Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Part 3 - Fiscal Costs

In my first diary in this series, I noted how far removed most of us in the United States are from those who serve in our armed forces. The number of Americans who have a close family member who is or has served in the military has steadily decreased over the last several decades from 75% to around 33%. That means that most people are not personally touched by these endless wars that our country is pursuing. Equally shocking is the number of members of Congress who have served in the military stands at only 18%, most of whom have never seen combat. It is another number that has been steadily decreasing over the years. This means that those who send our young people into battle have no concept of what war is really like and have no skin in the game either so they continue to allow these endless wars to proliferate.

Last week in the second diary of this series, I talked about how the Military Industrial Complex is so deeply embedded in our political system that is dictates much, if not all, of our foreign policy. Approximately 1/3 of all military spending worldwide is by the United States and it continues to grow. The United States is also the world's largest exporter of arms. A 2013 listing of the most profitable defense industry corporations shows that seven of the top ten most profitable defense industries are US corporations with the remaining three being European corporations.

This week's diary is about the fiscal costs of these two wars and why they are a time bomb for future generations.

One week after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act which allowed President Bush to send military forces into Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden and take out the Taliban which was deemed responsible for allowing the growth of Al Qaeda. By 2003, the war on terrorism was expanded to Iraq based upon the Bush administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he was planning on using against the United States. At the same time, Bush proposed tax cuts for everyone, thus marking the first time in 140 years that the United States embarked upon a war without raising taxes.

That's an odd combination, as Bush demonstrated last week when he announced his plan. First he emphasized the threat that international terrorism poses to U.S. security and somberly declared that this is a "time of war."

Then he proposed a good-time economic plan that would shower Americans with $674 billion in tax breaks over the next decade -- at a time when the federal budget has fallen back into deficit and faces irresistible demands for more spending on defense and homeland security. The unavoidable result will be bigger federal deficits and a larger national debt, which amounts to shifting the cost of defending the nation onto our children.

With this push to slash taxes during wartime, Bush broke from 140 years of history under presidents of both parties. In every major conflict the United States has fought since the Civil War (and some minor ones), Washington has raised taxes to pay for the war.

In 2012, the United States spent over $680 billion on defense. This figure is more than the next ten countries combined total of defense spending. Since 2001, the United States budget for defense has risen from $287 billion to its high in 2012, and will still be an enormous $648 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, there are still no additional revenues to cover these wars. In fact, figures for the year 2015 show that anticipated revenues will be about $600 billion short of anticipated expenditures. And remember, the Bush tax cuts are still in effect which means that since 2003, the United States has been fighting two simultaneous wars without enacting taxes to pay for them.

So what are the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? The most commonly quoted figure is $1.6 Trillion which is a staggering figure.

The Congressional Research Service, for example, just fired up its calculators and concluded that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost U.S. taxpayers $1.6 trillion.

That number does not begin to reflect the true long term costs of these wars. The $1.6 Trillion figure is simply for the outlays to date, meaning manpower and weapons. It does not begin to account for the costs that will continue to occur for many years after we have left these two countries. Harvard economic researcher Linda J. Bilmes, who is an associate of Joseph Stiglitz, has been tracking the real costs of these wars for a number of years now. These true costs include long term care for veterans and their families, as well as other social and economic costs. In 2010, Bilmes and Stiglitz wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling the war in Iraq, the $3 Trillion dollar war.

In 2013, Bilmes calculated the costs of both wars to be a minimum of $4.5 Trillion and as high as $6 Trillion. This is stunning when compared to the Bush administration's estimate that the war in Iraq would be $50 to $60 Billion.

Bilmes, in her 2013 study, said the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been “the most expensive wars in U.S. history.” That, of course, was before the U.S. entered its third Iraq war in August, and before the U.S. decided to keep troops in Afghanistan through 2016.

But just because those U.S. troops in Afghanistan no longer have a combat mission doesn’t mean they’re a bargain: the CRS report says the cost of keeping a single American soldier there this year is an eye-watering $3.9 million.

And the costs keep mounting. The website for the National Priorities Project has lots of really interesting charts and graphs. Here is a link to an ongoing real time ticker showing just how much money has been spent to the minute on each of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money keeps piling up faster than the second hand of a clock.

The war in Afghanistan is the longest war ever for the United States and the Iraq war is the third longest in our history. While President Obama declared the end of the Afghanistan war in December, it appears we still have troops involved over there, so has the Afghan war really ended?

More than 10,000 US troops – and countless more contractors – will remain in country

This is perhaps the clearest and most obvious signal that the U.S. will continue its war. As part of a bilateral security agreement signed between the new Ashraf Ghani administration in Kabul and the Obama administration, roughly 10,600 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least the coming months. U.S. troops are currently scheduled to leave the Afghanistan entirely by 2016, but the agreement authorizes troops to remain until 2024 if conditions change.

Both of these wars have been pursued simultaneously without the benefit of adequate tax revenues to support them. In my next diary, I will analyze how the costs of these wars and other military adventures are affecting us here in the United States.

Editors note: This diary was originally written as an open thread so if the comments appear to be off topic, that is the reason.

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mimi's picture

I really appreciate it to have them archived and searchable for all those links and facts. Do you want to cross publish them in one big scoop on the gos once you have finished the series? Or will it go as featured diary here, may be all combined into one huge "essay" ?

Anyhow. Kudos and thanks for your work. It's so important.

Have a good day, all.

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mimi

gulfgal98's picture

My biggest problem thus far with this series of diaries is that there is so much more information out there that I would have liked to use. Trying to focus it and edit into something reasonably coherent is a huge challenge for me.

My main reason for focusing so heavily on these illegal and immoral wars is that I believe they represent the most visible manifestations of how deeply corrupt our government is. If people could turn against these wars, we might have a chance to regain a measure of responsiveness of our elected officials to the needs of the people.

Thank you so very for your kind words. Smile

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

mimi's picture

not knowing what to use and what to cut out, same thing happens if you try to cut raw video material. It's tough and as I learn more and more, an art. But I think it's better to have a little more than too little. People who are interested will take the time to read it and if not right now, one day in the future... if they can find it. Smile Most people give up using the internal search functions of a blog, I hate the search pages on the gos. Too old-fashioned and lazy. I like everything simple, ordered and visible.

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mimi

Big Al's picture

Very good work here gulfgal. The costs of these wars and U.S. imperialism is absolutely ruining this country
while making the very rich even more staggeringly rich. It's such an incredibly insane human activity, there's
nothing like it. It goes to the root of who we are as a species and yet we allow it to continue unabated, which
doesn't speak well of humans at all.
The absolute priority of the people should be to rid themselves of the money changers and warmongers.
I look forward to your next diary.

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gulfgal98's picture

You get it. I always appreciate your support. Smile

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

Big Al's picture

election in 2016. Most people just don't want to think about that. And that includes most people on Daily Kos
that like to talk the talk but don't want to walk the walk. Sometimes I get so disgusted about it all. I really do see it
as utter human insanity and yet the supposed smart, powerful people are the ones who do it. If the supposed most
intelligent among us are warmongers and imperialists, what does that say about the human race?
I don't know, the answer is simple, how to do it is incredibly difficult.

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Big Al's picture

of a South Vietnamese Major who saved his family during the fall of Saigon by taking a Chinook helicopter, loading
his family into it and flying out the sea where the U.S.S. Kirk was stationed. He dropped his family onto the flight deck
(they had to jump out and were caught by crewmen) then went out and crashed the copter into the sea, jumped out and
was rescued by the crew of the U.S.S. Kirk. A mission impossible in real life. The story tells about the 2010 U.S.S. Kirk
reunion where the Major was honored and his family got to meet some of the crew that helped save them that day.
Really inspiring, incredible story.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/29/us/vietnam-sea-rescue/index.html

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watched that last night on PBS, Last Days in Vietnam, excellent program. They have actual footage of that incident with that Chinook. This is a must see program, there were many heroes during that bug out that we never heard of at the time. Catch this one if you get a chance. There are many stories of American officers that risked their lives and careers to save many South Vietnamese that would have surely be killed by the North after the take over. It's a 2 hour program full of inspiring but sad stories.

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Big Al's picture

cruising beneath the seas just in case the United States of Imperialism wanted to blow something up.
I can't remember the exact dates but we were in the Philippines for a few weeks for boat upkeep between two
stints in and around the South China sea in 75. Of course, I was on a sub and we weren't there to help anybody.

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Big Al's picture

uss aspro.jpg

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South Vietnamese regulars had smaller choppers stationed all over the south. When it became clear that the evacuation was only happening in Saigon around the American Embassy and they were SOL many of the small chopper pilots took it upon themselves to load up their families and as many friends and relatives as possible and head out to sea, flying blindly, hoping for a chance to be rescued. The Kirk allowed many of these smaller choppers to land on the deck and unload the people then they had no other choice than to push the choppers over the side of the ship. Small chopper after small chopper landed and unloaded. Later on the Chinook you spoke of flew to the Kirk but couldn't land on the deck because it was too large and would have killed all aboard the chopper and probably destroyed the ship. The Chinook was very low on fuel so the pilot had no other choice than to have his family jump and afterwards he ditched the chopper in the sea, they show that in the film. That Major was one hell of a chopper pilot, it was amazing. The crew members of the Kirk pooled all the money they had and spent it on things to help the refugees they had on board, it's a great humanitarian story. The whole program was full of stories like that, Americans breaking rules and orders to save folks because it was the right thing to do.

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I'm not sure what to make of this

Republican war-policy writers are demanding that the United States recognize Kurdish and Sunni militias as their own “country” amid growing concerns about Iran’s influence over Baghdad.
The House Armed Services Committee on April 27 released an annual Defense bill that authorizes $715 million in aid to Iraqi forces fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The bill, which is scheduled to be debated and voted on in the committee on April 29, carves out at least 25% of that aid for the peshmerga, the Sunni tribal militias and a yet-to-be-established Iraqi Sunni National Guard.
The bill “would require that the Kurdish peshmerga, the Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard be deemed a country,” according to a bill summary. Doing so “would allow these security forces to directly receive assistance from the United States.”
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Big Al's picture

neocons and Zionists since the 90's. So now our "representatives" will give them their wish.
This is the culmination of U.S. imperialism.

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Splitting off the Kurds and Sunnis would ensure that Iran would make Baghdad into a "client state". So I don't know what the House Republicans would think they are accomplishing.
OTOH, that's probably the way its going anyway. Iraq's army is too weak to fight a war against anyone. Only the Kurdish and Shia militias can defeat ISIS and everyone knows it.

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Big Al's picture

ISIS can't be defeated without defeating U.S. imperialism.

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gulfgal98's picture

are the ones who are going to determine the boundaries of each state, it probably will be another excuse to remain there militarily. I do not trust most of the people in Congress when it comes to things like this.

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

Big Al's picture

on relative to this partitioning. I doubt they've read "Which Path to Persia", or the PNAC Project for a New American
Century, or the Wolfowitz Doctrine or the Oded Yinon plan, the Zionist plan for the Middle East, or any of the Pentagon
planning documents for Iraq and the Middle East. Most probably are just going on the same propaganda and disinformation
fed to everyone else. So ya, I'd say they can be trusted about as much as Daily Kos.

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Big Al's picture

ralph peters map.png

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gulfgal98's picture

I would love to see a larger version of this, Al. Can you either post a larger version (preferable) or give us a link to it? Thanks!

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

Big Al's picture

more clear map. Or just google Ralph Peters map and all sorts of stuff comes up. Of course, it's the stuff
of what the establishment and the weak minded like to call conspiracy theory territory relative to how it's interpreted.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/plans-for-redrawing-the-middle-east-the-pro...

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gulfgal98's picture

I did Google it and saw all the maps. Shok

I just thought it would be nice to have that link posted here, so thanks for providing that too. Smile

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

gulfgal98's picture

How much more arrogant can we be than to think we can dictate mapping of the Middle East to our own liking? I really wanted to throw up when I read what Condi said. These people such as Rice and others of her ilk are psychopaths. They talk in generic terms about pain, but they say it is necessary. Tell that to the families of the half million Iraqi civilians who have died as a result of our wars of choice. We go over there killing people and inciting violence that de-stabilizes the entire region so we can re make it our own image? Sick, sick, sick!

The advocates of a “New Middle East” and redrawn boundaries in the region avoid and fail to candidly depict the roots of the problems and conflicts in the contemporary Middle East. What the media does not acknowledge is the fact that almost all major conflicts afflicting the Middle East are the consequence of overlapping Anglo-American-Israeli agendas.

Meanwhile our own people are dying in the streets at the hands of our paramilitary police forces. Sad

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

mimi's picture

I just edited my OT for tomorrow and did push save for keeping the changes. It's lost. Can you retrieve it. I means a lot of time wasted for me. And I liked actually what I wrote.

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mimi

mimi's picture

you have three options, preview, save and "save and continue". If I hit save, I would think it would save all the changed and additions I made to the diary. But it didn't. What did I get wrong?

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mimi

look in your user profile, it's in both your "drafts" and "scheduled" pages. When you use the "save and continue" button the diary saves to your "drafts" page.

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mimi's picture

I go into "My account", I go into "Scheduled". That's where I have my diaries I started and scheduled to be published at a later day. Next day I want to continue writing on them. So, I go into Scheduled again and edit the diary I had started the day before. I add stuff. I am constantly previewing, I know if I hit save and continue it saves my added stuff and keeps me on the same page, so that I can continue working on it. But if I hit the save button at the end, because I want to save the final version and not continue, it will not save my addded stuff into the drafts page or into the scheduled page.

I don't know how I get my newly edited page to save somewhere in the scheduled stuff. Or in the draft page.

I am confused. Also, because I work on two computers, if I forget to log out on one and then work on the other one next day, does it mean that the work I do on the second one, without having logged out of the first computer I worked on the day before, would not accept my editing on the second computer?

Sorry for being such a pain in the ... , I just have to understand the logic. Please forgive me... I am not the smartest.

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mimi

and checked and your diary is there. Are you saying the diary is there but the changes weren't saved or are you saying you can't find the diary at all?

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mimi's picture

three hours are not there. What you see is the old version from the day before. I find the old diary, but not the updated and edited one, which I tried to save by pushing the "save" button may be now an hour ago.

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mimi

the only other copy that was in the administration section of the site is the same as what's in your profile page. The additions you made must be lost, if you use the "Save and continue" button that shouldn't happen. That is a risk that you take using text editors on all sites on the internet. The best suggestion is to do all of your writing in a text editor on your personal computer and then copy/paste from there, that way there's no chance of losing your work. Here's the one I use. It's a great text editor and it's free.

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mimi's picture

because I like to preview what I wrote constantly to make it "look" right. (And because I switch computers too often and don't save to a USB stick) What does the "save" button then do on that page? If the save and continue button saves the updated material and keeps you on the page to continue working on it, what would the save button do? Saving it only, if you had hit beforehand the "save and continue" button? And if not, what would it do?

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mimi

button is the same as publish until you schedule your diary. Once it is scheduled the save button does nothing because the scheduling overrides it.

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mimi's picture

because I had scheduled it already in advance, it didn't do anything. Thank You, JtC. Very important to know. And sorry to be such a nagging piece of nuisance. Pardon

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mimi

What's one more regional war?

Egypt reportedly is preparing a large-scale ground and air assault along the Libyan border to oust the Islamic State group from eastern Libya. DebkaFile, quoting military and intelligence sources, said naval and marine forces are assembling at Egypt's Mediterranean ports for a possible assault on Derna, the militants' provincial capital.

DebkaFile noted the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, represents an unacceptable threat to Egypt, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been warned extremists already have penetrated some Egyptian towns and military units. ISIS fighters are being smuggled through the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt from Syria and Iraq by drug rings, DebkaFile said.

Debka isn't the most reliable source, but the story is believable.

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How nice to recognize all the names here.

What an exceptional diary, gulfgal!

I have not had much to say for awhile and I had begun to disengage. I was heartened to hear of Bernie Sanders announcing his run tomorrow. That gives me some hope, though I do not know enough or much of his stance on foreign policy yet. It is good to have hope however small.

Again thanks for the great diary, gulfgal and hello to all of you.

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Big Al's picture

Good to see you and glad you came to visit. Bernie gives a little sanity to the process I guess, which is more
than we have had up to now.

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glad you made it, make yourself at home.

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gulfgal98's picture

I hope that while you are disengaging elsewhere, you will feel comfortable enough here to engage here, at least once in while. Again, it is so good to have you aboard. In case you have not yet noticed, we are all about issues and policy, not parties and personalities. I think you will fit in perfectly here. Good

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

JayRaye's picture

great to see you allenjo!

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

Unabashed Liberal's picture

run into you as much as I did during the Grand Bargain negotiations, I still use one of the excellent videos that you posted on the Chained CPI.

Great to have you aboard!

(Music City) Mollie

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Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.

JayRaye's picture

thank you for this fine series!

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

gulfgal98's picture

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

Unabashed Liberal's picture

hope to swing back later, and mention a couple of observations regarding the military/civilian bureaucracy, FWIW.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Recently found a neat site with animal (wildlife and pet) photos, which I'd like to share on occasion.

But for now, here's a photo from the MSM. I don't run across many pictures of coyotes, and I thought this girl was sorta 'pretty.'

(She was captured by the NYC Police Department, recently.)

AP_coyote_new_york_jt_150425_16x9_992--Photo -- Coyote in NY Police Precinct, April 28, 2015.jpg

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Regarding the importance of the Presidential race that Al mentioned, I'm one that believes that it is very important. My experience has pretty much convinced me that, to some extent, the Presidency is just a figurehead position. And that foreign policy is basically determined by a bipartisan cabal of civilian leaders.

However, IMO, the Presidential selection means a great deal because of the principles that I mentioned in another thread.

At almost every level [for federal employees], the federal system will either 'eat you up and spit you out'--rendering you a tool. Or, at least this is very true for civilians working for the military machine.

The other choice is that you don't allow this to happen--by challenging the hierarchy, or one's supervisory chain-of-command--if/when asked/demanded to carry out toxic/immoral policies.

There's truly not much 'in-between.'

That's one reason that I'm truly horrified at the thought of another Clinton Presidency!

Again, 'the fish rots from the head down.'

So, we desperately need a President that will at least attempt to stand up to this powerful faction.

I have an interesting video of FSC addressing not AIPAC, but a similar organization. "War is on the table" (with Iran), or was last March, according to FSC.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The "partitioning" plan is not necessarily a Republican construct.

VP Biden ran on this when he was a candidate in 2008, IIRC. To get the basics of the plan, I'd go to his old campaign web site.

Mollie

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Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.

Unabashed Liberal's picture

Wink

(Music City) Mollie

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Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.

triv33's picture

I was just lurking, heh!

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

Shahryar's picture

I think this place will work out!

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triv33's picture

so I thought, what the hell, eh? So I signed up.

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

great to see you found your way here, make yourself at home! Need any help getting around just yell.

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triv33's picture

Looks like a great place ya got here JtC.

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

been around for about 3 months, we're small but growing and we've got a great group of folks. Check the memberlist to see who's here. great to have you, triv!

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Big Al's picture

Hope you're doing well.

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triv33's picture

Always great to see you~

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

gulfgal98's picture

I think you will find this is a good place. It is good to have you here.

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

mimi's picture

DSA - is that a political party? Anyone who can educate me about their influence, importance etc? Thanks.

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mimi