of the Senate Chamber. If he or she has a husband, wife or significant other in the gallery they too, should they be so inclined, should get up and walk.

Sitting silently while the President lies makes them, by their silence and continued attendance complicit in his desecration of the office and a rebuke for the stated principles guiding our democracy. By walking out they would be dissing the man not the office of the President of the United States.

 

Monday
Dec032018

THE KING, JAMES BOND AND I

HRM KING PETER II OF YUGOSLAVIA & THE BRASHICH AND FINLEY LAW FIRM 1967

PUBLISHED BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] AND PEĆAT [SERBIA] DECEMBER 3, 2018 

This is “intern month”, a time to review the play between power and youth. Articles and documentaries revisit Monica Lewinsky’s encounters with Bill Clinton, the stained dress, the perjury, the false statements, impeachment and trial for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, a prelude for what awaits Donald Trump once the Democrats control the House and Robert Mueller drops the other shoe. 

I have an intern tale devoid of sex and scandal of my own, just an innocent coming of age yarn. Back then you had benchmarks - the first furtively smoked cigarette, the first underage beer, the first game of spin the bottle, a learner’s permit, your draft card and first legal beer at 18 - none as important than your first work permit.

A work permit – government authorization for a full-time summer job, or a part time job for the rest of the year – assured you an income, independent of the largesse of parents. You had to be 14, and after a medical exam, be of sound mind and body. The permit was goodbye to the demeaning dogsbody of newspaper deliveries, lawn cuttings and babysitting.  

Back then you didn’t have today’s “internships”, the non-paying slavery of gofers exploited with by snake oil salesmen’s promising future opportunities and riches. The work was hard but respected; appreciated and paid for in cash, not promises.

So, for years I worked at dirty, unpleasant well-paying jobs. That changed when my father volunteered me for one of those “intern” jobs that are part of this generation’s rite of passage – all prestige and glory without any compensation whatsoever. The “job” that I did not want was the unpaid “gofer” to HRM King Peter II of Yugoslavia,

So, I found myself in a suite in the Conrad Hilton Hotel on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago answering the phone, taking messages and doing errands for one bitterly cold week in December, 1965.

King Peter, living in exile at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, was on his yearly trip to the United States visiting his no-longer-subjects, rallying the troops, raising money for the privy purse and keeping the flame of the Karađorđević Monarchy alive, or at the least flickering. This was a chore that he found demeaning, loathsome. HM’s ire was kept in check by his aide General T. K. Militchevitch, a role now filled by General John Kelley for President Trump.

The highlight of the Chicago portion of the trip was a black-tie dinner reception where pundits would speak, gentlemen would display their ribbons and medals, ladies would curtesy and show off their gowns and all would gorge on hotel banquet roast beef in Hilton’s Continental Ballroom.

Not being part of the powers that kept HM in check - dancing to a tune not of his liking - I became an unwitting ally. Like schoolboys we would sneak out for a drive but always accompanied by HM’s security detail, a Chicago Police Department Detective. A blue and white squad car was our vehicle of choice. The detective and the King were old pals – he was a Serb and had served on this detail for years – knew all of HM foibles and peccadillos. Sneaking out sometimes meant tasting the forbidden - in the case of HM, dropping by a local saloon for an early afternoon drink or three, an indulgence strictly forbidden by the General.

During these forbidden excursions, HM and I debated the assets of the ladies that had appeared in the first three James Bond films - Dr. No [Ursula Andress in a white bikini], From Russia with Love [Daniela Bianchi with her Lektor decoder] and Goldfinger [Honor Blackman just being Pussy Galore]. Notwithstanding our differences, we were unified in our unqualified agreement that the movies were the cat’s meow. During one such outing I casually mentioned that the latest Bond thriller Thunderball was playing at one of the movie palaces downtown and was closing the night black-tie affair.  

That lit HM’s fuse - every subterfuge to get us to see the movie before it closed failed. Every foray out of the hotel was chaperoned and our every minute accounted for - right up to the opening welcome at the black-tie affair.

The evening was dull and tedious and seemed to stretch interminably. That is until His Majesty walked to the podium and made an announcement: “I am sorry to interrupt this reception but I have a major issue to attend to. Please continue enjoying your evening and thank you for attending”. With that said, HM motioned to me to follow and we marched out of the Continental Ballroom. Timing was crucial - we had 10 minutes to catch the movie. With the siren on and lights flashing we made it to the Loop sliding to an icy stop before the theatre.

Enjoying Thunderball made “the winter of my discontent glorious summer” by this son of Karageorge, who was my very first client when I started practicing law.    

Tuesday
Nov132018

I TOLD YOU SO

I am as petty as Donald Trump or the next guy. I love it when I am proven right. I indulge in “I told you so’s” to my heart’s content. I revel in rubbing your nose in blind stupidity. I extol the correctness of my political punditry. When the New York Times starts publishing my rants as serious editorials - op-eds questioning the one man, one vote hoax, the folly of calling the United States Senate a “democratic” institution, the stupidity of ten rural bigots controlling the Senate and mandating the future of 200 million coastal residents, condemning the archaic legislative rules &tc - I feel not only vindicated, but celebrated.

Hey, nobody is perfect - not me, not the Pope, not even Donald J. Trump.

With that in mind, I republish an Op-Ed which was my last heads up before the disastrous 2016 election. However this was just the last of my calls for a course correction before that election – see I Call it Treason; To Vote or Not To Vote; Don’t Blame Me – You Voted for Them; Change by Ballot – Revolution by Bullet – Your Choice; In Defense of Donald Trump; The Presidential Debate – What Debate; The Trump Penthouse Foundation; Trump – A Picture – A thousand Words; Trump’s Pre-Packaged Political Suicide – all published before the election.

So, let me indulge in a little more “I told you so” and ask you to read my September 16, 2016 rant:

 

INDICT THEM AND BE DONE WITH THEM

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.

Section 1001 [a] [2] provides that “whoever”, and that includes Hillary and The Donald, “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States”, and that certainly includes the election for the president of the United States, “makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation … shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years … or both”.

As for probable cause apparently, no one disputes that both Hillary and The Donald have made at least one “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent” statement during the campaign. If so, indict them and let a jury decide as to innocence or guilt. At least we will have made them justify the statements in a court of law, and not in the court of reality television. 

If this is not enough, then invoke the provisions of § 1001 [a] [1] which make it illegal to “knowingly and willfully” falsify or conceal a material fact. Donald Trump’s failure to disclose his income tax returns conceals a material fact – his fitness to be President. If that does not do it, then bring charges of misrepresentation and perjury, the false statements on Trump’s federal disclosure form claiming profit on his Scottish golf resort while simultaneously claiming loss to the British Government. 

As for Hillary, invoke the provisions of Title 18 United States Code § 798 [The Espionage Act of 1917] which provides that “[w]hoever knowingly and willfully communicates … transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person … in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States any classified information … [s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

The “[t]erm ‘classified information’ means information which, at the time of a violation of this section, is, for reasons of national security, specifically designated by a United States Government Agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution”.  

For probable cause, I cite a 2012 Hillary Clinton email made public by the Department of State with a “C” for classified “portion marking” dealing with a situation then pending in Malawi. The email was heavily redacted signifying “that the information was classified at the time and dealt with sensitive government deliberations”. This seems to clearly fit within the parameters of the definition of the crime, so indict away. Again, let a jury decide guilt or innocence and do away with “prosecutorial discretion”, often bought with either cash or political favor.

After much thought, this is best solution to America’s election dilemma that I can come up with.

 

Wednesday
Oct242018

A MURDER MOST FOUL

The Death of Julius Caesar 1798 Vincenzo Camuccini Photo courtesy Glasgow Museum

PUBLISHED BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM], PEĆAT [SERBIA] AND EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA]

The murder of 29 school children and the wounding of another 30 by a Saudi air strike in Yemen is met with a stifled yawn. The death of 576,000 Iraqi children over a 5-year span, the result of United Nations Security Council economic sanctions gets a sparse page A6 story in the New York Times on December 1, 1995. In Syria, hundreds of men, women and children, civilians all, are killed by barrel bomb chemical weapons with one superpower expressing its outrage by firing a missile at an empty air base runway while another ramps up military support for the assassins.  

And remember the ongoing Saudi blockade of Yemen which has 10 million civilians at risk, a full-blown famine, ignored by much of the media worldwide, quiet, hidden assassinations waiting to happen.                

All assassinations, whether gory or bloodless, are equal and terminate in untimely deaths- yet some assassinations catch our attention, our morbid imagination, changing history and the course of human events.

The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, either by design or miscalculation, led to 40 million casualties world-wide during the course of the First World War. The course of emancipation and of the Republic was altered by the assassination of President Lincoln as was the cause of integration by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The execution of Tsar Nicholas II paved the way for the ascent of the Bolsheviks, Stalin’s rise to power and the 10 million deaths by starvation of the New Economic Plan while Julius Caesar’s assassination marked the end of the republic as a form of governance for centuries.  

The cold-blooded killing and dismemberment, while still alive and sentient, of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is an assassination that has caught the world’s attention and will have far reaching consequences - far beyond Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul or the Consul General’s gardens where Khashoggi’s dismembered body parts are to be found.

One would have to be a haruspex, a diviner of the future – which I am not - and interpret signs found in the entrails sheep, goats and chickens, to accurately predict the impact of Khashoggi’s death on the course of future events. Even if I were a diviner and had that gift I lack the intimate knowledge of the Middle East’s history of ties and alliances, grudges and slights that control future actions.

The region’s history is as convoluted as the innards of goats, chickens and sheep. Remember the main protagonist rooting for the dismissal and fall from grace of the House of Saud and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman [“MBS”] is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s elected President. Erdoğan, like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, recalls the glory of vast Empires lost and seeks to regain the might of Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent. Remember Turkey, “the Eternal State”, was the seat of the last Sunni Islamic Ottoman Caliphate. The clash between Turkey and Saudi Arabia is for the hearts and minds of the Sunni world which has been usurped by Saudi oil and petrodollars.

This, of course must be taken with the Shi’a-Sunni religious kerfuffle for supremacy in the Muslim world in mind. You also have the Kurd conundrum – a Sunni minority in a Shi’a Iran - a political minority seeking independence from the Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian states for a place in the sun all of their own.

Geopolitical issues on a local level will have far reaching effect world-wide. You all have heard of the Saudi blockade of Qatar, yet this is not a one-on-one dispute – it pits Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros, Jordan, “the Tobruk-based Libyan government and the Hadji-led Yemeni government” in severing diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Qatar is the home of America’s Combined Air Operation Center at the Al Udeid Air Base, a sprawling advanced military complex that “provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and 17 other nations”. You can bet your bottom petrodollar that Qatar will use that fulcrum to dislodge and destroy the Crown Prince who has instituted the blockade.

Throw in for good measure Jared Kushner and his plan for peace in the Middle East – read that as a one state, two state or chaos solutions for the Israeli Palestinian intifada – and you have yet another player, the United States pondering on whether to support MBS or throw him under the bus. Then ask if Donald Trump will put money where his mouth is, his venal interest in his real estate ventures supported by Saudi money and abandon any semblance of supporting freedom of speech and the press.

I sense that Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination while not notable – journalists and dissidents are a dime a dozen and readily disposable by autocrats of the likes of Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte and Kim Jong-un – has legs and will have a long shelf life. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and the Saudis will rue the day they ordered the hit.

Sunday
Sep232018

ARE WE IN A SNAFU OR FUBAR STATE OF MIND?

PUBLISHED BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] AND PEĆAT [SERBIA]

The United States – and the rest of the world - is in the midst of an acute episode of schizophrenia, a self-destructive form of dissociative identity disorder. A heroic course of treatment that will bring psychological pain and suffering is called for. A cure and full recovery are not guaranteed.

I write about the United States and not the rest of the world because it’s where I live and the country I know best. Unfortunately, my comments are applicable world-wide with the question being “Is this world’s collective schizophrenia in a ‘snafu’ or ‘fubar’ state of mind”?

For you youngster out there, “snafu” and “fubar” were terms jokingly coined by the United States military during World War II. “Snafu” or “situation normal, all fucked up” was the description of the human course of events that has existed for centuries. You had the Black Plague back in the Middle Ages and Ebola and Aids today; the Hundred Years’ War 1337-1353 back then and Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Syria now; the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the financial crisis of 2008; the Triangle Trade – goods for African slaves for rum - then and the sex trade – women for drugs for cash – now.

Yet snafu held out hope for a better tomorrow or for, at the very least, the continuing existence of the status quo. That is not the case with a fubar future.        

“Fubar”, or “fucked up beyond repair”, elevates “snafu” to a state of imminent and irreparable disaster, a point of no return. The Titanic was a fubar event, as was the atomic bomb. Climate change may well be a fubar phenomenon. The West African Black Rhino, the Passenger Pigeon and the Tasmanian Tiger have all had their fubar moment, they’re done dead, they ain’t around no more.   

You ask how to diagnose this pathology? The diagnose of many psychological disorders is founded in the spoken word, what people say, and how they say it that predicts future actions. A snafu state of the pathology can be gleaned from television. Turn it on and you have the polarity of discourse. On the over-the-air broadcast television the use of “obscene” language, call a politician an asshole, will result in stiff fines and penalties. Continue using “offensive” language will put your broadcast license in jeopardy and subject to cancellation.

Turn on the cable guys, HBO, Netflix, Bravo, Hulu and all the others, and “offensive” language dominates. Consider the film Analyze This, the 1999 gangster comedy starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. The words “fuck” or “fuckin” never made it to the big screen of your local theater or over-the-air broadcast but they were a constant refrain in the unredacted cable version. Real Time with Bill Maher is a serious discussion of current events interspersed with humor which does not shy from the obscene word or the scatological reference. The same goes for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  

I am not going to bore you with more examples but rather invite you to turn on your television to prove my point, the point being that there exists a dichotomy in our common psyche, where “good” and “evil” are locked in combat. For me that means that we are still in a snafu state of mind.

This week Bob Woodward, of Watergate and All the President’s Men fame, published a book titled Fear: Trump in the White House. After reading some excerpts I found the book aptly titled and I fear that we are fast approaching a fubar moment.

Fear, published by the venerable firm of Simon & Schuster, minces no words – it reports that John Kelley, the White House Chief of Staff, calls the President “an idiot”; that Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, ramps it up to “a fucking moron”; that Gary Cohn, the President’s chief economic advisor considers him “a fucking asshole” and “a professional liar”; that John Dowd, the President’s former personal defense lawyer, called him “a fucking liar”. I am sure that there are more epithets bandied about in the book. I offer these as examples.

This should be of little surprise for Michael Wolff in Fire and Fury: Inside Trump’s White House writes that Rupert Murdoch, an old and close friend declared “What a fucking idiot” after speaking with the President and that Cohn added that he was “dumb as shit”.

The tone was set by Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House Communications Director [July 26 – July 31, 2017, a world record] who on his first day in office promised that he would “fucking kill all the leakers”, that unlike Steve Bannon, another short lived White House staffer, he was “not trying to suck his own cock”, that he would undo “everything they’ve done though the FBI and the fucking Department of Justice” and that “ … he had done nothing wrong … so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves”.

The language of political discourse has become raw. It diverges from what had been previously acceptable - what was beyond the pale is now mundane. I do not remember a sitting President being called a liar, yet today The Washington Post accuses the current President lying 5,000 times.

Democracy is at a fubar tipping moment, not only in the United States but the world. If I were fluent in Turkish I would mention President Erdogan recent outburst vulgarly dismissing “critics of his policy towards the Kurds as traitors and foreign agents”. If I was fluent in Russian I would tell you of Putin’s threat of “medical castration” of a critic. Since I speak French, I will quote verbatim President Sarkozy’s rebuke of a French farmer who refused to shake his hand: “Casse-toi alors, pauvre con” [“Fuck off, you dumb asshole”][1].

 

 


[1] See What does: ‘Casse toi, pauvre con’ mean in English