Modern Idolatry   55 comments

There are many idols in this world. We don’t tend to think of idol-worship in our modern society. We are so sophisticated that we don’t make graven images to bow before. That doesn’t mean we don’t have idols. Any time a Christian puts anything higher than God, it becomes an idol. Even our government can become an idol if we put obeying it above our obligation to obey God.

Here in the United States, many Christians insist that we must support our government and obey it, even as it does things that are cruel, greedy, murderous and godless. If you point out where the US government has gone astray, they will cite Romans 13 and a handful of other passages to assert that Christians must never, ever disobey the government because that is tantamount to disobeying God.

So they plunk down their tax money and they send their sons and daughters off to war, to pay for and participate in assassinations, unjust wars, taxpayer-funded abortion, drone strikes, and attacks on American citizens (such as Ruby Ridge). They don’t complain and often they cheer.

When President Obama authorized a drone strike murder on American citizen Anwar al-Alwaki I objected on two grounds — one that he was an American citizen and therefore supposed to be protected by the Constitution and two that our government should not be using drones to kill anyone. If we are a nation founded on the rule of law, then simply sneaking up on someone we suspect of terrorism is not good enough. Innocent until proven guilty, right to a fair trial, right to face your accusers … and all that. Yet, many of my fellow Christians informed me that I didn’t have a right to judge the government as abusive and out of control because of … Romans 13.

It goes further than that, however. God gave us the right of liberty (1 Peter 4:15), which our Constitution acknowledges, but the American government tells us what we must do, own, buy, sell, and consume. Our Constitution sets forth protections for criminal and civil procedings in a way reminiscent of the cities of refuge and the trial in the gate system of Israel, yet our government recently has given itself the power to arrest and incarcerate without evidence or trial. God gave us the right of property (Exodus 20:15), which is recognized in the Founding documents, but the American government imposes coercive taxes, confiscates possessions, and tells us what we can and cannot own. God gave us the right of privacy (1 Peter 4:15), acknowledged by the 4th amendment, but the American government gave itself license to spy on us through our computers, telephones, and records and by means of cameras, drones and even our neighbors.

If God granted these rights and safeguards them through His divine law, then it reasonably follows that man has no authority to take them away. That used to be understood in the United States and was enshrined in our constitution, but in recent times we have given ourselves the right (through the government) to define and even take away the rights of other men, thus attempting to dethrone God and replace Him with the government.

Does that seem like an overblown statement?

In a society that is supposedly founded on self-government, when the government steals, coerces or murders, it does it in your name. Christians are called in the Bible to refrain from such activities, but when our government engages in them, it does so on our behalf … though increasingly against us.

To obey a government without question because you believe God has required you to obey it even as it violates His commands is as much idolatry as Caesar declaring himself God!

55 responses to “Modern Idolatry

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  1. The worship of the American constitution is a form of idolatry. Where in the bible does it say Americans are to worship that particular piece of paper? (I’m an agnostic Canadian, but that type of energy easily spreads to Canada since the worst personalities always hitch themselves to that mentality.)

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    • That’s what I’m exploring.
      I’m not so much focused on “worship” of the Constitution, so much as worship of the government. The US Constitution is not the Bible. It can be amended as suits the times — though it is difficult, as suits the cause of liberty. The US Constitution is, in my opinion, the best document ever written for securing individual liberty, because it gives the government very few delegated duties and all the rest belong to the people and their states. Unfortunately, the federal government has overreached so far that it has no reference to the Constitution and if individual liberty is to survive, Americans must decide what to do about that overreach.

      However, the Bible says Christians should be obedient to the government (Romans 13). Does that mean we’re always to be obedient to the government even when it is completely wrong (drone strikes, listening to its citizens’ communications without warrants, giving itself the power to incarcerate political prisoners without benefit of trial or even charging documents). These activities are all violations of the Constitution, but more than that, they are violations of natural rights which are grounded in Biblical principles.

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      • But what happens when a constitution is also flawed? This has occurred many times in history and is used to oppress the people…

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      • Sure it has. The US Constitution enshrined slavery, after all, which was unacceptable in a nation that held individual liberty as its highest ideal. The US Constitution can be amended and eventually was (though we could discuss whether the war that made the possible was a war of which God would approve). Other countries have constitutions that are deeply flawed and cannot be amended, even if the people were in favor it that.. However, just because our government says another country’s constitution (assuming it has that it has one) is flawed and needs to be replaced, should Americans and particularly Christians wage war on that country to force a change? Is that godly or is it simply wrapping ourselves in a cloak of Christianity to make evil more palatable?

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      • Lol the fact you think I’m implying we should wage war on another country to change their government (which will only cause more damage in the long run since such things are carried out solely through selfish and malicious aims) shows that you probably have to put up with a very aggressive and ignorant faction of people on a daily basis 😦

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      • Not in my own job, no, but I do live in a military town (Fairbanks Alaska) where about 20% of the population is either in the military or is married to someone who is. Because Alaska is a big place to retire out of the military, about 30% of our population has some former connection with the military. Most of them are very much in favor of wars.

        On the other hand, Alaska has a large-ish and verbal community of rabble-rousers who believe in civil disobedience. I’m a secessionist myself. I find myself standing on this precipice. Pampleteering (blogging) is one thing, but at some point, you have decide what you’re willing to do to make a change. And there is where I run up against questions.

        In light of Romans 13 and other passages, is it acceptable for Christians to go to war or even to participate in civil disobedience? I don’t have the answers, but I definitely want to explore the questions.

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      • That’s fascinating that those either in or with association to the military are in favour of war themselves. I always had the image that military men and women are more interested in peace and that it was people in the government that forced them to go to war. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around a group of people who actually favour war when they are the ones that are going to have to do the fighting and put their own lives at risk. I think they should have had more news coverage of what the soldiers who fought the Iraq war actually thought about the war themselves. They don’t really report on that in mainstream media.

        I’m cool with civil disobedience, but it’s useful to remember there is a type of lawful obedience that can help change the system too. For example, blogging would be one thing, but garnering public involvement in an issue as well as forcing greater transparency from all types of authority is also an effective means of making sure no shady business is going on, if you know what I mean.

        For me, war has to be out of either GENUINE self-defense, or must be 100% pure, unsullied, and altruistic if a country is going to interfere with the workings of another country. With all the selfishness in the world it doesn’t make much sense that any state is going to spend that much money and manpower to genuinely help another country if there is nothing in it for themselves. And I don’t buy any of Samantha Power’s bullsh*t that selfish intervention actually helps anyone. Morons like her make that argument over and over and over again no matter how many times it has proven false. Her personality is exactly the type that would have encouraged the raping of India by British colonialists in the name of helping them.

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      • Unfortunately, if you ask a soldier what he thinks about war, you will not get an honest answer if he doesn’t like it. Soldiers are indoctrinated in boot camp to obey orders. It’s reflexive and it’s deep programming. A friend of mine who retired about five years ago was very much for our entry into Iraq, for example — at the time. A couple of years ago, he said in conversation that he had never been for entry into Iraq. My husband called BS and our friend and he argued about it. The friend came back later and said “You know, you’re right. In my heart, I was never for our entry into Iraq, but I always said I was because soldiers never question (aloud) the commands we’re given.” So interviewing the soldiers would do no good, I think.

        But also, even many of our retired military believe strongly that a good defense requires a strong offense. They are trained from the beginning to invade and break stuff. And, there’s evidence to suggest they’re right. Carter was pursuing a policy of troop draw-downs in 1979 when the Iranians felt comfortable enough to storm our embassy. If Clinton had not reduced our military down to the smallest it had been since World War II, would Al Qaida have risked attacking us on 911? These things seem to happen when we let down our guard.

        On the other hand, we have a HUGE military that far outsizes all other militaries, so maybe it was that we publicized our seeming lack of preparedness — which we certainly proved was incorrect when we invaded Afghanistan.

        There is one part of their argument I tend to agree with, though. The United States has been blessed by not having war on our own territory and it makes logical sense that you want to maintain the ability to — if attacked — wage war on the soil of your attacker rather than your own, because whoever hosts the fight, win or lose, will lose many civilian lives and have a lot of rebuilding to do.

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      • Pure, altruistic … war??? Well, that’s never going to happen.

        Consider World War II. We were allied with Britain, which was getting its hind-quarters kicked, but we didn’t enter the war. Our government knew there was something going on with the Jews (though they didn’t know the scale), but we didn’t enter the war. We provided goods to England, but what they really needed was our army. German subs were attacking our merchant vessels in Chesapeake Bay and within sight of the Eastern Seaboard and we didn’t enter the war. Then we were attacked on our own soil and we entered the war for revenge. We had opportunities to enter for altruism and we refused, but when it came to revenge, we were all in.

        After years of fighting, our troops found the concentration camps. Over in the Pacific, my dad was a merchant mariner who got to see some of the starving people in China from Japan’s version of the Final Solution.

        That war was never altruistic or pure until we learned what was really happening and by that time it was over. Yet, I cannot make the argument, or agree with my anarchist friends who do, that it was a war the United States should not have taken part in. My dad hated war, but WW2 was the one war he felt needed to be fought. Although I would disagree with him now, he would also point to the Marshall Plan’s rebuilding of Europe and Japan as proof that the United States gave generously to our defeated enemies. Germany and Japan are both economic powerhouses thanks to losing a war to us. Which I find terribly ironic.

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      • In my mind unleashing the military power of any state is like unleashing an axe-wielding maniac in some ways (this has nothing to do with the individual soldiers involved, it’s all about the strategic planners deciding who goes where.)

        Yes, the US fighting the Nazi’s was “good” only as the lesser of two evils and yes, men and women were definitely needed for it. But it wasn’t truly good and well-intentioned (on the part of the state.)

        It’s like Freddy vs Jason. If the only way to stop one is to unleash the other, then maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

        The problem lies with the aftermath. If Freddy won, it doesn’t mean he did it benevolently. It doesn’t mean we should see him as a benefactor to humanity. He just enjoys taking people out.

        If I was a soldier like your father, I probably would have felt it was my duty to help fight that war too just because it was a case where fighting for the lesser of two evils is genuinely contributing to something positive. But I would always keep in mind that it is only the lesser of two evils while I’m doing it just to maintain the truth of things which will always be important later on.

        A true altruistic war is one where a country expends it’s money and resources on protecting the people of another country from an aggressor with absolutely no ulterior motive but to help those people; period. (Never happens.)

        You’ll know this better than I will, but Noam Chomsky discussed a war the US got involved in (maybe in Eastern Europe…I can’t quite remember the exact details…) where it looked like the US was genuinely there to help the people and protect them. But his explanation was that in reality it was more a way to justify a war that was not supported by the UN so that in future wars not supported by the UN, the US could still pretend it was doing something ethical (…again, I can’t quite remember which military operation that was…)

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      • My dad wasn’t a soldier. He was in the US Merchant Marine because he was a conscientious objector, but he didn’t meet the US definition under religious objections. But what he saw in China and what he heard from my uncle about the Jewish concentration camps changed his mind … on World War 2. He still believed war in general was unnecessary, but he came to believe that sometimes “evil flourishes if good men do nothing.”

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      • Well I do believe the people of Germany should have revolted against Hitler and the constitution he set in place. Sometimes the best thing good men can do is work their hardest to hold back the aggressive nature of the state that represents them

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      • The Weimer Constitution allowed Hitler to come to power, which is proof positive that constitutions can be badly flawed. Of course, once Hitler was in office, it essentially tore up the constitution, which is proof positive that a dictator — even an elected one — can find a way to circumvent even a good constitution. The German people knew what was going on, but they’d allowed themselves to be disarmed in the interest of “national defense and public peace”, so their options for revolt were limited. Still, it comes down to people carrying enough about their world to be willing to stand against armed troops with molitov cocktails and rocks. When they smelled the odor from the furnaces, they had an obligation to start gathering rocks.

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      • I don’t know of a war in Eastern Europe where the US ignored the UN. Chomsky is always spouting off about United States imperialism. He predicted we would go into Georgia without UN approval, but we didn’t. It might have been Kosovo, which had NATO support, but not UN support. That was one of those truly muddled affairs that the US (and any other thinking countries) should stay out of. There is no clear “right” side. The Muslims were as guilty as the former Communists of “ethnic” cleansing. Same-same in Syria, as in Lybia, as in Ukraine. The problem is that we know that from a distance, but we really won’t KNOW that until the war is over and we find out who was killing who for what reason — and even then we might not know for sure that it was right or wrong to stay out of it. The US is still being criticized for its decision to stay out of Rwanda, for example. But really — right side? — how do you tell?

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      • Well some argue the US wasn’t actually that innocent a bystander in Rwanda as the liberal media likes to make it seem. It may have actually contributed indirectly. Chomsky spouts a lot about imperialism and it’s likely mostly true. If the US interferes everywhere for selfish reasons alone, then their aims are imperialistic, in my opinion. Clear right and wrong is tough but intention is everything. When you go into a place with the wrong energy you always cause more pain and suffering. Ppl should stop asking “what’s the best way to interfere” and rephrase “are we interfering for the right reason?” in my opinion.

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      • No, I agree with you, though not with Chomsky. He’s right to a certain extent, but some of his biases are, well, biased. It’s his personal opinion that he dresses up in “I’m an expert” window-dressing. That doesn’t mean he’s not right sometimes; just that his opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.

        Although I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were CIA contractors involved in the runup to the Rwandan conflict, I think the “blame the US” mantra is sometimes reflexive. There is an assumption that the US is involved in everything and I think that’s probably a little paranoid. Then again, I wouldn’t reject evidence either.

        Yes, especially since World War 2, the US has been much too involved in the rest of the world’s business. The results are $17 Trillion in debt and an economy that barely registered a heartbeat last quarter. We need to stop and scale back. The questions we should be asking ourselves, I think, is — “Do we really need to interfere? Are our national interests really involved?” If the answer to that is “no”, then we shouldn’t get involved. Of course, that sort of question would have to extend to our covert pre-war activities as well. Not that John-Boy Kerry is actually an effective diplomat, but the US should restrain itself to “interfering” with other countries through diplomacy and allowing our capitalists (if there are any left that haven’t migrated to China or Ireland … or Canada … for the better corporate tax rates) to influence the world economically.

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      • I always though Chomsky encouraged people to think for themselves more than other “intellectuals.” Have you ever talked to the intellectuals that think they “control” poetry? Those rules are just their opinions, but they act like they are inherent.

        Right now Putin is saying the Ukraine independence movement is the CIA’s doing. That one I don’t buy.
        Assuming the following schematic is true, it’d be incredibly difficult to keep track of such things.

        That’s why I often use Chomsky as a source of info. I mean no one’s perfect, but I trust him a lot more than some of the other pundits and “experts.” He’s just tough because it seems like he is never quite satisfied with anything lol (perhaps he has the right not to be with the way things are.)

        Why can’t the US spend all that money on it’s own people? All of their foreign exploits only benefits the rich elite. Why can’t they just give the money they are spending on all these phony operations back to the people through social support programs. (I believe in a “capitalism” where people compete and try to make money and do business for luxuries, but where the basics of life like food, water, shelter are guaranteed.)

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      • With all due respect, when people rely on the government for the basics of life, water, shelter, etc., they tend to sit down and do nothing. My mother was part-American Indian (well, actually Canadian Indian). Her grandparents migrated south into Michigan and assimilated into American life complete with the fear of starvation if they didn’t work. Their descendants have done pretty well for themselves — one became a poet laureate, others were in business and the current members of the large extended family own businesses, are engineers for Boeing, teachers, a world-renown research doctor, a transportation administrator, etc.

        Mom’s cousins who didn’t assimilate eventually ended up in Oklahoma where they live the rez life. Their needs are taken care of — the US Bureau of Indian Affairs provides a lot of benefits and the tribe found oil, so they’re not financially hurting. But they don’t do anything except smoke cigarettes and pot, drink alcohol and complain about how the “white man” keeps them down. To look at them, you’d think they were impoverished, but I’ve calculated their benefits and the tribal income and I make less actual money working than they do sitting on their butts. The provision of the basics of life actually afford them the luxury of not working for a living … and they resent it. I did a post on it a while back that details the downside.

        I believe in emergency help as a safety net, but it needs to be short-term and goal-oriented, which is more likely to happen at a state-level than at the federal level. Anyone who can work should never be supported by government for longer than a few months. It’s just not good for people’s souls to live on the charity of others, even the government.

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      • Yeah, but there is enough to go around now. The point of increased industrial output and greater technology is for us to have greater comfort. It doesn’t really make that much sense for us to always be struggling.

        We need to give people the basics of life so that people can speak out against employers and corporations. The human soul is completely eliminated when we are all chasing income.

        I don’t mind some people sitting around doing nothing. I prefer people who would otherwise be homeless sitting around doing nothing than watch people like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie sitting on the beach all day in their thousand dollar bikinis with their little poodles in their Prada bags or what not.

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      • We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. Paris and Nicole are wasting their lives too and their lack of need to work for survival has left them bereft of will.

        I have studied socialism/communism enough to say that it has never worked, anywhere, for long enough to be considered a good idea. The longest experiment was the Soviet Union and the only reason they lasted as long as they did was because of totalitarian coercion of the working class. I recently reread Hayak’s “Road to Serfdom” in which he analyzed why planned economies and socialism do not work. Essentially it’s because the people who “get” have no incentive to get off their butts and do anything and the people who “give” have their incentive to be productive diminished or taken away. The “givers” recognize that they’re not getting anywhere and they slow their production or outright quit trying … or they start putting their production into the black market, so their hard-earned dollars don’t go to the “getters”. Pretty soon, the utopia collapses.

        I would note that corporations in the Soviet Union were essentially owned by the state. You didn’t need to worry about losing the basics of life if you stood up to them because the state would imprison you when you stood up and so starving was the least of your worries.

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      • But what about the extreme inequality that’s actually getting worse; how will that ever change?

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      • I don’t really care how much richer someone is than I am. I care only that my paycheck covers my needs, making me “richer” than my parents. I don’t work 12-hour days six days a week like they did. I work 40 hours a week five days a week and my husband the construction worker doesn’t even work all months of the year. I choose to live a fairly simple life (compared to many modern Americans) because I like living that way, but even so, my life is so much easier than my mother’s was.

        America’s “poor” need to buy a clue. Are they really “poor” if their housing, food, cell phone and wifi are paid for by the government? Many of the US “poor” own cars, have multiple TV sets and get their nails done on a regular basis. They often actually have a higher standard of living than many in the middle class do. In my parents’ generation, that was unheard of, but then the definition of “poor” back then was a lot different than it is today. By today’s standards, my middle-class parents would have been considered “poor”. They would have laughed at that because their lives were so much easier than the lives their parents had lived.

        So some family in the Hamptons has a bigger house than I do. Big deal! Many of my husband’s family are “wealthy”. Turns out that means they’re really in a lot of debt. They make big incomes, but they have bigger lifestyles and they are really no further from bankruptcy than we are. They’re just going to lose more “stuff” when it happens.

        Income inequality is a red herring, meant to keep the American public from demanding reform from what is actually causing many of our problems. Here’s an explanation of crony capitalism in a nutshell. Regulation favors big corporations, which effectively prevents small businesses from forming or succeeding, which is what is driving increasing income inequality. Get government out of the regulatory business and big corporations have to compete with smaller upstarts which exposes the weaknesses that near-monopoly has created in larger corporations, and — given time — income levels to a great extent.

        That is coming, btw. The US cannot continue its current level of spending without increasing tax revenues to at least 60% of national taxable income. Since that’s not possible without a revolt, Obama will leave us with $22 trillion in debt and an unfunded liability for our safety net programs of around $800 trillion. That second part has been on the radar since the Reagan administration and we’ve done nothing about it.

        So, when the government runs out of taxpayer money to support its spending, it’s going to have to scale back drastically in all areas. The US will have to go through a economic depression, but if the government doesn’t have the means to “manage” it, it might only be a year or two and the American people can get back to what made us great in the 19th century — striving for achievement and bettering our individual lives which betters the lives of the entire society.

        Or maybe we’ll just go the way of the Roman Empire. It might be time for that.

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      • Well, again, I don’t feel this person is the most sincere (which I’ve said to him,) and he’s kind of mean, but he does make the argument for redistribution and understands the American situation better than I do:

        http://ryan59479.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/todays-random-thought-21/

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      • I don’t know that he’s mean. I find him unrealistic. The utopian world of no economy exists only in the mind of dreamers.

        To be clear, I am not opposed to VOLUNTARY redistribution of wealth. If people want to give their money/time/energy/material goods to others, I’m all for it. I do it myself through my voluntary contributions to my church which helps to fund the local Food Bank and Rescue Mission, fully funds an English-language school for the foreign-born, and also sends a regular contribution to a Baptist agricultural mission in Tanzania. Not that I was a fan, but during the 2012 presidential election, it was revealed that the Romneys voluntarily contribute more than half of their annual income to charity. Of course, they have plenty of money in the bank, which is rather my point.

        There is no way you or some bureaucrat in DC or at the UN can determine how much of my income I need to survive and prosper. The discussion of what is fair ends right there for me. I used to think differently as an idealistic 20-year-old, but when I started growing up and paying bills, I realized that the average income of wherever doesn’t really apply to the average income of where I live.

        You see, I live in Alaska. On paper, from a Lower 48 perspective, we make a lot of money — and we pay the resulting federal income taxes that go with it. However, our cost of living here is a great deal higher than it is in, say, Mississippi. We have to heat our homes and diesel, oddly since we’re an oil-producing state, is very expensive ($4 a gallon and it takes about 1500 gallons a year to heat a modest home). Our food is approximately 25% higher cost than the Lower 48 because of shipping. Our homes are more expensive because of the US Army housing allowance which sets rent prices in the area (it’s very generous). All this adds up to a lower standard of living than our inflated incomes would suggest. And, yet, if you go out on the Internet, you will find redistribution arguments that say the average income in Alaska is too high and should be redistributed to folks in Mississippi.

        I’m already living on only 75% of my income because of federal taxation. I am paying more to live here than I would if I lived in Mississippi. I’m NOT saying that is unfair, though I could make a good argument for how the situation has been manipulated (but that’s another topic, found elsewhere on my blog), but I am presenting it as evidence for why INVOLUNTARY redistribution would result in unintended unfairness.

        Are you familiar with the writings of FA Hayek? He deals squarely with the central planning required for redistribution schemes and why they inevitably do not work as intended and end up as an instrument of tyranny.

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      • Well okay I think he as an individual might be unrealistic and I agree there still needs to be an economy for probably a long time to come, however, I don’t see why increased technology and industrialization isn’t allowing us to finally alleviate poverty.

        And what about men like Edward Burkhardt (http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/2013/07/15/how-edward-burkhardt-is-making-the-lac-megantic-accident-even-worse/) who clearly have lots of money but are also so cold and uncaring that they will never give up any of that money. Arguably, they never had that right to get that rich in the first place since society’s resources first and foremost belong to the people and ownership is something the public should willingly grant to individuals. (It’s questionable if the public truly ever at one time said “yes, these men can take resources and use them this way.”)

        And what happens when machines and technology genuinely can provide enough for everyone without people needing to work that hard. What happens then? I see a future where a few people who unfairly own those machines get everything and everyone else on the planet is still poor.

        If people put as much time and energy into making redistribution work as they did opposing it, they could probably sort out problems of unfairness as you mentioned or ration out food and resources rather than the money itself.

        Sweden is doing fine (and in some ways I actually think they may be redistributing too much, but they as a society have the right to do what they want with their resources.)

        I think someone like yourself is doing their fair share in terms of voluntary redistribution, but with the extreme greediness of some people and a society that rewards greed and cunning, I feel involuntary redistribution is inevitably required because there are those that will just never give up anything for anybody.

        I don’t feel it’s the average income earner who needs to be taxed more. I feel it’s the super-rich who need to be taxed EXPONENTIALLY more.

        I also find it weird that the very ardent Christians are often the ones that defend the super-rich at the expense of the poor rather than the other way around like Jesus probably would have wanted (at least, in my opinion.)

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      • First, again, the American “poor” live much higher standards of living (without working) than all but the rich in most parts of the world (most of whom do work for what they have). The American (mostly non-working) “poor” live in buildings, they own cars, televisions, computers, cell phones, and refrigerators that they put their government subsidized food in. So we need to define our terms when it comes to “poor” and “rich” because within my own country, rich and poor are a relative state and nobody is actually dying of poverty.

        If you look on a more global level, the truly poor in the world’s slums generally work for what they have, but they don’t have much. They could easily decide that you and I are rich and need to give 90% of what we make to them. I can’t speak for you, but if I had to give 90% of my income away, I’d starve to death pretty fast and, six months out of the year, freeze to death even faster. As you live in chilly Canada, I suggest you ask yourself — could you heat your home if 90% of your income was taken from you by some global redistributive system?

        Therein lies the problem of a global planning authority setting arbitrary levels of “fairness”. It can never be truly fair because it cannot take into account all the variables involved.

        I don’t care if the man is rich or not — his money does not belong to me or to you and it is his right to decide where it should go. I can find nowhere in the Bible where Jesus says the rich must give 90% of their wealth away to just anyone who asks, even to those who don’t work to support themselves. Christians are required to be giving people, but 2 Thessalonians 3 makes it clear we are not to support deadbeats in their indolence.

        And that is what we’re talking about here in the United States — a population of people who call themselves “poor”, but live on government benefits without putting in any effort to support themselves or society. That non-working percentage of the population is part of what is straining our revenues to the breaking point. The solution we’re told is a return to a marginal tax rate of 89% on anyone making more than $1 million a year (as well as higher rates on anyone making more than $250,000). $110,000 would be plenty of money for me to live on, but I know people who would have to sell their homes and reduce their lifestyles (and their spending, which supports the lifestyles of others) if they had to live on $110,000 a year. And, again, you’ve taken away their incentive to do whatever it was they were doing that earned them the $1 million a year in the first place.

        Why should they (or me or you) work that hard to see no more reward than someone who clocks out after 40 hours a week (or doesn’t work at all)? Would Thomas Edison have invented as many things as he did if he had not been financially rewarded for it? People generally only dabble at ideas that are not profitable to them personally in some way, so it’s reasonable to assume that those great machines you envision would never be invented because the inventors would have no incentive to invent them. They might have the inspiration, but the sweat equity would never be put in toward bringing those to reality if they were doomed to see no reward for their efforts.

        BTW, this is proven out in the former communist countries where inventions were fewer and rarely made it to public consumption because the inventors knew they would not be rewarded for their efforts. There has been a great upswelling of Russian-trained scientists coming up with brilliant ideas since the Soviet Union collapsed. The ideas were there already, but nobody was trying too hard to make them happen because they knew they wouldn’t be rewarded.

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      • The Bible says a great many things about giving and poverty and taking any of it out of context is foolish. In Second Thessalonians 3:10, Paul (apparently replying to questions from the congregation at Thessalonica) noted that there were folks in the church who had quit working to wait upon the Lord’s coming. Paul said for the church to not include them in aid to the poor because they were a drain on resources and taking advantage of the generosity of the church.

        Most the Christians I know VOLUNTARILY redistribute their own “wealth”. I have no problem with that concept. A percentage of my net income goes toward charities that I think are doing good things. Statistics show that conservatives, who are more likely to oppose redistribution by government, give far more (by a factor of 2 or 3 times) through non-government charities than do liberals who claim to support redistribution.

        I don’t object to redistribution. I object to FORCED redistribution. Society in general has no right to coerce me or anyone else to give our money to anyone based on some arbitrary guidelines about who is deserving and who is not. If I want to give my money to build a sewage lagoon in a village in Tanzania and I think that’s a good use of my money to help the hard-working people of that village, then I should be allowed to do so. If you want to give your money to some fat welfare queen in Los Angeles who has squeezed out five kids from four different baby daddies and has never worked outside her apartment a day in her life — that should be your choice.

        What government redistribution (taxation) does is prevent me from giving fully to causes that I feel are worthy while forcing me to give to people who I think would benefit from getting up and doing something worthwhile for themselves rather than expecting others to do for them.

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      • Well I went to Catholic school my entire life (save University) and the way they portrayed Jesus to me was someone who would have never been okay with people being homeless or eating out of a dumpster.

        And if we’re talking about people’s rights, the European settlers never had the right to take the land of the Native Americans (except in Canada, where the Aboriginals agreed to it.) And Americans never really had the right to expand across America and take over the land of the indigenous peoples, in my opinion. Don’t aboriginals technically have the right to say they want their land back? How come people hold onto certain rights like divine law but ignore other rights that should be fundamental?

        With civilization being in such a broken state, I don’t see redistribution providing just the basics of food, shelter, and clothing being the worst thing ever.

        I don’t believe in Soviet-style central planning where the government controls the entire market and all innovation comes from centralized systems of control. I think the government’s only role (when it comes to central planning) is to ensure the basic necessities of life to its populace which will allow people to have more freedom including freedom of speech because they no longer fear persecution in the form of unemployability. (Less inhibition means more creativity, in my opinion.)

        Redistribution of wealth might make society a little less wealthy overall, but this is good because Westerners are over-consuming and over-polluting anyways. It forces people to utilize everything more efficiently and is probably one reason the Swedes are known for being so innovative – because necessity is the mother of innovation:

        “An interesting note is that in discussing innovations in Pharmacy everybody in my class agreed it was the public or hospital sector where all the major innovations had been occurring over the last few years due to limitations in funding necessitating innovation. People agreed that the private sector such as community pharmacies run out of large retail chains like Safeway or Walmart have seen little real innovation.”

        via Edmonton Public Library: Spread the Words… | Shambhala.

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      • Have you ever seen the air in China or Singapore? Western nations have long since stopped polluting our own air and water because we allow third-world countries to pollute their own. They then benefit by selling what they produce to us. How much longer that can last … not too much longer, I think. The United States has the technology to use our own resources without overly polluting the environment and eventually the economic anchor the trade deficit imposes on us will require that we do so. When government spending drops because interest payments on the national debt take priority, we’ll see a shift back to the United States … with an accompanying drop and then improvement in incomes and standards of living.

        The double standard you’re suggesting would be inherently unfair … as unfair as when banana republics were expected to export their resources to the United States and Europe without gaining benefit from them. It’s simply reversing the flow and it would still be wrong. And, to make it work would require a central planning authority, because nobody voluntarily turns over the fruits of their labor and investment without just payment and what you are describing is anything but just.

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      • Interesting you should bring up the Indian question again since I explained in one of our first posts that I am part-Wyndake Indian. My mother was a member of the Wyandotte tribe. I’ve chosen not to be because my parents raised me to value my “white” blood as much as my Indian blood and when it came time, I decided to honor my convictions rather than get “free” (and notoriously bad) health care and a vote in tribal affairs.

        Some of my “white” ancestors were among those pushing west, “stealing” seemingly unused land from the Indians. Some of my Indian ancestors were among those killing settlers who were building new lives on that unused land. Depending on which side of the racial divide I decide to stand on, someone was wrong and someone was right … or as I prefer to think about it, both sides were partially right and both sides were partially wrong.

        Which brings me around to the repatriation issue. My Indian DNA can cry out that its “Indian” land and all whites should return to their countries of origin, but in order for my “white” DNA to comply, I’d have to somehow break myself into several parts since my Indian DNA would stay here, my Irish DNA would go to Ireland, my Welsh DNA would to to Wales and ….

        Nobody in this generation is responsible for what happened back then. What if wasn’t, which leaves us with what is. If we’d all stop trying to get our fellow humans to pay back the mistakes of past generations, this generation would be a whole lot better off. The whole repatriation discussion is a waste of time because it is ultimately racist in nature. And, my Indian cousins are some of the most racist people I’ve ever met.

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      • (All I remember from one of your older posts is that you had relatives who were part of that tribe, but I didn’t remember if you were or if you just had in-laws or something that were.)

        Yeah, but that’s not fair because then people can pretty much just do anything they want as long as they are violent or conniving enough and then have children and die.

        Then their children can just shrug their shoulders and pretend like none of that ever happened.

        I don’t think the children are responsible for what happened, but I think they need to slowly, slowly make up for the crimes of the past.

        Israel is using the same idea to kick Palestinians off of their land, because their assumption is that if you do it slowly, no one will complain, and once the next generation is born, they can pretend they had no part in it.

        So China can use the same principle and have the Chinese slowly occupy Tibet if they wanted to. Then one generation later, nothing can be done…

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      • Which part of my DNA owes which other part of my DNA for the past mistakes of my ancestors?

        Yeah, I’m being ridiculous to make a point.

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      • Well I see it the way I see insurance benefits for First Nations peoples. Those who are part-Indian have some claim to being here legitimately. So someone like you doesn’t have to feel that bad or worry about it so much. But I think most Americans should remember that this land still isn’t really theirs and most Canadians need to remember that the Native Americans only agreed to share their land in return for them being treated well.

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      • So if my brother wants to just squat on land my husband”a sister has brought andpaid for. Or that has maybe been in Brad”a family for generations, what I think you are saying is that she puight to pay him for it, that her family”a ownership of the land, her own investment is set aside because my brother is part-Indoan

        With all due respect, that is insanity incredibly similar to the lunacy of the Russian Revolution. We all need to stop obligating others to support us so we can sit around contemplating our navel. I will not be party to thievery. Nobody owes me any thing but the equal opportunity to use my own talent and investment to take care of myself. My brother feels the same way.

        I do not owe anyone for anything that I did not do and they do not owe me for what they did not do. What you are suggesting is the mass subjugation of a majority of the American population. It would be grossly unfair and dangerous because subjugation is always dangerous.

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      • One of my cousins is a research doctor at Washington University Medical Center. He’d beg to differ with you on research funding. Yes, there are government grant funds that contribute big time … mainly because the corporate tax structure in the United States is devastatingly high. When he first began research in the late 1970s, most funding was through private corporations and, according to Rick, his team had a great deal more leeway in their research back then than they do currently under government grants. The grants dictate what the outcomes must be, which stifles innovation. His team was responsible for connecting MS to an immune system disorder when previously it had been thought to be a neurological problem. He says that breakthrough never would have been allowed under the parameters of government grant funding. It happened under a grant from one of the big pharma companies back when corporate money was more available because corporate income taxes were substantially less than what they are now.

        Government is eating the private sector in the US and that’s not a good thing.

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      • Well, that’s research though. I was more talking about innovation in dispensing within Pharmacy practice;- more along the lines of simple creative ideas to make things more efficient to do the best with what resources are available. (And that’s not an argument for pure central planning; I was just trying to illustrate that some redistribution of wealth resulting in a little less wealth overall for everyone doesn’t always hurt and may force people to use things more efficiently.)

        And I don’t think the private sector should immediately be eliminated or anything like that. I think it just needs to be put in its place to stop corporations from behaving too psychotically or unethically.

        What do you mean by government is eating the private sector?

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      • One example out of hundreds. It is estimates by economists that Americans earn on average one-third of what we would earn if not for the massive amounts of regulation that affects all areas of the economy.

        You do understand that the economy is not a finite pie. Capitalist activity can create wealth which is redistributed through wages to workers, who are free to conduct their own capitalist activities which can create more wealth which is redistributed through wages and purchase of materials, etc. Of course, our government sets nup such high bars to starting business and imposes so many regulations on existing businesses and the taxes what profits they can manage to make so that so many small
        L businesses fail, reducing wealth for all of us.

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      • All I know is that Sweden is a functioning economy and if Jesus came back and saw the US vs Sweden he would condemn the US for what it’s become and praise Sweden for being more humanitarian (in my opinion and from what I was taught about Christ.)

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      • Taking the New Testament in context with itself, I think Jesus would group the vast majority of Swedes (some of whom are my cousins on my dad’s side) with the goats, right next to the vast majority of Americans and Canadians.

        I’m always amazed at the people who think they know what Jesus would or would”t do about certain countries. Jesus never came to earth to play referee amongst countries or ecomies. His kingdom is spiritual and faith based, not economic. I know that because I’ve read the Bible for what it says, not for what I wanted it to say.

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      • Well fair enough. I think you are a generally well intentioned person so I have no problem agreeing to disagree 🙂

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      • Everyone is entitled to their opinion, although if one reads what Jesus actually taught, I don’t think I’m wrong. He didn”t some to bring peace on earth and warm fuzzy feelings. He didn’t come to feed the poor. The feeding of thousands were not charitable occasions. They were teaching times that ordinary, spiritually minded people failed to pack a lunch for. When larger crowds started following Him after that, He withdrew from them He came to bring salvation, not feed the hungry. And it’s important to note that He said that in the last days people would say they we’re His followers based on feeding the poor and prison and hospital ministry and He would say “Depart from Me because I never knew you.” He requires faith, not just activity, no matter how welll-intentioned they are.

        Which is not to say that the faith that He requires does not prompt good works and giving. Those are products of Jesus’ ministry, not the main purpose.

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      • Massive corporations are only possible because government creates the conditions for monopoly and oligopoly. Otherwise, competition would keep corporations within their natural bounds. Customers could “protest” unethical behavior by taking their business to the competitors

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      • As for what to do with the money if we reduced the military and, in my opinion, reduced all but necessary social services and eliminated most of the federal administrative state ….

        We’re $18 TRILLION in debt. We could start by paying that off so the economy can once again function.

        Then reduce taxes to a tolerable level. Let me take my own money and buy my own health insurance, fund my own retirement, pay for those services from the private market that I want to pay for, and give to the charities I want to fund.

        We forget — or the propagandists made us forget — that the poor used to get a lot of help from churches and civic organizations before the federal government grew all out of proportion to what was fiscally sane. Those services can be revived … if the working American citizens could get back most of the nearly 50% of our income many of us pay in income, fuel, property and sales taxes.

        I live in a low-tax state. I get to keep about 60% of my income. Middle class folks in New York, for example, pay more than 60% of their income in various taxes to the federal and state governments. Our government is killing the country by extorting so much money from the productive to pay for the non-productive … and the federal government workers.

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      • So what is GENUINE self-defense? To you?

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      • I’ve actually never even really thought about that because states use GENUINE self-defense so little…

        …I’m gonna do some thinking and get back to you on that one…

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      • And, therein lies the problem. Genuine self-defense is rare. You could look at Pearl Harbor and say the US deserved that attack because we embargoed our oil shipments to Japan. You could look at the German sub attacks on our (UNARMED) merchant vessels off the East Coast and say we deserved that because we were selling arms to England so it could defend itself … but then you get into England beat up on Germany during World War I, so maybe they deserved the Blitz.

        You could even say the United States should not have conducted the war against the Barbary pirates because we deserved our merchant ships being attacked because we were “invading” the pirates’ established trading areas.

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      • I think WW2 is a good example where the axis powers were getting so powerful they were an imminent threat. But these were powerful industrialized countries that were genuinely attacking others and trying to gain control.

        Afghanistan was still not a major threat after 9/11. Let’s say a Canadian suddenly went on a killing spree while in the US. It doesn’t mean Canada is any imminent threat. The US was not an imminent threat to Japan before Pearl Harbour.

        For it to be genuine self-defence, the state of another country probably has to be quite powerful and clearly shown that it is trying to take over other countries. The US embargoing oil doesn’t imply it was trying to completely conquer Japan, where as the Pearl Harbour attack did imply Japan was trying to take over the US.

        I think determining these things has to be on a case-by-case basis too. States are kind of like people. There’s no one perfect formula. I think we can create good general guidelines and a good conceptual framework for thinking about foreign intervention the way we can for human interaction. But with so many variables, it’s often a case-by-case basis because of the nature of exceptions • forcing us to use our intuition and gut feeling alongside our logical framework for such things (in my opinion.)

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      • Afghanistan itself was not a threat to the US, that’s true, but it was an obstacle to removing Al Qaeda because it was harboring their camps. State to state conflict is so much easier to conceptualize than when private actors attack a country. If 911 had been the first attack, it would have been one thing, but it was the third or fourth attack (the second on American soil) from Al Qaeda from the bases in Afghanistan and we’d done nothing because Afghanistan was not a “threat” and the Clinton administration argued that we couldn’t violate the borders of a sovereign nation to deal with the behavior of serial mass-murderers under their protection. Clearly that thinking wasn’t working well for the United States and a change of strategy was required.

        The Taliban government could have avoided actual war by simply giving us permission to take out the bases. Instead, they insisted they weren’t responsible for the attacks, but they couldn’t let us attack the bases. They put themselves squarely between us and the mass murderers who had killed non-combatants on American soil.

        The parallels with Pearl Harbor were striking. Americans, unlike our leadership in DC, do not have a great deal of love for going to war, but as the Japanese commander of the attack fleet for Pearl Harbor noted, waking the sleeping dragon is not a good idea.

        I personally think we should have gone in, destroyed the bases and left Afghanistan to sort the rest out by itself. I don’t think we needed to bomb Afghani targets. We could have targeted the bases and gotten most of the personnel there in a fast strike. Instead, we fooled around with invading Kabal and let most of the Al Qaeda forces escape across the border into Pakistan.

        Makes you wonder what our government “really” thought it was accomplishing. Some of it did have to do with short staffing, but I think there was another agenda that we’ll learn about decades from now.

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      • So, Canadian — I’ve been wondering about this.

        What do you think about Diane Francis’ idea of a US/Canadian merger.

        http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/04/why-the-us-should-merge-with-canada-105610.html#.U2KcVPldXc0

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      • Terrible idea in my opinion lol.

        I agree with the theory proposed in “Gun, Germs, and Steal” that Europe went on to surpass China, technologically speaking, because Europe was made of small states and China was one big state.

        I think China, India, and the US need to become smaller countries so that one bad move doesn’t thwart the progress of hundreds of millions of people.

        It’d be better if the US became smaller countries with the same basic freedoms and for there to be a North American union similar to the European Union, in my opinion. Plus, we wouldn’t have the language and cultural disunity that makes such a thing more difficult for Europe.

        No one country is going to get everything perfectly right. Many smaller countries allow for the greatest social-science experiments ever because it allows us to see what works and what doesn’t over a long enough period of time. Where else can you draw that type of date or design an experiment where you can test out the long term effects of one policy over another for so many people at once?

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      • I completely agree. It would be cool if the US and Canada could open our joint border for ease of travel and cooperate economically, but the last thing the US needs to do is get bigger and Canada would never be able to develop your resources with our voracious environmental lobby. The United States needs to relax into a federal system of cooperative states and the federal government needs to return to its constitutionally enumerated duties only.

        And we need to jettison Obamacare so that Canadians can keep coming to Alaska for medical care. I used to work in the medical field here and one of our lunch time activities was a census of Canadian license plates in the parking lot.

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      • Agreed. The needs of individual regions are better met by local governments that know the territory and specific needs of its people.

        Canadians go to Alaska for medical care now? I’m quite lost when it comes to stuff like Obamacare. And I’m not even that familiar with how territories like the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut run, so…

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      • I am not familiar with the system in Canada either, but one of my coworkers was a Canadian who originally came here for shoulder surgery that she had been denied in Canada. For the last two decades American clinics near the border with Canada had lots of Canadian patients. You had to pay cash, but you could get procedures here that you had to wait for government approval for in Canada. For now, ObamaCare does not deny doctors the ability to provide care for cash, so at least for a while, that cross-border trade will not likely change. Eventually, I suspect the government here will take over medical care completely and then we’ll all have to go to Thailand or Mexico for medical care.

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  2. In response to an earlier post that didn’t show up on my reader:

    The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Iran’s relation to the west is the 1953 Iranian coup d’état. That’s one thing to always keep in mind when assessing the behaviour of states, in my opinion.

    Secondly, I don’t see how decreasing the size of the military would result in sudden attacks. You only need so many atomic bombs to defend yourself, if you know what I mean.

    Perhaps the scaling down of the military was just followed by papers publicizing it and using fear mongering tactics to make it seem like it was going to result in certain problems, and when problems inevitably arise (as they always do) people started thinking one caused the other.

    I don’t think the US has ever scaled down it’s military to the point (or even had plans to scale it down to the point (and correct me if I’m wrong)) where it couldn’t handle countries like Iran or Afghanistan. And I highly doubt these groups in Iran or Afghanistan were carrying out these attacks because they thought the US was somehow weakening as a result of scaling down their military when even at it’s minimum level it’d still be enough to completely obliterate those countries. That’s just my best assessment of the situation.

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    • You might be right on the timing just being coincidental, but it’s been twice when we’ve been hit at a time of troop draw-down.

      On the other hand — when we were hit by 911, I know without equivocation that there was a mass scramble to refill troop assignments. Clinton had cut the military to the smallest it had been since World War 2. Just for the initial operation in Afghanistan, the Army here called up National Guard troops that had never before served overseas. Alaska’s NG units were on permanent rotational deployment for eight years because the US Army has had trouble recruiting. A lot of troops are permanently unavailable for “active war zones” because of our commitments in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

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