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.





Yogi Berra and President George W Bush 2001 – Photo courtesy Paul MorseDonald Trump, once a joke of a candidate but now the President Elect, brings to mind the astute malapropism of the political sage Lawrence “Yogi” Berra [1925-2015] who, if still alive, might have included the highlighted comments in his tweets during the campaign.

In the Republican debates Donald Trump told his opponents to “shut up and talk” because “it was hard to have a conversation with anyone – there were too many people talking”. In any event, Trump “really didn’t say everything [he] said”. After each debate he declared that the candidates had a “good time together, even when we were not together”.

The other candidates [Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz et al] “can run anytime [they] want [for President] I am giving [them] the red light”. As for Ted Cruz, remember that “anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked” and “Texas has a lot of electrical votes”.  

At each debate and campaign rally Trump promised to “make America great again” because the “future ain’t what it used to be” and “if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” 

In the national debates he accused Clinton of having “made too many wrong mistakes”. He cautioned that “If you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you will end up somewhere else” and that “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there”. As for himself he assured voters that when hecomes to a fork in road … [he will] take it”.

His policies were broad and undefined for “if you don’t set goals, you can’t regret not reaching them” and as for his lack of experience “you can observe a lot by just by watching”. He refused to campaign in California because “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” and while It’s not too far, it just seems like it is”. 

After all was said and done Donald Trump was elected President and we are in a transition mode with cabinet and presidential appointments making headlines, “we’re lost, but we’re making great time”. It will be “It’s deja-vu all over again” for “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. Updates will be posted periodically.   

Written with homage, thanks and gratitude to one of the great masters of English Letters, the incomparable Yogi Berra. The words in quotations and in bold are Yogi’s, not mine. 



South Korean Special Police anti-terrorist exercise 2014 Seoul, South Korea subway station – Photo Lee Jin-man, Courtesy Associated Press


No matter where you go today false illusions of security are in your face. In New York’s Grand Central Station, Paris’ Gare du Nord and Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof you are confronted with the black helmeted and Kevlar cossetted uniforms of the police and security services. The uniforms are complemented by assault rifles, automatic weapons and other bellicose gear. Occasionally they are enhanced by eager German shepherds straining at their leash. This is supposed to make you feel safe. Far from it, this instills fear in my heart.

This modern phenomenon has been replicated world-wide and to quote Cole Porter: “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.” And so, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Spain and even tiny Montenegro, population 650,000, all boast special anti-terrorist police units and forces. Their appearance with all their gear and weapons is awe inspiring and for me, frightening.

 Keeping order in peace time is no longer the job for the local police - the police precinct down the street, the Irish cop on the beat. That role has been usurped by special elite units that are not answerable to the usual chain of civilian command authority, the governor, the mayor, the city council or the city manager. These forces while under the nominal control of local authorities, are controlled by the national government’s military security apparatus.       

Ever since September 11, 2001 and more recently since the Nice terror attack and the Paris killings at the Stade de France and the Bataclan Theatre government security forces worldwide have become more visible, more assertive, more militarized. In the United States, they have been deployed for 15 years against terrorist forces that never seem to materialize. Internationally they have been used to justify the never-ending wars in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, while accomplishing little if anything at home.

In the United States since 1997 with the “1033 Program” the Department of Defense has transferred $5.1 billion dollars of military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. Last year the Department of Homeland Security supported local law enforcement with $1 billion dollars while the Department of Defense made an additional $449 million contribution.

Likewise, the European Union military and the defense departments are funding and equipping their special forces in response to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the Additional Protocol of 2015. These measures are not funded by the cities of Paris, Rome or Podgorica, they are funded by national treasuries.

The present expenditure of money and resources reminds me of the Cold War and Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the multi-billion-dollar Star Wars farce. The fear of the Soviet Union propelled the United States into a binge of defense related projects that far exceeded the actual threat that they were supposed avert. We had the Strategic Air Command, the Major Air Command and hundreds of other acronym designated entities doing all “kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things” at great expense while the Russians were doing their best to do the same.

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Whenever anyone speaks of the heyday of literary Paris, Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore, the legendary watering holes of the literati on the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, take center stage. The conversation invariably becomes a joust to see how many famous writers you can name who, at one time or another, had a glass of wine, a cognac, an expresso, an assignation, gotten drunk or taken a piss in either or both of those cafés.

Invariably it starts with Hemingway followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Giraudoux, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot. You can’t forget Albert Camus, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht or Julia Childs. Then there is the second wave of Americans - James Baldwin, Chester Himes, Charles Sutherland and Richard Wright.

One of the stars of that literary set was Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre’s lover, philosopher, author and bohème par excellence. She knew well her literary roots and her literary cafés – the Deux Magots awarded a prize for the best novel of the year since 1933 while the Café de Flore followed suite only in 1994. No wonder she favored Les Deux Magots over the Flore, as Adam Gopnik elegantly writes in his essay “A Tale of Two Cafes” in his book Paris to the Moon.

Alexis de Tocqueville may have been the first Frenchman to study and write about America but de Beauvoir followed in his footsteps. In 1947 she “landed at La Guardia airport and began a four-month journey that took her from one coast of the United States to the other, and back again.” Her diary of that visit America Day by Day [L’Amérique au jour le jour] was published in 1954.

In her diary, she writes of stumbling into a café that is a room “… square and utterly simple, with its little tables lined against the walls, but it has something so rare in America – atmosphere … In Bedford Street is the only place in New York where you can read and work through the day, and talk through the night, without arousing curiosity or criticism: Chamby’s.”

There never was a “Chamby’s”[1] on Bedford Street but there was and is a Chumley’s on Bedford, not quite a café but a venerable bar, once a speakeasy, that serves bourbon and beer, a New York’s literary landmark.

Like Simone de Beauvoir, I stumbled onto and into Chumley’s by pure chance. I had just moved into a house that didn’t front on the street but on a cement backyard at 50½ Barrow Street around the corner from Bedford Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. The street entrance was an iron gate and a dark passage with a dangling naked light bulb that led to our courtyard. A couple of doors down the street was another, much nicer iron gate. On a Saturday night, soon after moving in, I walked by and there were people drinking beer in that courtyard with the gate wide open, having a grand time.

This was the overflow crowd at the back entrance of a bar. But this was not just any bar, this was that Chumley’s, the legendary speakeasy turned literary hangout joint, that Simone de Beauvoir had exulted about some 15 years earlier.

The door opening on Pamela Court, the courtyard on Barrow, was once the front door that the greats—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St Vincent Millay, John Steinbeck, and Anais Nin—walked through. Some of the same bunch that had graced the tables and the terraces of Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore.

Back then in 1962 the unmarked front door was around the corner at 86 Bedford, that is if you could find it. From its inception as a speakeasy to this day Chumley’s front door bore no sign of any kind to keep the unwanted at bay. Urban legend has it that the term “86 it” for “kill it” comes from the heads up call that the cops would give the barkeep that a raid was about to take place and to have the speakeasy patrons escape by the “86” back door.

I learned of Chumley’s literary heritage. I marveled at the framed dust jackets of famous books, some that I had read. I was told that just prior to my time the Beat Generation writers - William S Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg - were regulars. I drank a toast to a number of authors whose books' dust jackets were joining the greats gracing Chumley’s walls.   

For the next three years, Chumley’s was my go-to-place. In the summer, I drank beer outdoors. In the winter, I drank by the fireplace, reading books by the guys who had their photos and dust jackets up on the wall. The cheeseburgers were great, the girls pretty. If I had the opportunity I am sure that I would have enjoyed Les Deux Magots even more.   





[1] de Beauvoir used “Chamby’s” as a pseudonym. “Chamby’s … was not an error or mistranslation. There was an unwritten rule … to never mention the bar by name, lest it become overrun by tourists. The Harlem Renaissance writer Richard Wright … recommended Chumley’s to Beauvoir … and passed on this code of secrecy…”   



For decades “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” has been the guide for American policy. It’s been proven wrong many times over. The flip side of that coin, failure to indict and convict either of those devils, “he’s a crooked son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch”, is just as wrong. Both theories are founded on the premise that rocking the boat upsets the apple cart – a mixed metaphor I know, but still nicely put. 

But it’s those two policies that have put us where we are today – a country divided and in disarray. For me an uncertain future is better than a compromised present – I’ll always bet on the devil I have yet to meet rather than the one who has already fucked me over.

The Civil War, a war of secession and armed insurrection put America’s existence to the test. The leaders of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis were all guilty of treason, of “levying” war against the United States. After Lee’s surrender and Lincoln’s assassination President Andrew Johnson granted amnesty and pardons to the rebels, no one was arrested much less convicted of treason.

The professed rationale was there were far too many guilty to be brought to justice even though 850,000 men died in that war. Some believe that that alone was justice enough - I say not. The conscripts were the ones who died, not the generals or the political leaders who led the rebellion. Them are those that needed to be held accountable.  

Justice was denied, self-interest, pragmatism and greed carried the day. Amnesty, the pragmatic solution trumped justice and the rule of law. The failure to bring the guilty to account haunts the United States to this day – the Ku Klux Klan fielded David Duke as a candidate for Senate in 2016 and racism is still a factor in the last election. Giving the guilty a pass was all that was needed to allow for Reconstruction, a criminal enterprise to flourish – another well-known and foreseen devil

The failure to enforce accountability is a constant, endemic failure of our body politic. This failure allows for the concentration of power and wealth in a small number of individuals and institutions which become self-perpetuating and controlling. Examples are many and the failure of accountability is always the lesson to be learned.

Take the case of General Douglas MacArthur. In July, 1931 MacArthur with an questionable use of military force stopped the Bonus March of World War I veterans on Washington, DC. While this ended his military career, he was never charged or court-martialed but was fobbed off to take up the post of Military Advisor to President Quezon of the Philippines. In 1942 after the fall of Manila the Philippine President and his Cabinet including MacArthur divvied up the Philippine’s foreign exchange deposits and MacArthur took a check for $500,000 - the 2016 Income Value Equivalent of $36,000,000.

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