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
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

 

 

Tuesday
Sep112018

THE BANKS ARE MADE OF MARBLE

The Weavers Carnegie Hall 1963 – "The Banks Are Made of Marble"

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

I drove by Carnegie Hall today and remembered the Weavers’ 1963 reunion concert. Back then I was living in shabby poverty, subsidized by the State of New York to the tune of $1,500 a year, for the privilege of attending law school, with tuition a mere $1,200. I was on life’s merry-go-round with a better than even chance of grabbing a golden ring.

That reminded me of one of that night’s songs “The Banks are Made of Marble”, banks that had, according to the song, a guard at every door. I remember the Weavers belting out the words that promised that “we’d own those banks of marble … and we would share those vaults of silver”. That was then, and this is now. That hope is now dead.   

We live in the age of hedge funds, of soaring unpaid, non-dischargeable student loans; the age of obscene credit card interest rates, of stagnant wages and failing health care; the age of minimum wage below the poverty level, of public schools operating on four-day weeks; the age of tax cuts for the rich, of billion dollar tax forgiveness for corporate America; the age of everyman man for himself with the one percenters owning government and the financial institutions made of marble, dollars, yens and euros.

You may recall the other songs on that night’s program, songs of hope, pride and unity: “Roll On, Columbia Roll On”, an ode to the WPA and the future after the Great Depression; “This Land Is Your Land”, an all-inclusive hymn of sharing bounty; “Guantanamera”, a song of peace adapted by Pete Seeger from José Martí’s original for the Cuban Missile Crisis; “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More”, an anti-war protest song sung on the eve of the Vietnam War; and Shel Silverstein’s sly love song to the atom bomb “I’m Standing Outside of Your Shelter”.

There were songs that celebrated African Americans - “Goodnight Irene”, “Rock Island Line” and “When the Saints Go Marching In”; songs of honest labor “Greenland Whale Fisheries”, “A Miner’s Life” and “Train Time”; and just plumb being American songs and ditties, “Old Smoky”, “The Frozen Logger” and “So Long It’s Been Good to Know You”.

Back to that song – the composer Les Rice, a Kingston, New York apple farmer, was a staunch Farmers Union man. He opposed the government’s decree that “parity” be set at 60% allowing monopoly companies to squeeze the farmer both as to cost and price. He refused to be “…sixty percent an American … sixty per cent a man. That’s what parity says I am. That’s the law of the land”. He wrote that song of protest in 1948 and it spread countrywide and even up to Canada. For a time, protest, for that’s what it was, worked.

The musical lexicon of the day reflects the mood of the country. Back in 1963 the mood was optimistic and so was I. In May, 1963 Jack Kennedy was in the White House. America’s infrastructure – the Eisenhower interstate highway system was a-building, a-pace. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty was yet to come. Education reform, consumer protection and environmental protection were being debated and would soon be passed. Racial divide was being addressed by integration, by force if necessary.

Today’s musical lexicon is incoherent. I read this morning that Eminem’s album Kamikaze is Number 1 on the musical charts. “Kamikaze”, the World War Two Japanese attack by suicide, is an appropriate metaphor for today’s political landscape. The nation is committing suicide in plain sight with Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and many others, Betsy Devos, Steve Mnuchin, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions – the list goes on – all sharing the blame.

Yet it was Walt Kelly’s wily rascal Pogo, the denizen of the Okefenokee, not the Washington DC Swamp that got the root of our predicament right: “We have met the enemy, and they are us”.  

Wednesday
Aug292018

THE ROUNDHOUSE WHITE HOUSE  

I was having lunch on the patio of the Roundhouse Hotel in Beacon, New York enjoying the air and the nearby waterfall when that old saw “Run to the roundhouse, Nellie, they can’t corner you there” popped to mind. What had prompted that random thought was Donald Trump’s present legal entanglement and dire predicament. How appropriate, how simply frightful, how delightful!

To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has notched six guilty pleas and convictions on his prosecutorial gun, with more soon to come. Rumors abound that the Trump Junior, the son and heir, as well as Jared, the son-in-law, may soon join the convicted felons and that others from the Trump orbit will follow. With accusations and indictments coming from all sides the “roundhouse” is an appropriate image.

It’s difficult to corner someone whose reality is evolving, ever changing, never constant. At the outset the White House categorically denied campaign contacts with Russia and Russian interests. Jeff Sessions – our stand-up Attorney General - perjured himself in denying Russian contacts but was forced to recant his false testimony. Michael Flynn in pleading guilty soon followed admitting meetings with Soviet officials. All in all, the press has documented 31 meetings between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian interests. Still another reality will be revealed when Mueller issues his final report or new indictments unsealed.

The reality of “alternate facts”, demonstrable falsehoods existing in a reality where a version of truth is not truth because “truth isn’t truth” turns a White House into a roundhouse where facts have expiration dates, have lifespans that are terminated at will making it difficult to assess responsibility, pin the blame.

Donald Trump has been forced into the roundhouse waiting to be cornered, drawn and quartered. He has three alternatives: he can stay the course and face impeachment by the House, trial by the Senate, and if he survives a senate trial, he still faces indictment and conviction after leaving office; he can tough it out and gamble on not being indicted or impeached, walking away unscathed and innocent; or he can cop a plea, make a deal, resign his office with a promise – much like Richard Nixon – of immunity and pardon for himself and those close and dear, Don Jr. and Jared. I personally see no other.

So, as I sit here finishing my beer I am tweeting: “Run to the roundhouse Donnie and hope Bobbie Mueller can’t corner you there”.