Monday, December 20, 2010

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey on Force Against Opponents

As quoted in the New York Times, December 20, 2010, in "Cleric's Anti-U.S. Forces Poised for Gains in Iraq," by Jack Healy:

“We do not see compelling evidence they have renounced, in practice or in theory, the idea that they can use force against their opponents,” James F. Jeffrey, the United States ambassador to Iraq, told reporters. They in this case are the followers of Moktada al-Sadr.

It must be a common practice in the world for political parties and governments to renounce, in theory or in practice, the idea that they can use force against their opponents.

I must have missed the news that the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the U.S. government have renounced, in theory or in practice, the idea that they can use force against their opponents.

Tell it to the Marines, Ambassador Jeffrey.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goodbye, Social Security, Hello Screw Deal

Under the Screw Deal between President Barack Obama, most of the Republican Party members of Congress, and most of the Democratic Party members of Congress, the Social Security payroll deduction is being cut by 2%. One might wonder why, after two decades of official government moaning about Social Security being endangered by insufficient funding, they would choose to reduce funding. The only logical answer is they intend to dismantle Social Security; this is the first step.

Where is the public outrage? Workers are happy to have a slight reduction in the Social Security tax in 2011, and seniors already on Social Security are not too worried. The crisis is probably still about a decade away. Everyone is too worried about the short term to worry about the long term. Retired workers will starve some time in the future, but they have no political representation to speak of. Certainly the Democratic Party gave up representing workers decades ago.

Everything is going according to plan, if you are rich. The rich shall pay no taxes. And I really mean no taxes, because even though rich people in theory pay a 15% long term capital gains tax, in reality they can delay payment forever. The other taxes rich people pay, the ones that everyone pays like sales tax, are trivial to them.

A lot of government spending is ongoing, but no one wants to pay for it. Current Social Security taxes pay for current Social Security recipients. In turn current payers are supposed to have their retirements subsidized by future payers. But once erosion begins (and it has now officially begun) no one wants to be there when the levee breaks. So younger current workers will join the rich in calling for reducing the SS tax even further. Until the cycle is complete and we are back to 1929.

Social stratification is growing. The traditional conveyor belt from the working class to middle class, the low-cost college education, is drying up faster than roadkill on a desert highway at midday in summer. Talented people will be trapped in the working class, no-talent rich kids will increasingly become the decision makers of this nation. They will decide to tax the workers and repeal the minimum wage laws. If you want work your options will be the Army, homeland security, and mopping the floors of their yachts.

The working class is not just unorganized, it is disorganized. Socialist parties and revolutionary groups have all but disappeared. The Democratic Party and most unions are rotten or at best incompetent. Even the middle class seems paralyzed by free-market rhetoric.

In the next year or two the economy will continue its normal business cycle recovery. It would have even without the new tax cuts. Given the depth of the recent recession, a recovery cycle might even last five to ten years. The cycle will end when the national debt it too big to repay and interest rates on that debt start spiraling out of control. The rich will be so powerful you can count on both the dismantling of any remaining social programs and the imposition of higher taxes on everyone who is not tax-sheltered.

Of course, other scenarios are possible. But they would take effort. The real problem was the New Deal and the Great Society combined with American global economic dominance post World War II to create an imperialist working class. No one complained about getting $30 an hour to make the steel and explosives dropped on rebellious peasants. Remember when the unions organized workers to attack peace protesters during the Vietnam War? Our unions thought they were indispensable, but they were wrong. Surprise, steel can be made anywhere. Factories can be dismantled and put together somewhere else.

Hopefully Barack Obama will put himself out of his misery and not run for President in 2012. I admit that Obama may have proven to be a better President if he did not have the Republican Party to deal with. But the President can veto any bill passed by Congress, and there should be enough Democrats in Congress to sustain a veto. He could have stopped the tax cut extensions for the rich. He could have gotten a much better deal for the American people in return for those cuts, if he had wielded his veto.

Imagine it being, say, March 2011, three months into taxes going back up to pre-Bush levels. Who would be hurting, who would be willing to make a deal? The rich and their wholly owned politicians. This whole "we have to do it in December" bit was another Big Lie.

What did Barack Obama get in return for himself? Two years of cooperation with Republicans in Congress?

Forget the old deal. Welcome to the Screw Deal. Next Act: Return to the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

God Punishes Bible Belt with Drought

I could not help but notice the remarkable coincidence between the December 9, 2010 Drought Map of the United States and the 2009 Bible Belief Geographic Index:

drought december 2010
bible believe 2009
drought color scheme
bible belief color scheme

It became apparent to me that God must be sending the drought as a message to the Christians of the Bible Belt. But why? Surely no homosexuals, abortionists, or prostitutes live in the Bible belt anymore, not once they can afford a bus ticket out. While surely some people in the Belt don't pray as much as they should, that is even more true of areas of the United States that are not suffering from drought.

I talked to several preachers who claimed in the past earthquakes in California are God's punishment for allowing homosexuals and abortionists to live, but none of them thought the drought was anything other than a natural La Nina related weather pattern.

Then I took a big step. I decided to try to get an interview directly with God.

True, the bureaucracy was daunting. No one seemed to believe that I really wanted to know God's opinion. But I was persistent, and suddenly a void opened before me (I appeared to be in a multi-dimensional quantumized relativistic field space, but more on that some other time) and I heard the voice of God.

"Speak English!" I shouted back at him.

"There, is that better, insignificant germ on an insignificant planet in an insignificant galaxy in a botched universe creation experiment that I had almost forgot existed?"

"So you are saying you did not visit the drought on the Bible Belt of the United States of America on the planet Earth?"

"Not exactly. Let me have one of my minions examine the database. Huh. That drought is a punishment, although it is also a natural La Nina related weather pattern."

"Fine. Then people on Earth would like to know what the punishment is for, so that they can do better and escape punishment?"

"The punishment is partly for being conscious beings who only do what's right to escape punishment. But more specifically, I don't like them attacking people who are Moslems. I'm not all that fond of Islam, but that camel trading artist Mohammed did hear one thing right. I am the one and only God, and I don't like my creation worshipping made-up Gods, including people whose followers claim they are God on earth."

"So no false gods. Anything else?"

"Did I ever say that because the earth is insignificant that humans have the right to destroy it? Start taking care of the environment or I'm cutting off your food supply. Breed less. Open up more Planned Parenthood centers. Use condoms. Use the brains I gave you to make intelligent decisions! Stop reading the Bible and the Koran so much. They are out of date! Didn't people get the messages I sent through Adam Smith, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein?"

"Well some did, and some did not. A lot of people seem to be hard of hearing in these matters. Especially in the Bible Belt."

"I've tolerated the Bible Belt long enough. I'm turning it into a desert for a few decades. After that, with some rain it might be a nice place again. It was a regular paradise before Christians arrived."

"But if people stop reading the Bible, would you stop the drought?"

"Ha! Maybe it will stop by itself. Maybe it is a natural cyclical phenomena! Next!"

At that point I was blown out of the interview space, back to my natural home in coastal northern California, where it is raining. Where it is okay to believe in Special Relativity and Natural Selection. Where people are friendly, and mostly see no need to go to Afghanistan to kill people.

But I was a little bit miffed that the interview ended so abruptly. I thought the tradition was that when God gives you an interview, and you get back to spread the Word, everybody is thankful and gives you ten percent of their income. Next time I get an interview, I'm starting with fee negotiations.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Soul

People really like the concept of the soul. It is often the last religious relic that modern, non-religious people give up. Atheists often simply dismiss the soul as not worth considering, but I think it is worth considering its varying definitions and its psychological appeal. One goal of my Natural Liberation Philosophy is to align my thoughts as much as possible with Nature. This often requires more careful thinking than that leading to simple Yes or No type answers. The true answer always seems to be, it's complicated. This short essay is an introduction to these ideas and a basis for further discussion.

The basic idea of the soul arose in pre-historic times. Once history starts (with the invention of writing) we start to see ideas mentioned that correspond in some way to our more modern ideas of the soul. Animism, the belief that all things, including mountains, rivers, and trees, have a spirit, is likely to have pre-dated civilization, much less history. As religions developed this basic idea (dualism, the idea that a spirit is necessary to animate a material body) was refined.

Ghosts are associated closely with the ideas of soul and spirit. Some people still believe in ghosts, and some honest research still goes into trying to "find" ghosts, but for the most part the concept is now maintained by horror movies rather than religious belief. Reports of ghosts doubtless are based on the human mind's ability to remember the dead, including in dreams and in waking dreams. Dismissing our modern concept of ghosts simply sharpens the religious definitions of soul.

Like a ghost, a soul is supposed to live after death. The ancient Egyptian view of the soul was quite complex. In Hinduism and Buddhism the soul also exists in a complex state before any particular life, and goes from a dead person or animal into a a new baby person (transmigration or reincarnation). In Christianity, while there are differences of opinion within sects, for the most part humans at conception or birth are given a newly-manufactured soul, pre-corrupted with original sin. In both cases the soul carries, or remembers, the good and bad deeds of a person. In is sort of a sin accounting sheet.

The soul is associated with life (as opposed to dead corpses) and in particular with the mind and consciousness. The mind and consciousness are real enough. However, every indication are that they start functioning around the time of birth and cease functioning at death. The concept of soul extends that functioning to before and after an individual's life. This seems to be mostly a function of fear of death. People fear their own deaths, they mourn the death of people they love, and are frightened by the deaths even of people they do not love. It is also a result of valuing the present over the past.

That type of soul, the kind that is conscious and thinks and holds memories and lives after death, is simply imaginary. If such a soul were real we would not need so many nerve cells in our brains to function, and lesions in the brain would have no effect on our behavior. The body animates itself, when it is healthy.

Another aspect of the soul concept that is appealing to many people is its cleanliness, its theorized inability to be stained by the less pleasant facts of life. The soul does not urinate, defecate, or have bad breath. It appeals to people who fancy that cleanliness is next to godliness. This also pairs up well with many people's desire to think of themselves as "spiritual" rather than greedy and materialistic, even when they are not otherwise religious. It is strange that the opposite of greedy is considered by people to be eternal life, rather than mortality.

But what if we do go looking for eternity, or at least something that does last longer than a particular human brain? There are some soul-like substances worthy of discussion. The main ones are the genes, which provide biological continuity, and culture, which provides a continuity beyond our animal existence.

The one thing intrinsic in us that definitely exists prior to conception and that animates human life is our biological ancestry. I'll use DNA here not just to mean the molecules that code our genes, but the complex fabric of life, including the non-DNA parts of the ovum that contribute to the development of fetuses.

DNA is shuffled quite effectively each time a new human is conceived, so unless a community is highly inbred an individual is not identical to the father or mother, and is not likely to be identical to any particular ancestor. Yet most DNA is shared with all humans, and no individual has any unique DNA unless they have a new mutation or are the last of some line, usually meaning they have a life-threating mutation inherited from an ancestor.

Our DNA is a record of our past, of over a billion years of choices and interactions with the the rest of nature. It is the soul of each new human. There is no guarantee that an individual will reproduce, but our DNA is a result of a common ancestry we share with all humans. Unless all humans die, all the DNA in you will be passed on to the next generation even if you don't reproduce personally. Whether this is as reassuring to you as the false idea of a ghost-soul that lives after your death depends on your attitude. Life goes on, but not your particular individual life. That said, I don't think DNA, in itself, is conscious. It is the blueprint for the body, which is conscious.

Culture goes on too, and it existed and developed for hundreds of thousands of years before your birth. Culture is more flexible and tolerant than DNA; it is more capable of experimentation. Culture includes art and ethics, language and technology, religious and social beliefs. Without it, you might survive, but you would be very animal like. You would not be able to think in the sense that people who know a language think.

Language, in particular, is a soul-like substance. It penetrates from the adults caring for a baby and wells up within, naming the things of the world and describing their relationships. Language has been described by philosophers and poets alike as a living thing, a vast edifice of spirit that possesses and shapes us throughout our lifetimes.

When someone argues that humans have souls, I want to know exactly how soul is defined by that person. Since most of the religious definitions of soul make no sense or are clearly make believe, I prefer to avoid using the term except in a poetic sense. I am more interested in mind, intelligence, empathy, and consciousness, which while also sometimes vague or difficult to define, clearly have their role in our natural reality.

See also: God, a Confusing Concept

For a rundown of how many religions define the soul, See Soul at Wikipedia.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deficit Hawks Feared Extinct

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Deficit Hawk, Falco deficere, appears to have suddenly gone extinct.

"It's shocking" said biologist Eve Migratorius. "As late as this October we had widespread sightings of Deficit Hawks. In December it's as if they all fell out of the sky. We are hoping there are a few hiding in more remote areas, enough to repopulate the species. But we have not been able to spot any yet. If there are any still alive, we can begin the process of adding them to the endangered species list."

Unofficial Republican Party spokesperson Sarah Palin, on hearing the news, said "If elected President I'm going to mow down any and all species that interfere with creating more sub-minimum wage jobs for Americans or further tax breaks for the rich."

Speaking for the White House, Robert Gibbs said, "No comment."

An anonymous source in Congress said,"Given the choice between actually cutting the federal deficit and cutting taxes, most American voters and in particular campaign donors strongly prefer cutting taxes. Ecologically speaking, the Deficit Hawks flew into a vacuum and croaked."

I think it is more complex than that. The Tea Party Pigeon, Columbidae credulus, had a population explosion in 2010. It occupied Deficit Hawk habitat, often mimicking the hawk's mating call. This resulted in female hawks laying infertile eggs, and the decline of the species in December when the prior generation of true deficit hawks died of old age.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Forget Pearl Harbor

Tomorrow, December 7, 2010, Americans are supposed to remember the Battle of Pearl Harbor. The following day, December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on Japan, thus officially entering what came to be called World War II.

We are supposed to remember it was what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called a "Day of Infamy" because the Japanese military attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, without having declared war first. Actually, the Japanese had declared war first, and if they had declared war the previous day, or the previous week, it would not have mattered. The American Navy was looking for an attack on Hawaii from the southwest. The Japanese attack was a surprise because it came from the northwest. The idiot in command of Hawaii had not bothered to send out submarines, surface ships, or even scout planes to warn of an attack from the northwest. Look at a map of the Pacific, look at the relative positions of Japan and Hawaii, and think about how stupid this guy [Husband Edward Kimmel] was.

There are larger issues involved in the Asian-American war that we should remember. They are far more important to remember than the specifics of one particular battle. They address the question: what causes wars? Another larger issue is, if the Japanese attack without declaring war was so bad, why has the U.S. fought so many undeclared wars?

The Japanese attacked the U.S. armada at Pearl Harbor because the two nations were already at war. In addition, President Roosevelt had previously sent orders to General MacArthur in the U.S. slave colony of the Philippines giving him further permission to attack the Japanese, without waiting for Congress to declare war. MacArthur was a fine general, but he wanted more planes and ships at his disposal before making his attack. In addition to the invasion fleet at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. had a huge fleet sailing for the Philippines on December 7, and an even larger fleet under construction. The U.S. in 1940 had ten times the industrial capacity of Japan, and Roosevelt was hell bent on conquering the world with it, which he did. You don't conquer the world by accident.

Japan and the U.S. were already fighting a proxy war in China. The Japanese intervention in China, I believe, was wrong, but Japan was not doing anything the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands had not done in China or East Asia. If Japan was wrong, they were all wrong. And the Japanese argument for intervention, while self-serving, was really quite strong. China had been misgoverned for over a century. Japan had, everyone admitted, largely caught up with the White racist powers because she was well-governed (and was, in fact, about as much of a Democracy as any of the other great powers). Japan's leadership sought to bring good governance to China, but instead their crazed military had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The U.S.A. was also deeply involved in using military force, and crimes against humanity, to gain control of China. While Chiang Kai-shek had been a courageous fighter for the independence of China in his youth, by 1940 he and his Kuomintang Party were corrupt puppets of the United States, with little or no actual support from the Chinese people. Chiang was sustained by American money and American armaments. He always had an excuse for not holding elections and for backing up his war-lord partners in crime. In the summer of 1941, long before Pearl Harbor, Claire Chennault began leading "volunteer" American pilots, flying American-made fighters, in attacks on the Japanese and their Chinese allies. This force, the Flying Tigers, was formally incorporated into the U.S. Air Force in 1942. That is war, if by deception.

The Japanese declaration of war accurately describes the reasons for its campaign to liberate East Asia from the colonial powers, including the United States:

Although there has been reestablished the National Government of China, with which Japan had effected neighborly intercourse and cooperation, the regime which has survived in Chungking, relying upon American and British protection, still continues its fratricidal opposition. Eager for the realization of their inordinate ambition to dominate the Orient, both America and Britain, giving support to the Chungking regime, have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia. Moreover these two Powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire to challenge Us. They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations, menacing gravely the existence of Our Empire. Patiently have We waited and long have We endured, in the hope that Our government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement; and in the meantime they have intensified the economic and political pressure to compel thereby Our Empire to submission. This trend of affairs, would, if left unchecked, not only nullify Our Empire’s efforts of many years for the sake of the stabilization of East Asia, but also endanger the very existence of Our nation. The situation being such as it is, Our Empire, for its existence and self-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.

How does that compare to declarations of war by the United States of America? Even excluding wars to exterminate native American Indians and seize their private property, the U.S.A. has fought in well over 50 wars (defining wars as American soldiers fighting on foreign soil) during our brief history.

The Congress of the United States of America (the Constitution does not allow the President to declare war) has declared war precisely five times. Admittedly, these were the big wars of U.S. conquest:
War of 1812 (Our attempt to conquer Canada; we got Florida instead)
Mexican-American War (We grabbed New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California)
Spanish American War (We grabbed the Philippines and Puerto Rico, but gave back Cuba)
World War I (We charged interest on loans to our allies and became the worlds leading industrial power)
World War II (We grabbed South Korea and Japan and world economic control since everyone else's factories were destroyed)

How does the Japanese declaration of war against the United States stack up? On the whole it is in the same ballpark. In the War of 1812 we had similar complaints about embargos by Britain and France, as well as Native Americans not obeying white men, much as some Chinese were not keen on obeying the Japanese, even discounting the American puppet government of Chiang Kai-shek.

Bringing us back to the present, I don't think very many Americans want to hate the Japanese any more. In that sense we should forget Pearl Harbor. But I don't think the current agreement of the U.S. and Japan to pretend that Japan is not a colony of the U.S. can last too much longer. General MacArthur, by almost anyone's reasonable standards (Stalinists excluded) did a very good job as American viceroy after World War II. The quasi-independent status of Japan has even had some real benefits for the Japanese, as they have been able to focus their economy on production. As the U.S. spins into the whirlpool of war-related debt, if I were Japanese I'd be thinking of cutting loose at the first opportunity. Getting the offensive U.S. military bases off Okinawa would be a good start towards true independence.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The New Tax Scam

If America's politicians and those who report on them are to be believed, December 2010, in addition to being the last month to kill your ancestors so that you can get a tax-free inheritance [not too quick, John, this applies only to those with ancestors worth over $3 million], is when President Barack "Hawaii" Obama, the corporate controlled U.S. Senate and the corporate controlled House of Representatives must renew the George W. Bush Memorial Tax Cuts.

You probably don't recall that under President Dwight David Eisenhower the top margin income tax rate for the richest Americans was near 90%. Starting with President John if-I-just-live-until-pop-dies-I'll-be-a-billionaire Kennedy, the top tax rates have been lowered at regular intervals.

Also keep in mind that most rich people are not like you and me. If you consider a $1 million per year lawyer rich, you don't get around much. He's just a highly-paid working stiff, a member of the middle class. No, a rich person gets most of their increase in wealth through investments. They own things. That means their income-like substance is actually classified as interest, dividends, or capital gains. The best are capital gains, because you (or rather they) don't have to pay capitals gain tax until the gain is "realized." Allow me to illustrate.

You own Apple stock, a lot of Apple stock, and are known for yelling at employees and selling commodity products to consumers for designer product prices. Your stock was priced at $13.87 on, say December 31, 1990 and today it is worth $317.44 per share. You own 5.6 million shares. Your capital gains during the period is (317.44 - 13.87) x 5.6 million, or $1.7 billion.

How much federal tax has this particular rich person paid to the federal government on the $1.7 billion increase in wealth during this period, classified as capital gains? Nothing. Zero. I kid you not. No one pays taxes on capital gains until the asset that has increased in value is sold.

It's true, I know it's true, not just because every financial advisor can tell you this, because a few years ago I began building my own retirement fund, buying some stocks. I only report capital gains (or losses, in my case) when I sell a stock. The IRS would not have it any other way.
Multiply this by about 1 million people whose increased wealth mainly comes from capital gains, and you have a capitalist love fest.

And (this is a very big And) capital gains, if actually taken by sale of stock, are taxed at a special extra-low, friend of Congress and Presidents rate. As are dividends (sort of like interest on a savings account, but paid on stocks).

And no Social Security or Medicare tax is paid on capital gains, dividends, or inheritance.

So what are Obama, the Democrats, and the Republicans arguing about? Exactly how deep the feather beds of the richest Americans will be after January 1. Do not be deceived. Yes, the payroll taxes, including the Federal Income Tax, are important. But what the truly rich are really worried about are the capital gains tax, the tax on dividends, and the estate tax.

The second-tier rich people, the ones with actual incomes who pay income taxes, are of course pretty powerful as a class, and numerous compared to those whose main concern is capital gains tax rates. They care about the income tax rate on incomes over $250,000 per year. They contribute heavily to candidates for congress.

It sounds like Hawaii Obama is going to trade a tax cut extension for the rich in return for being allowed to extend Federal unemployment payments to the unemployed. The Republican Party voted trillions to bail out the likes of GE, Citibank and Goldman Sachs, but a few hundred dollars a week for a long-term unemployed person, why, that's socialism! It is un-Christian, the work of the devil.

Which leaves us with the astonishing federal deficit in place. Which means (and I know you knew this already) the Tea Party Republicans and the Regular Republicans were using the deficit as a phony political issue. They did not care about Bush era deficits that financed the Islamic Wars and the hyper-expansion of the police state (Homeland Security). They would like to throw poor people off unemployment and Medicaid and Social Security, but that is just a matter of principle. Deficits are fine as long as the federal dollars go to the military industrial complex and special projects to enrich government contractors for civilian projects.

Here's what is going to happen: the rich will get what they want. Having a Democratic Party majority in the Senate and the first Hawaiian President in American history are not going to prevent that.

And if history is any indicator, the American worker is just going to take it on the chin. Because we have the weakest-spined workers in the world. American workers (and I include the unemployed) won't march, won't riot, won't even organize a union at their work place, much less register and vote Green Party or for a socialist party. They won't even try to make the Democratic Party work for them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Smashing Tiffany: Theodore Roosevelt and Progressive Illusions

According to Paul Johnson in Creators (he footnotes Lost Treasures Of Louis Comfort Tiffany
by H. McKean), the entire White House was redecorated by Louis Tiffany during Chester Arthur's presidency. Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States in 1901 when William McKinley died after being assassinated by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz. Roosevelt did not like Tiffany, or his art, considering both to be decadent. Theodore Roosevelt thought putting up stuffed heads of big game animals he killed was decoration enough. He ordered all the Tiffany art objects, which were mostly glass, to be removed and smashed. He refused Tiffany's offer to buy them back. My guess is if he had just put them in storage, we could auction that stuff off for roughly $500 million today, to help pay down the national debt.

smashed by Teddy?

There are many instances in history when art has been destroyed for political reasons. Art has often been destroyed when a new religion took over. The early (and later) Christians destroyed a lot of fine statuary because it depicted pagan gods. Just as war should not be excused because there has been a lot of war, Roosevelt's wanton destruction of the art owned by our government should not be excused. But his behavior is not surprising considering the general destructiveness of the man. Most notably, more than any other single person Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for genocide against the people of the Philippines [See The U.S. Conquest of the Philippines].

Why then, is Roosevelt always pawned off as a progressive politician and even an environmentalist? American history-as-propaganda paints a pretty face on Roosevelt's actions during his lifetime, mainly by highlighting a few good features and masking a lot of details. Unlike today, in 1900 large numbers of Americans looked to social cooperation and ethical values to create a better American society. People were demanding economic reforms, women's rights, civil rights, the right to unionize, and the right to use the government to regulate and punish criminal business activities. Many were socialists of one form or another.

Theodore Roosevelt got a name for himself as a reformer early in his life because he took on certain corrupt politicians in New York State. But he had no problem with corrupt practices when he or his friends stood to benefit. While President he did little for the American people. In 1903 he grabbed the Panama Canal zone, but that was because he loved to use the U.S. Navy to bully other nations. Oh, his rhetoric was a fine thing; he called his class of people the "predatory rich," but his reforms were designed to keep particular sets of capitalists, like the railroad corporations, from strangling capitalists as a whole. Trusts (colluding corporate organizations creating monopolies) were attacked rhetorically, but little was actually done about their practices. "The harsh truth is that more trusts were formed under Roosevelt than under the combined administrations of his predecessor (McKinley) and his successor (Taft)." [Bailey, American Pageant]

Roosevelt did increase the size of the national park and forest system, but that was because he like to blast wild animals with guns.

Roosevelt reigned during the age of Reform, but very little reform got done. To distinguish a group of reforms (including women's suffrage and Prohibition) from the more radical socialists and anarchists, the term Progressive came into use. Most of the Progressive politicians were Republicans, notably Fighting Bob La Follette, who became governor of Wisconsin in 1901 and Hiram Johnson, elected governor of California in 1911.

Theodore Roosevelt missed the power of the Presidency after he retired in 1908. President Taft was quieter but more effective, bringing 90 legal proceedings against trusts during his term. But there was no political room to the right of Taft without becoming a Democrat, so Roosevelt tried to get the Republican Party nomination in 1912 by feinting left. When he failed that he formed his own party, which he called the Progressive Party. In effect the Republican Party was split, and the arch-racist Democratic Party nominee, Woodrow Wilson, won with a plurality of the vote. Roosevelt came in second.

Thus the name Theodore Roosevelt became closely associated with the Progressive Party and the progressive movement. So we need to forget the genocide against the Filipino people, and the smashing of Tiffany's glass art, and the unending suffering of American workers and farmers (and African-Americans, and women, and ...) during his era.