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.




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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New York City’s Finest, the men and women in blue, have stopped and frisked 4.4 million New Yorkers over the past 8 years. That’s more than half the City’s population of 8.2 million. This indiscriminate practice targeting minorities Hispanics and people of color was the subject of a federal civil rights complaint. On Monday a federal judge found this practice discriminatory and an unconstitutional abridgment of rights. She ordered sweeping reforms.

At issue during the two month long trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan was exactly how and why these stop and frisks took place. As in any trial the testimony of witnesses differed. The cops spun a tale of suspicious furtive behavior with guns and drugs readily apparent if not in plain view. The civilians countered that they were mere innocent passer byes on their legitimate way, albeit in high crime neighborhoods. He said, she said, who to believe?

The Court found stop and frisk an ineffective policing tool and basically pointless. The police department’s own statistics proved the point. “52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found” said the judge adding “In 9% of these searches, the felt object was in fact a weapon. 91% of the time, it was not.” 

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"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." —President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

When unpleasant truths emerge, when war crimes and abuses are revealed, when malfeasance is uncovered, when the existence of illegal surveillance is leaked, the United States Government embraces a policy of deception or when that is not possible, a calculated media campaign of deflection. The Obama administration’s decision to close and evacuate 19 embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East is a crass and blatant example of deception and deflection.

My caustic and jaundiced view of the administration’s latest gambit is founded on that old adage “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

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Edited version published as Op Ed Article: “OPINION: Baseball as Naïve American Art”, The Litchfield County Times, The Housatonic Times, The Connecticut Bulletin, Thursday, August 8, 2013    

Every country has its national sport. Many are peculiar and indigenous to a region. Some do not travel well, like fine wine, nor do they migrate beyond national borders. Some have become universal but only one is now enshrined in its own unique art form, the baseball card.

The British have that unique, quaint and incomprehensible standing around the lawn in summer whites sport called cricket which is a grown up version of croquet with the ball being thrown rather than punted along. Rule Britannia, the Empire on which the Sun never sets, made it the dominant sport in India, Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Australia now enjoyed by millions.

The French have that idiotic masochistic exercise called the Tour de France where a horde of bicyclists pedal to near death up and down mountains to be revived by ice cold champagne at the finish line. Then there is Canadian curling where stones are slid down the ice helped along with the swish of brooms and of course world-wide soccer and basketball and many more.

Yet as popular as they are, not one of the world’s major sports has been elevated to an art form except for baseball, that arcane American sport of nine men, never, ever women, loitering on a field often in daylight sometimes at night waiting for something or other to happen.  It is the only professional sport that is not a business, not engaged in trade or commerce, even though it generates millions in revenue and employs thousands, or so the Supreme Court of the United States decreed in 1922. It is a sport, a national pastime, an American icon not to be disturbed and not subject to the vulgarities of the market place.

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