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.





[Revised Version of Op-Ed Piece Published Litchfield County Times November 3, 2011]


“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.”       King James Bible, Luke 6:42

          Fast on the heels of the conviction and sentencing of Raj Rajaratnmam, Galleon Group’s disgraced hedge fund honcho, to 11 years of hard time we have the surrender and arrest of Rujat K. Gupta last week. Both are inadequate and feeble attempts by the Government and the Securities and Exchange Commission to bring order and justice to the financial markets and fall far short of the mark.

          Today the tsunami of greed destroyed another victim, MF Global Holdings. Formerly a staid derivative trading firm that Jon Corzine, the former Senator from and Governor of the Garden State, who spent over $65 million for that dubious privilege, tried to shape into a mini Goldman Sachs, that revered temple of greed. Well his leveraged $40 in debt to $1 in equity bet on European sovereign debt went belly up putting his $12 million golden parachute in jeopardy. By the way, it seems that, according to the New York Times, $700 million of clients’ funds may be missing. But that’s a story for another day.

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Cairo’s Tahrir Square is quiet today. Revolution and change have passed Egypt by. Tunisia had its demonstrations on Habib Bourguib Avenue, with limited success. Thousands have been shot at in Douma and Damascus, Syria, with the political outcome up for grabs. Libya is still in throes of a civil war without end in sight. Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are in the process of change. The revolutionary Arab Spring has stretched into fall and probably into the winter.

          The Arab sneeze gave Europe a cold. A mob of educated unemployed young people and retirees facing cuts in pension benefits protested violently in Athens, Greece. The European sovereign debt crisis continues with Brussels shoring up countries and tottering banks. The losses from financial speculation by financial institutions and governments, see the failed Athens Olympics and the yet to be London Olympics, will be paid by the “have nots”, not the “haves”. The world’s political solution of austerity and cuts in social services was met with violent protests in London and Madrid, but not here, not as of yet.    

          Today a couple thousand people are camping out in Zuccotti Park as part of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest, with little media attention. The mostly young crowd is protesting the continuing unregulated speculation in the world’s financial markets. They have no cohesive leadership or clear agenda but they oppose the unreasonable burdens of student loans, bank bailouts and joblessness. They have been joined, from time to time, by activist celebrities in support of their ill defined demand for change. They march from Bowling Green’s Charging Bull statue to Union Square’s Green Market without much public support or interest. Some have been gratuitously pepper sprayed by New York’s Finest in full view of cameras in the name of law and order.

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         The news today is that Friendly’s, that venerable Connecticut and New England culinary institution, has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. Some 63 underperforming restaurants will be shuttered, including those in Waterbury, Torrington and West Hartford. A sad chapter in the history of a once great place to eat.

          Last Labor Day weekend on my way to Cape Cod I was forced to take a break due to Hurricane Irene’s winds and rain. I got off the highway and stopped at a Friendly’s somewhere near Newport, Rhode Island. What a dismal place. It was dirty, the waitresses surly and the food God awful. The hamburger was manufactured not cooked, the milk shake watery. With that experience I vowed never to set a foot in a Friendly’s again.

          It was not always so. In the late 50’s when I was in college up in Hartford the food served in the dining hall was made of industrial waste. Trinity College had just contracted out food service to one of those national catering companies that manufactured food in factories and made everything not only tasteless but of the consistency of soft plastic. That’s when I came across my first Friendly’s, the one near campus.

          This was a clean and well lit place. In the fall and winter it was warm and comforting. The split pea soup, a perennial special, was smooth with bits of ham for flavor. The hamburger special was cooked to order right before your eyes and not in some dark dank kitchen. It was served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, the vegetables that your mother always harped that you should eat at every meal. The piece de la resistance and desert was the Awful Awful, a thick milk shake.

          For two years that was my standard every day dinner, except when vegetable soup became du jour. It was good, it was filling and it was cheap. The only change was when the Awful Awful was renamed the Fribble. It seems that the Awful Awful was not generic but a trade name owned by the Newport Creamery, hence the name change.

          We never know when to leave a good thing alone. The original owners retired and sold out to a conglomerate. The conglomerate was hell bent to expand and maximize profits. Friendly’s went from being a friendly place to just another fast food joint not worth the visit. Chapter 7 liquidation would be a more fitting end, a quick and merciful death.







That Tuesday was just another day, a day to file legal papers that I had put off for weeks. An early start to snare a metered parking space on Leonard Street, near the courthouse on Foley Square and avoid paying $20 to the parking garage Mafia. That morning around 8:45 I was sitting in my car waiting to feed the meter when from the corner of my eye I glimpsed a low flying plane going from my left to my right. “What a fucking asshole” I thought.

          With nine o’clock fast approaching I strolled to the back entrance of the Courthouse, the one with the steps and columns made famous by Law and Order. With my errand accomplished I was confronted with a crowd of people milling on those steps as I left the Courthouse. Everyone was staring westward and no one knew what was going on. With a shrug I went back to my car.

          Making a right on Worth Street I drove to West Broadway where I was confronted by frantic policemen waiving me through red lights. By that time, around ten, the radio was reporting the attacks on the World Trade Center. Driving up Sixth Avenue was a replay of the November day when Kennedy was shot. That Friday afternoon I was driving up Third Avenue when a cab driver delivered the news. I will never forget exactly where I was on those two days.

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Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the Leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil                                                                   Jeremiah 1:23 King James Version 

          Libya’s self appointed National Transitional Council, based in the city of Benghazi, is the official opposition body fighting to topple Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi autocratic regime. “Official”, not because it is has legitimacy, but because NATO and a reluctant United States have embraced this gaggle of opportunists. While the name is grandiose it does not profess to represents all of society and has systematically excluded Bedouin and other factions. It is a bald usurpation of power. The name does not elicit high democratic hopes, nor does it purport to adhere to the ideals so dear to Western democracies. It is what it says it is: a transition from a one man dictatorship to an oligarchy of the chosen few, the opportunists.

          Just take a gander at the leaders of the so called Libyan Rebellion. We have Mahmoud Jibril, the “Head of Government”, who had been ensconced as Chairman of Qaddafi’s National Economic Board enjoying all the privileges and perquisites that that post afforded and oil money would buy. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Chairman of the Council, was Muammar’s Minister of Justice, a minister who had turned a blind eye to justice for decades. Ali Tarhouni is listed as finance minister, a man who had abandoned his country and its people since 1974, now hell bent on unfreezing Libya’s billions and managing them in a time of turmoil. Will he hew to the straight and narrow or will he succumb to money’s siren song? Time will tell.

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