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 and Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.




Think of Monty Python and the Flying Circus and you think of a futile attempt to cash in on a money-back guarantee for a dead Norwegian Blue parrot or an articulated amble along the Ministry of Silly Walks, ironic humor with a British twist.  The humor died 40 years ago when the series went off air, to be revived sporadically in re-runs. Just announced, Monty Python will fly once again next July in London’s O2 Arena. Before they perform their encore, their last hurrah, here is an introduction for today’s generation and some thoughts on their legacy.  

The genius of the Flying Circus was that “[a]ll authority is suspect, whether of church, state, academy, police, or business, and the only real events alluded to are in the distant past: the Crusades, the life of Christ, the Spanish Inquisition” allowing them to be outrageously politically incorrect in “tak[ing] on the Man without giving obvious offense, without endangering their freedom of expression.”

The Life of Brian, a movie “so funny it was banned in Norway”, chronicles the life of Brian Cohen who just happens to be born three mangers down the street from Jesus in Bethlehem. His life, while specifically distinct, parallels in hilarious ways the life of Jesus. The religious establishment went up in arms, the New York premiere picketed by both rabbis and nuns. The issue of blasphemy was debated on prime time BBC with Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark participating. The film was banned in Ireland, Norway and hundreds of cities worldwide. Notwithstanding it is considered one of the funniest top ten movies of all time.  

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When it comes to Obamacare I am tempted to serenade the boys in the backroom, the Tea Party bozos sitting in the House of Representatives who had shut down the government and tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act with Marlene Dietrich’s signature torch song “See what the boys in the backroom will have and tell them I'm having the same”. I’ll take whatever our Senators and Representatives have in health insurance benefits. That will be just fine with me.

I have led a hardscrabble life, too much work, too much play, too many drinks and too many cigarettes. Luckily I dodged the need for significant medical attention; some stitches here, some antibiotics there. With age that has changed and has given me a fresh take on health insurance just at the time the country is in the throes of a stupid pointless disputes over Obamacare and access to coverage promised by the Affordable Care Act. 

When I was young, healthy and stupid my health insurance was covered by chance and by others. In college for $85 a year I was covered by a group plan sponsored by the school. Of course the group consisted of a bunch of healthy twenty year olds hence the minimal cost. Thereafter I was insured by employer provided health insurance that covered my wife and by default me. I didn’t give it much thought; I wasn’t paying the premiums. They were paid for by my wife and her employer with me blithely avoiding the issue. Then I reached the age of 65 and Social Security and Medicare “A” kicked in, I felt safe and covered.

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Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, the President of the United States by default upon the death of Warren G. Harding, declared that the “business of America is business”. Notwithstanding President Eisenhower’s warning to prevent the industrial-military complex from becoming America’s leading industry subsequent presidents have seen to it that the business of America is not business but war.

Government is supposedly for the people and by the people. But the Supreme Court of the United States has decided in Citizens United that corporations are people too. As a result, corporations run government. Not only do they run it, they own it outright, corporations having bought and paid for their own wholly owned personal government.

In order to have a profitable well-funded business you need a product that people want and will be willing to pay for. But do not mistake “want” for “need”. To “need” something is mandated by the laws of nature as in “I need to breath”, “I need to eat” or “I need to rest”. To “want” is to desire something unnecessary say a Ferrari Testarossa, a Hermès scarf or a Ralph Lauren Ricky alligator bag for $22,500.

Most often wars are a product of “want” and not “need”. Except for World War II, a war of necessity brought on by Pearl Harbor, recent wars were wars of choice. World War I was fought to make the world “safe for democracy” and “American business interests globally”.  The Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan were also wars of choice as were the military invasions of Granada and Panama and the armed intervention in Haiti and Somalia.

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America has been sold a bill of goods: the millions and billions of dollars in fines levied on, or penalties agreed to by America’s major financial institutions for causing the financial crisis of 2008 are paid to the Federal and state governments for the benefit of us, the taxpayers.  

That is a bald faced lie, galling because it is made by our government elected to protect our interests. In fact we, the taxpayers and consumers, are paying the fines, the real facts being obscured by and with the complicity of our government: we are paying the fines and in fact being double billed.

The fines and settlement dollars just keep rolling into the Treasury. Citigroup has agreed to pay $395 million fine for fraud or misrepresentation in 3.7 million mortgages sold to Freddie Mac, after agreeing in July to pay $968 million to settle similar claims made with Fannie Mae. The Bank of America agreed to pay $3.6 billion in penalties and buy back an additional $6.75 billion of fraudulent loans.

The SEC, the weakest of the regulatory agencies that failed in its appointed task to safeguard financial markets, keeps a tally of its sorry accomplishments. As of September 1, 2013 it reports that it has charged 161 entities and individuals of which 66 are CEOs, CFOs or other senior corporate officers; that it has ordered penalties or agreed to settlements of $1.53 billion; that it has ordered disgorgements of “profits” of $800 million and obtained additional monetary relief of $400 million for a grand total as of September 1 of $2.73 billion. 

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President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are brilliant as the good cop/bad cop guys in this week’s episode of the three year old soap opera As the World Turns and Syria Burns seen this past Sunday on the TV networks and continuing this week.

Good cop Obama was tempted to flaunt constitutional law and use questionable military force in solving the Syrian crisis. He warned Syria’s President al Assad that the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” not to be crossed. If that line was crossed all bets were off. Obama would do what was necessary even if that made him a bad cop, a cop willing to break the law.

Unfortunately, Obama did not just draw a line in the sand; he went and painted himself and the United States into a corner.

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