Radical Thoughts from Bob's Desk

Patriotism is Bunk
By Bob Maschi

Patriotism is a shortcut. It avoids debates and detailed policies. It relies on simple, easy to understand positions based on racism, sexism, homophobia or some other deep prejudice. It is, in fact, hard to define patriotism without using its symptoms – ultra nationalism, pro-war, anti-immigration, a reliance on symbols and a deeply revisionist look at the world and its history, the desire for a strong ‘daddy’ figure to lead them and the hope of returning a nation to some past glory that never actually existed.

Making it even more difficult to define is that it changes. What was patriotic yesterday may not be so tomorrow. The Republican Party brand of patriotism is a good example of this.

In 1950, Eisenhower was elected president. He was the post-World War 2 icon of patriotism. He was a 5-star general and had commanded the allied forces in western Europe during the war. Right wing Republicans often cheered their war heroes and, back then, assured Americans that they would only nominate veterans for President.

After Eisenhower, several veterans were nominated and/or elected. In 1960, Nixon and Kennedy were both vets. In 1964, Johnson and Goldwater were both veterans. In 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996, the Republicans nominated veterans. And then they did the same in 2000 and 2004 with GW Bush.

But it was around this time that the definition of patriotism took a wild turn. GW Bush had served but his service was a bit sketchy. He is often accused of joining the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid Vietnam, then rarely or never showing up. More, Bush’s Vice President; Dick Cheney obtained several deferments to avoid the Vietnam War. Later, he explained, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service." And when John Kerry; a Democrat and war hero, challenged Bush for the Presidency in 2004, Republicans handed out little bandages to mock his being wounded in battle.

In 2012, the Republicans broke completely away from that long, military tradition by nominating Mitt Romney for president. Romney had never served. More, he’d also obtained several deferments from the military draft during the Vietnam War era. At one point, as he was campaigning for President, he suggested that the Mormon missionary work he and his family had engaged in was akin to military service.

Again, in 2016, the Republicans nominated a man who had never served and had also applied for deferments from the Vietnam War – Donald Trump. Add on that his deferments looked less like a medical issue and more like a rich boy paying off his family physician. Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, has not served in the military either.

Since Trump’s election, a lot of his attitudes toward the military and veterans has come out. He’s called US soldiers dying in battle, losers and suckers. He insulted John McCain for being a prisoner of war. He’s suggested that US military leaders like war because it increases corporate profits. (Okay, so just because he’s a right winger doesn’t mean that he can’t, rarely, be correct). After all these revelations of anti-patriotism, his support remained fairly consistent.

Right wingers wear their hypocrisy like an open fly.

So, what is American patriotism? Military service is a communal act (regardless of the US Army’s early 2000s entirely ridiculous slogan: ‘Army of One’). Soldiers sleep eat and work/fight communally. And this is why Mitt Romney could seriously claim that since his missionary work for his church was a communal act, it was similar to military service. No separation between Church/State.

Yet, America is all about individualism. Which makes communal acts nearly traitorous. We cannot pool our resources to provide health care for all. Nope. It has to be an individual quest. We cannot have a national jobs program since employment must be an individual success or failure. As Martin Luther King Jr. noted: "This country has socialism for the rich; rugged individualism for the poor."

Patriotism is now competing against science and medicine. And in many ways, it’s winning. We see the battle of patriotism’s definition playing out in the mask ‘debate’. Anti-maskers claim it is their individual right to choose to wear a mask or not – everyone else can just go to hell. Those promoting masks insist that it is a communal effort. That wearing masks protects both the individual and others from contracting the Trump Virus.

John Iadarola (The Damage Report on YouTube) spoke to the attitude of anti-maskers: [They] “won’t do the bare minimum, the tiniest little thing, to protect not only [themselves] but to protect others, to make sure that elderly people don’t die needlessly and all of that. [They] can’t take even a bit of cloth over {their] face, and that makes [them] the best possible American.”

People protesting against masks, many of them attacking low-wage workers who attempt to enforce corporate rules, claim that ordering the wearing of masks is overreach. That the government has no authority to make such a command. But the government makes all kinds of laws and, often unfortunately, we don’t get to pick and choose which ones we like and will follow.

During World War 2, Americans were asked to make sacrifices for the nation’s war against fascism. They were subject to rationing. Many were pushed into the labor market to strengthen the war machine. Many more joined the military to fight, and possibly die, against America’s enemies.

In contrast, shortly after the attacks of 9-11, President Bush told Americans that they should, “Go shopping.” Here, we were advised to discard communal sacrifice in favor of individual action.

So, YOU can be a patriot too! Only sheep drive on the right side of the road because government tells them to. Patriotic Americans, REAL Americans, should drive on the left. Or the middle. Or on the sidewalk. Whatever. It’s all fine as long as you wear a red cap, pray to white Jesus and sing the Star-Spangled Banner while hitting that gas and running through red lights.

Patriotism is aimed at the intellectually lazy. It skips the ABCs and goes straight for the XYZs to prey on people emotionally stuck in their terrible twos. Patriotic people can be easily manipulated into doing things against their own interest, and, ironically, the interests of a nation.

Capitalist Comrades
By Bob Maschi

Few would accuse Trump of being a nice guy. His lack of empathy is as astounding as his lack of knowledge about anything other than his revered stock market. So, this comment from him seems unusual…

“I just wish her well, frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years. Especially since I lived in Palm Beach. I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well.”

Trump was talking about Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell is the person accused of assisting Jeffrey Epstein (who did NOT actually kill himself) with his despicable business of providing children to uber-wealthy men for them to rape.

Why would the president, any president, or any cabinet member, or any Congressperson, in fact… why in hell would ANYONE talk so sympathetically about a person who is accused of sex trafficking, rape abetting and child molesting?


Trump, Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell all belong to the same class – the wealthy class. The class that is engaged in an economic (and now, with the virus, a physical) war against the other major class – working people. The wealthy are well aware of what class they belong to. Most all are born into that class and from their first breath are taught how deserving they are of, not only their wealth, but their power to rule over the rest of us.

The wealthy are class conscious. The majority of working people in the United States? Not so much. Too many agree that those born wealthy deserve every penny they can grab from our wallets. Because… freedom! Well, ‘freedom’ along with the belief that their lottery ticket will soon hit. As Ronald Wright wrote in A Short History of Progress: “…the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

Does anyone believe that Trump would have said such kind words while referring to a poor person accused of abetting in the molesting of children? Temporarily embarrassed millionaires or not?

Laws are made for us. Or, better, laws are made against us. They don’t always apply to the wealthy. If they break a law, they don’t get caught because the police don’t patrol their neighborhoods. If they break a law and get caught, they can hire a team of lawyers to get them off. Even when they are found guilty of their crimes, most are sentenced to time in a relatively comfortable prison or provided with a bulky piece of ankle jewelry.

Trump’s words weren’t meant just for Ghislaine Maxwell. They were a message to his entire class. No worries. I’m on your side. As long as I retain power, as long as our class retains power, you (my wealthy comrades), can do no wrong.

The Stock Market Ponzi Scheme
By Bob Maschi

The Ponzi Scheme is named after Charles (you guessed it) Ponzi (1882 – 1949). He lured suckers in with promises of high and fast returns on their investment. In actuality, what he was doing was paying off early investors with the money he got from later investors. When the pool of investors dried up, so did the money and the payouts.

As with any decent con man, Ponzi played on people’s greed. Scams don’t typically involve low and slow returns on one’s investments. Big promises are made at the same time that escape routes are being planned.

And that brings us right over to today’s stock market.

Isn’t it curious that while the Trump Virus continues to kill, while tens of millions are without basic health insurance, and while tens of millions are unemployed and facing homelessness, the stock market continues to rebound after its February, 2020 crash? There’s a simple answer to this.

The stock market has become (if ever it wasn’t) a Ponzi Scheme.

Soon after that crash the government jumped into the mess with a ton of money. They sent a miserly portion of this cash out to the working class through direct payments and added unemployment benefits. Most of the rest went to the wealthy and their corporations. Even more, trillions of dollars in very low interest loans was offered to corporations (through the banking system) – which was almost like free money. So, they took it. Lots of it.

“So, where is all the extra money being pumped into the economy… where is it going?” Marxist economist Richard Wolff asks rhetorically (Democracy at Work: www.democracyatwork.info ) “…One place. The only place that you can still make a profit – the stock market.” Where isn’t this money going? It’s not going to produce needed products, to hire needed workers, to rebuild the infrastructure or anywhere else that might actually benefit a nation’s economy.

Sometimes the wealthy are even buying up their own corporation’s stocks. More money into stocks means higher prices for those stocks (inflation, actually). This borrowed money can magically increase a company’s value overnight. No need to innovate. No need to even produce anything. Simply buy up your own stock and then sit back and watch as the price moves up which tricks other into buying that same stock.

When loans come due, borrow enough money to pay back prior loans and probably enough extra to buy even more of their own stock! Not a coincidence, corporate bosses often have their own pay or bonuses tied into their stock price.

How long can this last? It’s hard to imagine that in 20 years the government will still be doing this to the cost of hundreds of trillions of dollars. Eventually, it will have to end. But at the first sign that the nearly-free money from the government will stop flowing and that all the loans will come due, the market will crash (taking the economy with it). The government can try to wean the market off of the giveaways, but with the huge amounts we’re looking at, it could take years of weaning to even begin to correct the numbers. Years when environmental disasters, economic recessions and other emergencies can certainly be expected to occur and force the government back into its position as patron to the jittery wealthy.

The best way, for them, to fix this would be that if at the same time investors were being weaned off government money, a large infusion of cash was dumped into the market. Could this come from foreign investors? They aren’t that dumb. Individuals workers? They’re broke. The wealthy? They refuse to pay more taxes. So, where can they possibly find a large sum of money to invest in the markets?

Answer: The Social Security Trust Fund.

The Social Security Trust Fund is worth about 2.6 trillion bucks and capitalists have long drooled about getting their insatiably greedy little paws on it.

I am not composing a conspiracy theory here. I’m suggesting that the only way the government will be able to even pretend to fix this economy will be for them (Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter) to attempt to privatize Social Security and to dump its savings into the stock market.

Their argument for doing this? In a swirl of straight faces and crooked facts they’ll point out that while the Trump Virus was roaring and the economy failing, the market was still growing! As Ponzi was rumored to have said: “I guarantee this is a safe investment!”

(I made that quote up. Sorry).

The huge amount of money in the Social Security Trust Fund will surely lead to a bump in the market and a recovering economy. For a while. Until another market crash comes along and, instead of getting their Social Security checks from the government, the elderly and disabled get IOUs and apologies.

Minus the apologies.