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.

 

 

Media
Monday
Oct022017

THE WHACK-A-MOLE INDEPENDENCE GAME

FEATURED FRONT PAGE ARTICLE EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] OCTOBER 3, 2017, FLAGGED ARTICLE PEĆAT [SERBIA] OCTOBER 3, 2017 AND FRONT PAGE ARTICLE BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] OCTOBER 3, 2017

The Kurds held a referendum on independence last week and the Catalans did the same this past Sunday. Time and again people vote for independence, for self-determination playing the old whack-a-mole game, a repetitious waste of time. Worse still, if you’re not careful playing the game badly, ineptly leads to bloodshed and civil war - the Catalonian referendum reportedly tallied 1,000 injured while the Kurdish effort shut down international airports, closed borders and mobilized troops proving, yet again, that it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.  

For those of you ignorant of arcade games, you play “whack-a-mole” with a large box with five holes holding plastic moles that pop up and down randomly. “The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head” with a rubber mallet. That’s it - that’s the whole point of the game - just a “repetitious and futile task”.

The game changes when you start using a steel hammer and smashing things up, then the game is played for real, for keeps.   

The problem with the game is that there are no rules. You can’t call randomly hitting a mole with a rubber mallet a rule. The same is true with the rules for forming a new secessionist independent state. There are no rules, and the unwritten ones that are in play are contradictory and cancel each other out – democratic and human rights self-determination is trumped by the self-interest of the Great Powers – the guys pulling the strings of power and influence in the Security Council of the United Nations.

Take the case of the late and not-so-lamented Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Notwithstanding its Constitution and the United Nations Charter it was allowed to disintegrate by today’s Great European Powers, the EU and NATO aided and abetted by the United States. The failure of playing the referendum game cautiously lead to a bloody year long civil war and ultimately to Bosnia and Hercegovina a new nation state.

However, keep in mind that Serbia, a former constituent republic, had a semi-autonomous province Kosovo with a predominantly Albanian Muslim population within its borders. Kosovo has declared independence which, as of now, is only partially recognized. Should Kosovo’s self-determination and independence be allowed?

No, if you apply international law.

Yes, if you follow world opinion and “Yes” if you listen to the Great Powers and “Yes”, once again, if reason prevails allowing Serbia to stop financing a failing state and leaving it to its own devices.

Spain now in the throes of its own referendum blues has refused to recognize Kosovo – its constitution like Serbia’s prohibits regional self-determination and independence. Catalonia, an autonomous region of four northeastern provinces, has been demanding independence and has repeated once again for a second time a prohibited non- binding referendum with 90% of the votes favoring independence. Should 8 million Catalans have independence?

Yes, based on self-determination and democratic principles.

No, as in Kosovo’s case, based on international law and a resounding “No” based on the European Union’s condemnation of England’s Brexit vote which endangers its very existence.

Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region of Iraq, is dominated by the Kurds, a distinct ethnic grouping which is “culturally, historically and linguistically classified as belonging to the Iranian peoples”. Many would disagree and would deem them unique but diffused and scattered in other regions as well, in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

The Kurds have had the misfortune of finding themselves geographically in the Middle and Near East subject to the nation making powers of the Great Powers since the end of the First World War. Their interests and the interests of their unique identity have always been subject to the interests of the Great Powers and of the majority populations in which they find themselves besieged. For those reasons and those reasons alone, they have failed to achieve independence and ethnic identity as a nation state.

The United States has invested heavily in Iraq. It has spent much with little if any to show for it. It is and will remain a failed state for years to come. To allow for a free and independent Kurdistan to exist would destroy all that 15+ years has failed to do – in this case, a double negative does not a positive make. So the question is again raised in this version of the whack-a-mole game: Should the 6 million Iraqi Kurds have independence?

Yes, based on self-determination and democratic principles.

No, as in Kosovo’s case, based on international law and a resounding “No” based on the international community’s [United States’] opposition and the fact that it endangers the very existence of Iraq as they would like to have it.

The questions that I have asked begs the real question: Are Catalans and Kurds willing to exchange steel hammers for the rubber mallets they have been using to play the whack-a-mole independence game and risk civil war and bloodshed for independence? 

 

Sunday
Sep242017

THE PRESIDENT DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH

I do not like Shakespeare much. I am not fond of iambic pentameter blank verse plays with actors in period costumes. If anything, my theatre taste leans towards Broadway musicals of the 50’s and 60’s, say Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees and The Music Man. But I will grant you that Shakespeare had a special way with words, some which still resonate in our political discourse of today - “Now is the winter of our discontent”, “Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war”, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”, “We have seen better days” and of course my favorite “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

That last quote brings to mind Donald Trump’s obsession with things Russian and obstruction of justice related. He keeps saying that they are a hoax, fake news, a charade orchestrated by a cabal of evil forces dead set at discrediting his election won by millions of votes cast in his favor – as certified by the Sean Spicer and confirmed by photographs of his inauguration.

But let us tally what we know took place: on June 6, 2016 Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manaford, all key players in the Trump presidential campaign, met with Russian operatives offering to deliver evidence of Hillary Clinton’s criminal misconduct; Roger Stone, a long time Trump friend and confidante, was in contact with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange who released confidential Clinton and Democratic National Committee emails; Senator Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General Sessions, met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and after perjuring himself in his Senate confirmation hearing had to recuse from further involvement; Jared Kushner lied and committed perjury by failing to disclose numerous meetings and contacts with Russian interests, including meetings with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state owned Russian bank and concealed numerous financial assets during his security vetting; Michael Flynn, a retired Lieutenant General fired as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was hired as Trump’s National Security Advisor notwithstanding warnings of his questionable conduct [failure to disclose his ties to Russian TV and Vladimir Putin] financial irregularities and contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; Paul Manafort, a lobbyist for the likes of former President and “Putin Puppet” Viktor Yanukovych of the Ukraine, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, former dictator of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mobutu Sese Seko and Angolan guerrilla Leader Jonas Savimbi, acted as Trump Presidential Campaign Chairman March-August, 2016 fired for allegedly receiving $18 million in foreign payments; James Comey, the FBI Director who was leading a “counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of [President] Trump may have coordinated with Russia to interfere with the US presidential election” was fired for “damage[ing] the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department” upon the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General which was promptly contradicted by President Trump who told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job … I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off”; two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] orders authorized surveillance and tapping of Paul Manafort and possibly other subjects. 

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Wednesday
Sep132017

GATED LUXURY ■ NEW YORK’S PORTE-COCHÈRES

The ultimate urban luxury is open space, preferably green, say a penthouse, a terrace, a small garden out back. If you don’t have that, then a park will do. Living on Paris’ memorable Place des Vosges is great but you are beleaguered by tourists. New York’s Gramercy Park is private and off limits to visitors but it is in full public view. But in New York there are stately porte- cochères that lead to secluded courtyards with limited access assuring your own private space - welcome to gated luxury.

Porte-cochères aren’t quite dime a dozen in New York - in fact, there are a number of them around town, some old, some new. But there are only six that open to a courtyard or a flowering garden and that is what makes them unique. 


THE DAKOTA

The first and the oldest of these is The Dakota Apartments, now simply the Dakota. It was completed in 1884 on Central Park West, then a sparsely developed part of Manhattan – in fact, a wasteland of empty lots and ramshackle gerrymandered buildings. It was one of the first luxury apartment houses for the upwardly striving merchant class, the wealthy still house-bound in brownstone and granite mansions, in midtown and the east side. It had “tennis courts, marble staircases, oak-and mahogany-paneled dining rooms, 14-foot ceilings, ornate fireplaces, and, of course, those [just recently completed] Central Park views”.  

Over the years, the Dakota has had its fair share of glamor, notoriety and tragedy. John Lennon was shot to death in the arch of the main entrance, Lauren Bacall lived and died there, Leonard Bernstein, Roberta Flack and Rosemary Clooney wrote and sang the tunes, Rudolf Nureyev danced the dance and William Inge wrote the play.

The Dakota, a block long square fortress of a building with an arched porte-cochere leading to the central courtyard, has a gated entrance large enough for a horse-drawn hansom cab. The gate, complete with a bronze and brass sentry box, is a natural barrier to the uninvited. 

Many rave about Dakota’s architecture. I never liked it, it being much, too much for my taste or as one critic put it a “profusion of architectural elements … [a] mix of gables, arches, balconies, oriel windows, dormers [and] finials”. The overall effect is high dungeon Victorian with only the pale-yellow brickwork to lighten the mood.

As for me, Dakota’s courtyard is what sets it apart from the others. It is Goth and dark, secret, mysterious and guarded - a safe, secure but far from welcoming space but then, when built, it had adjacent gardens and croquet courts.

It may not be a green all flowering like the others but it gives some light and air to the original 65 apartments, no two of which are alike. The enormous newly installed austere slabs of grey Devonian stone lining the perimeter give the courtyard simplicity in contrast to fussiness of the building. The centerpiece is a common feature, an ornate fountain encircled by Iridian granite pavers giving the courtyard a sense of place counterbalancing the basement’s mundane skylights.

THE APTHORP

Seven blocks and two avenues west is the Apthorp another block square behemoth with a green, flowering heart developed by William Waldorf Astor, the expat American who became an English lord. It has a porte-cochère which distinguishes it from Astor Court, the other nearby Astor property, which does not. However, experts say that Astor Court’s architect Charles Platt’s inaccessible-to-carriages garden refuge is far superior and “[n]othing like it had been done in New York, and its design remains one of the most thoughtful in the city.”

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Wednesday
Sep062017

A VERY BIASED BOOK REVIEW 

 


DISPATCHES                by AUDREY D. BRASHICH

Over the years, my father has melded his love of exploring with his excellent memory and professional expertise [he’s an attorney in New York City who has litigated high profile cases for clients from the US, Europe, Africa and South America]. The result: timely, often provocative, essays and opinion pieces that have been published both in America and overseas by outlets including The Litchfield County Times and The Country & AbroadScrisul Romanesc [Romania], Britić [Great Britain), and Pećat [Serbia].                                                                    

                                                                                                                       CLICK HERE TO READ FULL REVIEW  

 

Saturday
Sep022017

THE NEWS – FAKE, CENSORED OR REAL

Thomas Nast, The Power of the Press, Harper’s Weekly 1872

Some claim that the cornerstone of democracy is a free press; others claim that integrity, not necessarily the truth, is its lifeblood; still others swear fake news is the cause of its demise with censorship a contributing factor. Whatever position you espouse be sure that you understand the dangers and pitfalls.  

In revolutionary Russia and Communist USSR Izvestia and Pravda contributed to democracy’s demise; in Franco’s Spain it was La Vanguardia and ABC that championed the fascist cause; in post-World War II Yugoslavia Politika was the regime’s clarion call; in today’s Egypt government owned newspapers Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Guhriya espouse President el-Sisi’s party line ; and in a Turkey where democracy has taken a turn to dictatorship it is Hüriyet and Sabah that print President Recep Erdoğan’s cant.

Autocratic regimes and more benign forms of government, including democracies are all prone to nurture news media that speaks in a brighter shade of pale, from a complete disregard to a shading of the truth. Neither should be countenanced in today’s sophisticated and savvy internet world.

“Fake news”, once derided as propaganda, as outright lies, has become a daily topic of discourse in the United States with Donald Trump invoking that derogatory term at least 83 times in presidential tweets since his inauguration. “Fake news” has become a term of art, of common usage, but “fake news” is easily debunked as it is based on provable lies. Hard facts, physical evidence, the laws of physics – you can’t be in two places at the same time – are enough to refute them.

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