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
Monday
Feb232015

KICKING THE €URO DOWN THE ROAD 

Image by Khalil Bendib

The Greek financial crisis just went into overtime with a resolution due in four months, kicking the problem down the road once again. Stocks closed on Friday at record highs but it ain’t over till it’s over – it could well go the other way. Keep tuned, either way the outcome will affect the world and you and me.

You have to tip your hat to the cunning Germans, the economic pillar of rectitude of the European Union. In 2010 Angela Merkel, Germany’s “Iron” Chancellor engineered a €240 billion financial rescue plan for Greece that averted, so they say, a collapse of financial markets and the disintegration of the EU.

What this slick former East German Communist apparatchik, now champion of capitalism, accomplished was a massive bailout of Germany’s own banks, financial institutions and economy at the expense of the smallest and poorest member of the original cartel, Greece. Now she – a true opportunist - and her Finance Minister want to bankrupt Greece and then buy it on the cheap, pennies on the dollar.

Back then financial pundits, in an attempt at gallows humor, called Europe’s ailing economies “Pigs” [Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain] for their profligate financial ways. Germans claimed that Greece was the poster child for all that caused Europe’s meltdown – unchecked spending, out of control pensions, social welfare, subsidies for the poor, paid maternity leaves, a bloated bureaucracy – all true but far from right.

The Greek Government is a criminal “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization” [RICO] that had been brought to power, financed and kept in power by Germany and the EU. From the start Greece lied its way into the EU by providing false financials. Once in, Greece found itself awash with seemingly unlimited sources of money and easy credit. Greece started spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

Take for instance the 2004 Summer Olympics hosted by Athens that cost the Greek taxpayer at least €11 billion [$14.5 billion] some say €22 billion; today stadiums and venues are unused and abandoned. The sources of funds were high interest bearing Greek Government bonds snapped up by German banks and other European financial institutions, Greece loading up on impossible to repay debt.

Then you have the German ThyssenKrupp submarine deal, €2 billion for 4 submarines, the only one delivered floats sideways and has been in dry-dock for years or the Siemens/Hellenic Telephone scandal that resulted in a €300 million fine. Don’t forget the 900 Leopard 2A5 combat tanks manufactured by Germany’s Krauss-Maffei works and the 1,000 American Patton tanks all financed by Greek bonds now on the verge of default.

By the way England and Germany [population 145 million] have 400 tanks apiece while Greece [population 10 million] has 1,913 tanks; Germany 4 submarines are no match for Greece’s 11; Greece counts 207 jet fighters to Germany’s 105. Ever wonder why? Short answer: bribes, corruption and greed.

Greece, as noted, is a RICO criminal enterprise. The Prime Minister, the Ministers and their deputies, the Parliament as well as the Judiciary are all co-conspirators, all to some extent culpable. Transparency International finds Greece the most corrupt country in Europe, way down on its country watch list at 94 among the likes of Zambia, Moldova, Columbia and Mongolia.   

Rich Greeks do not pay taxes because, as Leona Helmsey noted “only the little people pay taxes” and in Greece the little people pay very little. Tax evasion “has been described by Greek politicians as ‘a national sport’ – with up to €30 billion per year going uncollected”. In 2005 “participation in tax evasion reached an estimated 49% of the population.”

The Greece has a list of 1,991 tax evaders and bribe takers with accounts with HSBC Bank in Switzerland, the “Lagarde List” made available by Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister now Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, one of the bailout’s architects.   No one has been charged or convicted except for the whistle blower who published the list.  

If Greece stays with Euro and remains part of the EU, Germany wins; Greece faces decades of austerity to repay her debts, her assets sold at fire sale prices - Greece no longer Greek but a German colony. If Greece regains her sovereignty it foreshadows the demise of the European Union. Either way you and I will be financially affected, like it or not. 

     

Wednesday
Feb182015

MEASLES AND SMALLPOX DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD

Published as: “Another View: Measles and Smallpox Do Not Believe in God”, The Register Citizen & The Middletown Press, February 18, 2015

Some contagious diseases can be prevented and curbed. For years public health laws and regulations were mandatory and across the board, brooking little if no exemptions. Time was that you couldn’t get on a plane to leave the country without your passport and that bright yellow International Certificate of Vaccinations - proof to the world that you were vaccinated against yellow fever, cholera and smallpox. There were no religious or vague “personal belief” exemptions. The only exemptions were unique medical ones, seldom if ever granted.

Religion and vague “personal beliefs” sometimes trumps science and reason which can result in death and deformity - unintended results detrimental to your health.

Alcohol can be harmful - prohibition, a public health measure on steroids, banned alcohol sales and consumption in 1920.  Opiates, hallucinogens, psychoactive alkaloids and the like - “drugs” - are said to destroy the mind and body. The public health initiative known as the War on Drugs prohibits their use since 1971.

In both instances the prohibition carves out an exemption based on religion. Prohibition did not apply to booze dispensed by priests, rabbis and ministers of the gospel. Likewise the faithful of the Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal [“Union of the Plants”], a recognized religion [?], are free to ingest hallucinogens to their heart’s content during religious ceremonies. You would think that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment would kick in, giving us all the opportunity to sip and smoke.

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Monday
Feb092015

BRIAN WILLIAMS HILLARY CLINTON STORIES - LIES I NEVER TOLD YOU

On April 7, 1941 the Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade, Yugoslavia at the start of World War II. I cannot recall any personal acts of heroism or of fear on my part; after all, I was all of 8 months old. I do not remember, but I am told that the town house next door was struck by a bomb that failed to explode - lucky me.

On April 16, 1944, Orthodox Easter Sunday, Belgrade was bombed once again, this time it was carpet bombed by the Allies including the United States Air Force. Six hundred bombers attacked the town, this I remember. I was out of harms’ way high up on Dedinje, a hill, miles away. I remember being on a terrace watching the planes fly by and the dust and smoke of the explosions.

In May, 1999 I was in Belgrade when it was bombed yet again, this time by supposedly precise, surgical strike NATO missiles. I confess that I was cowering in fear in the dark recesses of the Intercontinental Hotel’s Piano Bar when the missiles hit the Chinese Embassy some 30 blocks away. No tales of guts and glory here – a time when other civilians were standing on Belgrade’s bridges to prevent their destruction.

I can go on – my tail between the legs scramble out of Port Harcourt, Nigeria in May, 1968 during the Biafra War; my missing the Sergeant Doe coup in Monrovia, Liberia by 2 days; my role as hostage in the hijacking of American Airline Flight 293 in June, 1979 or running into and stepping promptly out of the way of Arkan and his mercenaries during the Bosnian War in the 90’s.

During my career I was never a news person or a politician. I was a hired hand, a lawyer. I did not need macho credibility, “creds”, to peddle myself nor did I need them to run for election. I sold concrete results not fabrications. In other words I did not have to lie, to misstate the truth, or in the latest Brian Williams’ euphemism to “conflate” two facts into one big fat lie.

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Monday
Feb092015

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO CHARLIE HEBDO

 

With the Charlie Hebdo massacre still fresh in our minds the news of new disasters overcomes us and we do not reach a consensus on the issue of free speech, leaving resolution of “how low can you go” for another day.  

Blasphemy most foul and vile is fine by me. It is to be encouraged and protected as long as it does not call for violence and civil disobedience. Don’t preach to me Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing panic” misquote. Read the United States v. Schenck decision – only if a statement poses a “clear and present danger” does it become suspect, criminal and subject to censure. 

If you want to start a war or pick a fight ridicule a man’s religion or insult his mother, call him a “mother f**k*r”. Even the Pope, a saintly a person, succumbs to insult - “say a curse word against my mother … expect a punch in the nose” said His Holiness concluding “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others”.

Really? Let me try. There’s a bunch a yahoos in Appalachia that belong to the Pentecostal Church of God Holiness who believe in handling serpents, speaking in tongues, casting out demons and drinking poison. I think them Preachers speak with forked tongues when they pour Jonestown Kool-Aid.  Just try stopping me from calling them crazies, totally deranged and saluting them with a loud Bronx cheer. 

The Church of Scientology has been declared a religion by the United States government notwithstanding that its Messiah, L. Ron Hubbard revealed its existence in, of all places, the May, 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. One tenet of faith - the use of an E-meter, a simple galvanometer, a “religious artifact”, leads to a heavenly state is bullshit. I personally tested the E-meter and that just ain’t so - which leads me to question the existence of Xenu, the “Dictator of the Galactic Confederacy” who 75 million years ago brought billions of people to Earth, “stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs”. Talk about a bad acid trip with Xenu, a Marvel Comics superhero in full costume, leading the faithful.

The Church of the Latter Day Saints – the Mormons believe the prophet Moroni, like in “macaroni”, buried gold plates found in 1823 by the founder Joseph Smith near Elmira, New York using a magical treasure finding “peep stone”.  The plates, yet to be revealed, were in an unknown “reformed Egyptian language” and translated with magical eyeglasses made out of stone. I think I will stop and not go on to magic underwear [a/k/a “temple garments”] for I fear that you will not believe the rest of the Mormon tale.

As you move up the food chain, religions become part of the established power structure yet still vulnerable to ridicule – some of the facts and history in the several scriptures and holy writings are hard to swallow and document. The “aha” moment.

You can deride science, make fun of art, ridicule all that is human - sex included - so why can’t you blaspheme religion, for God’s sake? As for me you can blaspheme as low as you want as long as you stop when the limbo bar tells you not to call for violence and civil disobedience. 

 

    

 

 

 

Sunday
Jan252015

MUSEUMS: MAKE MINE SMALL OR MEDIUM, NOT LARGE


The front page of The New York Times recently featured a photograph of a jumble of people jostling and elbowing each other fifteen feet deep behind a purple velvet and brass rope, back packs and packages askew, snapping away with all sorts of digital devices, a number of them self-indulging with “selfies”. Was this the Times Square subway station at rush hour? No, it was a crowd, some of the 9.3 million yearly visitors to Paris’ Louvre Museum supposedly enjoying and being enthralled by the Mona Lisa.

I witness the same lemming madness every morning on the way to work. First at Fifth Avenue’s Guggenheim Museum then, even more chaotic due to the never ending construction of the plaza, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its gaggle of people slowly inching up the pyramid like steps. Add to the confusion is a jumble of vending carts, meandering double deck tourist buses, a preview of what awaits you inside.

Further down is the Frick Collection’s serene front lawn facing Fifth Avenue with a gated garden on East 70th Street. “The garden … was conceived not to be entered but as a tableau to be viewed from the street and the museum’s reception hall … [complete with] a rectangular pool, with floating lotus and white lilies in the summer, surrounded by pea gravel paths and boxwood.” The philistines on the Frick’s Board of Directors want to pave it over and build a large addition to better compete with the Met. Lend your voice to save the Frick.

 I just visited the Clark in Williamstown. Set in a green vale surrounded by green hillsides I had to park away from the new main entrance. A little golf cart pulled up with a cheery “can we give you a lift?” I first strolled through the pristine new addition, all glass and views and reflecting pools, and then into the refurbished main classical museum building. I had room to breathe, room to look, my sightlines unobstructed. Sure there were visitors but not oppressively so. It was a museum and art to be enjoyed, to be savored like a glass of wine in the Clark Café up the hill.

So when it comes to museums make mine small or medium, not large thank you.