28 March 2013


THIS is hysterical!

Action Alert: Keep Fighting, Senate votes against chained CPI & 5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number 28MAR13

THANK GOD for +Sen Bernie Sanders I VT, who, along with Sens +Tom Harkin D IA, +Mazie Hirono D HI and +Sheldon Whitehouse D RI got a non-binding resolution passed by the Senate on 22MAR13 rejecting tying Social Security benefit increases to chained CPI. They showed the moral courage and leadership the nation needs on this critical issue standing up for retirees and veterans and their survivors and have sent a clear message to +Pres Obama and the Congressional leadership that the budget will not be balanced on the backs of the people. Please click the link and tell Pres Obama to drop his Social Security chained cpi proposal! AND here is a good article from +Adam Levin about when NOT to give out your Social Security number, from +HuffPost Tech  

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. Sanders, a 16-year veteran of the House of Representatives who swept 65 percent of the vote in Vermont running as an inde
attribution: REUTERS
Sanders wins on chained CPI, for now.
Sen. Bernie Sanders offered one of the more useful amendments to the budget passed by the Senate this weekend, an amendment to block cuts in benefits for Social Security and disabled veterans by means of a chained CPI.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined Sanders in sponsoring the amendment, which passed by voice vote Friday night, putting the Senate on record against changing how cost-of-living increases are calculated in a way that would result in significant cuts. Sanders reacted to the vote:
“This is a strong signal that when push comes to shove the Senate is going to oppose any effort to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, disabled veterans and their survivors,” Sanders said after the vote.
The amendment, like the entire bill, isn't binding. But it is a statement from the whole Senate, and particularly the core group of liberal sponsors, that the president's offer of using Social Security and veterans benefits cuts to cut a grand bargain deal is not acceptable to them. According to Sanders, a typical 65-year-old retiree would lose more than $650 a year by their 75th birthday and more than $1,000 a year by their 85th under the chained CPI. It would also cut the benefits of more than 3.2 million disabled veterans receiving disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and more than 350,000 surviving spouses and children.



5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number

Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?
I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: "I don't really know. I guess it's because we've always asked for it." (In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn't pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. Offer a next of kin who knows the number instead, and your phone number for billing issues.)
Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought -- because that's what you've always done.
So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA's website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.
The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see.
Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers!
And these incidents are only the crumbs on top of the coffee cake when you consider that hackers and thieves have improperly accessed more than 600 million consumer files since 2004.
The moral to these horror stories is that if your Social Security number is stored on any computer anywhere, hackers will find a way to access it, or a compromised or disgruntled employee may well walk out the door with it. If your doctor, gym, or child's grade school claims otherwise, that their security systems can protect your private data better than the CIA, FBI and Scotland Yard, to quote Monty Python: "Run away!"
Your identity is your biggest asset, and your Social Security number is the key to your personal kingdom. With it an identity thief can wreak havoc, hijacking your old credit accounts, establishing new ones, buying cars and houses, committing crimes, even obtaining medical products and services while pretending to be you, endangering not just your credit and your reputation, but also your life.
Consumers whose Social Security numbers are exposed in a data breach are five times more likely to become fraud victims than those who aren't, according to the latest identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research.
"Just say no," should be your motto here. For better or worse, you are the gatekeeper. The person most responsible for shielding your Social Security Number is you. Therefore, your mission is to limit, as best you can, the universe of those who gain access to it.
Here's a short list of companies and organizations that have absolutely no business requesting your Social Security number:
1. Anyone who calls or sends you an official-looking email, who texts you a link to any site or designates a number to call where you are asked to confirm your SSN. If they call, check the credit or debit card that is the subject of the communication, call the customer service number listed on the back, and ask for the security department. If they email or text, do the same, or go directly to the institution's website (provided you know who they are). Make sure you type the correct URL, and make sure that the page where you are asked to enter your information is secure. Only provide personal information if you're the one who controls the interaction.
2. Public schools: Your utility bill confirms your address. Your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your Social Security number is overkill.
3. Little League, summer camp and the like: For the same reasons as school, a Social Security number should never be required by these groups. If they ask for your child's birth certificate, show it to them, don't leave it with them unless they can prove they will protect it. And even then, can you really believe them? If you use credit to pay for the activity, the organization may need your Social Security number. If you pay for it upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don't. Period.
4. Supermarkets: A frequent shopper card is neither a loan, nor a bank account. It's merely a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes. Regardless, many supermarket chains request customers' Social Security numbers on their application forms. Refuse.
5. Anybody who approaches you on the street, whether it's a cellphone company salesman offering a free T-shirt or someone running a voter registration campaign: Never, ever give your SSN. If you want an ill-fitting T-shirt festooned with corporate logos, buy one. If you want to register to vote, go to your county board of elections in person.
This is the short list. There are plenty of other organizations that should never get your Social Security number, and if you know one that I've left out, please leave it in the comments.
Don't just hand it over your Social Security number to anyone. Once you realize how often you are asked for it, you may be surprised. It happens all the time. So, the next time someone does, as they inevitably will, here's how to handle it:
1. Take a minute and think. Maybe they ask for SSNs blindly, because everyone else does, or because that's how they've always done it. Maybe they actually need it. See if their reason sounds legitimate. (Update: For example,'s Credit Report Card does ask for your SSN in order to generate your credit score and credit report summary -- an industry standard -- but the information is fully encrypted with a bank level authentication process.)
2. Negotiate. There are many different ways to identify you without a Social Security number, including your driver's license or account number. Fight to use those instead.
3. If you must share your Social Security number, do so, but make sure the people taking it down have strong security measures in place to protect it. That said, you only have their assurance and frankly, in light of the mistakes people make and the sophistication level of hackers, who really knows if they can protect it?
If all this sounds like a giant pain in the neck, you're right. It is. In the midst of our busy lives, we shouldn't be the only ones concerned with protecting our most valuable identity asset, but it is what it is. Until somebody creates a Silver Bullet for identity theft, we are forced to take matters into our own hands.
Don't be passive; ask the companies and nonprofit groups with which you do business how they plan to protect you. Do they password protect and encrypt all the personal information they collect? Do they have strict controls on who has access to computers containing your Social Security number, and do they keep this sensitive data off laptops, tablets and hard drives that are easy to steal or lose?
Like the doctor I met, many companies collect Social Security numbers they don't need because they're operating on autopilot. They've always done it, and their colleagues at other companies do it, so the practice continues and spreads on the strength of simple, dumb inertia. I believe that we are smarter than that. By demanding that companies do a better job protecting our personal information, and refusing to hand out our Social Security numbers like candy at a parade, we can force them to get smarter, too. And if they don't think we're serious about this and the government doesn't finally force them off their Social Security number addiction, it is highly likely that the ultimate regulator of the American economic system, class action attorneys, will be knocking on their door

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day & Jon Stewart outraged U.S. has flying kill bots but can’t fix Veterans Affairs backlog (video) 28&27MAR13

REMEMBER, we are still at war
Lord, we remember those who have given their lives for the sake of justice and freedom. Help us not to take our own freedom lightly, but to use it to advocate relentlessly for the freedom of others. Amen.

Machine gunners with Echo company, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, walk to a training site on +Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 28, 2013. +U.S. Marine Corps photo by +Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe.

Jon Stewart outraged U.S. has flying kill bots but can’t fix Veterans Affairs backlog
By Eric W. Dolan
Jon Stewart screenshot
On his show Wednesday night, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart blasted President Barack Obama for failing to fix the growing backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs while arguing the government could be a force for good.

Though Democrats have argued many of the country’s woes are due to Republican obstruction, Stewart noted that funding for the VA had actually increased over the past years. He described the current backlog in claims, which reached 245,00 in 2012, simply as “fucking criminal.” Veterans have to wait an average of 273 days before their disability claims are processed by the department.
Stewart explained the VA was still using a paper-based system — a ridiculous situation in 2013. The department has slowly implemented a new computer program, but it cannot not communicate with program used at the Department of Defense.
“The point is, if you’re making the case that the government has a meaningful role to play in improving people’s lives, then when you’re not obstructed from doing what you want, you better fucking bring it,” Stewart remarked.
“If we are smart and technologically-savvy enough to create flying unmanned robots with 1.8 gigapixel cameras that can spot enemy acne from 10 miles away and national security data mining programs that can store and process more than 10,000 times as much data as is stored in the entire Internet, we should be able to cook up a network spreadsheet program that knows which leg a returning soldier has lost without him having to fill out ten forms and coming in for a person-to-person visual leg assessment surveyance.”
“Otherwise, before long these guys won’t be obstructing the government, they’ll be running it again,” he concluded, referring to Republicans.

Fix your job 27MAR13

IF you're like me you haven't had a raise in many years while the cost of everything has increased substantially and the profit margin of your employer has increased benefiting only upper management. I am thankful I kept my job during the recession but resent the way economic instability has been used by employers to keep employees "in line" through subtle rumblings and rumors circulated throughout the workplace.  The sense of underlying stress, insecurity and uncertainty coupled with income stagnation is not healthy for the company and it's employees. Working America seeks to educate and empower employees, take their survey, at the least it is a chance to vent about your job without fear of reprisal...And if you are interested check out 

Wealth Inequality in America & A TED Talk on Income Inequality by Nick Hanauer & Bill Maher on The Wealth Gap in America and the World (VIDEOS) 17MAI&20NOV12 & 3DEZ11

What if when you had a question or a concern about your workplace, you could go somewhere and get answers?

With, a new site from our friends at Working America, every worker will have a resource to get more information or privately raise concerns.

But for to be successful, we need to know more about people who work. Can you take a few minutes to answer some quick questions about your current job, or the last job you had?

It shouldn’t take long to fill out the survey, but your answers will help us shape to make it as useful as possible for workers seeking help.

You’re not alone, and we want to know how best we can help you.

Fill out the quick survey now to share your story of work and to make sure becomes a powerful tool to support workers:

In Solidarity,



Nicole Aro
Digital Director, AFL-CIO

26 March 2013

The Morality Brigade 25MAR13 & Middle Class Murder (Bill Maher video) 12JUL11

I have been making both these arguments for years, the first for much longer than the latter. I have asked anti-choice people how they can claim to be concerned about the sanctity of life yet support and at time promote cuts for social safety net programs that provide for children and their families, be against food stamps, health care, housing assistance, preschool and after school programs? How can they claim to value life and be opposed to raising the minimum wage to a living wage and equal pay for women, policies that would help raise children and their families out of poverty? The most common answer, given with a straight face, is 'I didn't tell them to get pregnant, why should I pay for their kids?'. That lack of compassion is a deliberate rejection of the teachings of +Jesus Christ, the basic beliefs of the Christian faith claimed by a vast majority of these people. I have also asked many of these same people why they support politicians whose political agenda is protecting the wealth and power of the rich, corporate CEOs and boards of directors of the very banks and financial institutions responsible for creating the great recession and who direct their political minions to cut funding for public education, health care, infrastructure, job training, environmental regulation, food and drug safety and regulation to name a few to keep their taxes low and profits up? I continue to be amazed by the number of people who have been brainwashed by the +tea-baggers and so mouth the movement's rhetoric about raising taxes just to fund a socialist welfare state and how governmental regulation of banks and corporate America in general will prevent the country from ever getting out of this recession. Too many Americans actually believe this while personally experiencing economic stagnation and decline while living in communities where the social, economic, infrastructure and environmental quality of life is in decline. I really believe, unless we have a great political awakening in America, the extreme right will be able to establish their theocratic plutocracy in America. I just pray it happens after my lifetime. From HuffPost, followed by a very relevant piece by +Bill Maher .....

We're still legislating and regulating private morality, while at the same time ignoring the much larger crisis of public morality in America.
In recent weeks Republican state legislators have decided to thwart the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Legislators in North Dakota passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks or after a fetal heart beat had been detected, and approved a fall referendum that would ban all abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. Lawmakers in Arkansas have banned abortions within twelve weeks of conception.
The morality brigade worries about fetuses, but not what happens to children after they're born. They and other conservatives have been cutting funding for child nutrition, healthcare for infants and their mothers, and schools.
The new House Republican budget gets a big chunk of its savings from programs designed to help poor kids. The budget sequester already in effect takes aim at programs like Head Start, designed to improve the life chances of poor kids.
Meanwhile, the morality brigade continues to battle same-sex marriage.
Despite the Supreme Court's willingness to consider the constitutionality of California's ban, no one should assume a majority of the justices will strike it down. The Court could just as easily decide the issue is up to the states, or strike down California's law while allowing other states to continue their bans.
Conservative moralists don't want women to have control over their bodies or same-sex couples to marry, but they don't give a hoot about billionaires taking over our democracy for personal gain or big bankers taking over our economy.
Yet these violations of public morality are far more dangerous to our society because they undermine the public trust that's essential to both our democracy and economy.
Three years ago, at the behest of a right-wing group called "Citizens United," the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in politics by deciding corporations were "people" under the First Amendment.
A record $12 billion was spent on election campaigns in 2012, affecting all levels of government. Much of it came from billionaires like the Koch brothers and casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson -- seeking fewer regulations, lower taxes, and weaker trade unions.
They didn't entirely succeed but the billionaires established a beachhead for the midterm elections of 2014 and beyond.
Yet where is the morality brigade when it comes to these moves to take over our democracy?
Among the worst violators of public morality have been executives and traders on Wall Street.
Last week, JPMorgan Chase, the nation's biggest bank, was found to have misled its shareholders and the public about its $6 billion "London Whale" losses in 2012.
This is the same JPMorgan that's lead the charge against the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to protect the public from another Wall Street meltdown and taxpayer-funded bailout.
Lobbyists for the giant banks have been systematically taking the teeth out of Dodd-Frank, leaving nothing but the gums.
The so-called "Volcker Rule," intended to prevent the banks from making risky bets with federally-insured commercial deposits -- itself a watered-down version of the old Glass-Steagall Act -- still hasn't seen the light of day.
Last week, Republicans and Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee passed bills to weaken Dodd-Frank -- expanding exemptions and allowing banks that do their derivative trading in other countries (i.e., JPMorgan) to avoid the new rules altogether.
Meanwhile, House Republicans voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act in its entirety, as part of their budget plan.
And still no major Wall Street executives have been held accountable for the wild betting that led to the near meltdown in 2008. Attorney General Eric Holder says the big banks are too big to prosecute.
Why doesn't the morality brigade complain about the rampant greed on the Street that's already brought the economy to its knees, wiping out the savings of millions of Americans and subjecting countless others to joblessness and insecurity -- and seems set on doing it again?
What people do in their bedrooms shouldn't be the public's business. Women should have rights over their own bodies. Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
But what powerful people do in their boardrooms is the public's business. Our democracy needs to be protected from the depredations of big money. Our economy needs to be guarded against the excesses of too-big-to-fail banks.
+ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage," now available in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

24 March 2013

Syrian opposition in disarray as its leader resigns 24MAR13

REVOLUTIONS are not neat and tidy affairs, consider ours, it lasted from 1775 to 1783. There were disputes among the political leadership as well as economic and religious leaders, and the individual political entities (that would become the 13 states). Participants in the Second Continental Congress came and went, states threatened not to join the new nation, and foreign powers sought to influence, through force, money and weapons, the type of nation our Founding Fathers would finally establish. Syria's revolution is two years old. It has been brutal and bloody and has cost the lives of too many Syrians and brought incalculable harm and destruction to Syria's culture, society, and economy. The resignation of Moaz al-Khatib may be a setback, or maybe not. But this is Syria's revolution, and the ultimately the people of Syria will determine the destiny of their new nation. We should provide adequate assistance for the huge number of refugees to alleviate their suffering and adequate non-lethal military assistance to the Free Syrian Army to allow them to concentrate on being an affective military force and not a rag-tag band of rebels who have to spend their time foraging and looting from the very people they seek to liberate from the repression and brutality of assad. And the question of weapons for the Free Syrian Army? Arm the Free Syrian Army under the control of the military leadership loyal to the Syrian Opposition Coalition with the weapons they need to defeat assad and bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end. This will be messy, but we need to do what we can to bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end as soon as possible. From the Washington Post.....

BEIRUT — Syria’s opposition coalition was on the verge of collapse Sunday after its president resigned and rebel fighters rejected its choice to head an interim government, leaving a U.S.-backed effort to forge a united front against President Bashar al-Assad in tatters.
The resignation of Moaz al-Khatib, a moderate Sunni preacher who heads the Syrian Opposition Coalition, climaxed a bitter internal fight over a range of issues, from the appointment of an interim government to a proposal by Khatib to launch negotiations with the Syrian regime.
His departure plunged the opposition into disarray at a time when the United States and its Western allies are stepping up their support for moderates opposed to Assad’s regime. Khatib’s coalition was expected to play a key role in identifying the recipients and channeling the assistance.
The coalition later issued a statement saying that its members had rejected Khatib’s resignation and had asked him to continue in a “management” capacity, leaving his status unclear. Though Khatib’s suggestion earlier this year that the opposition should negotiate with Assad’s regime met with fierce resistance from other coalition members, he is widely liked by many Syrians inside the country who desperately want to see an end to the violence.
There nonetheless seems to be little doubt that an initiative launched last fall in the Qatari capital, Doha, to create an inclusive and representative opposition body is falling apart, said Amr al-Azm, a history professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio who is Syrian and supports the opposition.
“The coalition is on verge of disintegrating,” he said. “It’s a big mess.”
The trigger for Khatib’s departure was the selection last week of Ghassan Hitto, a relatively unknown Syrian-born U.S. citizen, to head a proposed interim government. Khatib and his supporters had opposed the creation of an interim government at this time, as had the United States, whose diplomats argued against the move on the grounds that it created an unnecessarily divisive distraction from the goal of bringing down Assad’s regime, according to Syrian opposition members.
Hitto’s candidacy was backed, however, by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the push to install him as Syria’s first opposition prime minister was widely seen as an effort by the Brotherhood to claw back some of the influence lost when the original Syrian opposition body, the Syrian National Council, was absorbed into the wider Syrian coalition.
A dozen members last week suspended their membership in the coalition to protest Hitto’s appointment, and on Saturday, the defected general who heads the Supreme Military Council of the mainstream Free Syrian Army also rejected the choice, saying the rebels would accept only a “consensus” candidate for the job.
“We unequivocally declare that the Free Syrian Army, in all of its formations . . . conditions its support and cooperation on the achievement of a political agreement on the name of a prime minister,” Gen. Salim Idriss said in a videotaped statement.
Khatib’s resignation came hours after Qatar, which has close ties to the Brotherhood and also supported Hitto’s appointment, formally invited Hitto to represent Syria at an Arab League summit in Doha next week. Khatib referred only obliquely to the furor over Hitto’s appointment, saying he had resigned “so that I can work freely,” something that is not possible “within the official institutions.”
He also hinted at his frustration with the international community, which has failed to offer wholehearted support to the Syrian revolution even as individual countries compete to secure influence over the different factions opposing Assad’s regime.
“Who is ready to obey, [those countries] will support him,” he said. “And those who refuse to obey endure starvation and siege.”
The upheaval is indeed as much an indictment of splits within the international community over whom to support within the opposition as it is of the divisions among Syrians themselves, said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. With the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others each favoring different factions, it is hardly surprising, he said, that the opposition is failing to unite.
“We cannot continue trying to forge these kind of coalitions with these kinds of tactics,” he said. “In this case, it has brought about a very serious crisis in the Syrian opposition.”
Meanwhile, Shaikh added, the Islamist groups that have emerged as the most effective fighters in the battle for control of Syria also are stepping up to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of governance in areas captured by the rebels, a role the West had been hoping the new coalition would fulfill.
“The irony is that it’s the Islamists and the extremists who are assuming more and more control,” Shaikh said.

23 March 2013

President Obama Speaks to the People of Israel 21MAR13

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S speech to the people of Israel at the Jerusalem Intl Convention Center.

Fox News Really Are Liars and If You Don’t Believe That Watch This 23MAR13

fox "news" has no shame, and is intent on portraying the President as an enemy of Israel even while he is being feted at a state dinner in Jerusalem and awarded Israel's highest honor, the Medal of Distinction. Check this out from Patheos.....

Sermon: The Parable of the Prodigal Father 11MAR13

AS we approach Holy Week and Easter I find this a very good sermon to share, please be sure to listen to it, click the link.....

2013-03-10 NBW Sermon <—-click here to listen along.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”  -Luke 15
A few years ago when our son Judah was in 4th grade, I dropped him off 15 minutes early for school. I’d never done that before but Matthew was out of town and I had to make a meeting and the school totally allowed for early drop-off.
2 hours later I was in a meeting when the school called asking why Judah was absent. My heart dropped into my stomach and my body took over in a hyper-ventilating mess of a way.  My mind raced thinking that Someone had scooped my child into a van seeing that his mother had dropped him off early.  Breathing became impossible and I started to shake.  My child was gone.
Fortunately Judah was both not abducted and was totally fine.  It was just the day of the Scholastic book fair and he had lost track of time looking at books and had not been around when they took attendance.  He was not in danger.  He was in a book fair.
I have no idea what kind of soul-crushing pain one must experience when a child is really gone.  But the few minutes I experienced a glimpse of it…an experience shared by many when they cannot find their child at a carnival or a shopping mall or when they don’t get off the school bus one afternoon, were some of the most heart breaking moments of my life.
Because, when it comes down to it, it’s vulnerable to have a child.  To create or adopt a child is to leave yourself vulnerable to a broken heart in the way nothing else can.  Which is why I started wondering this week about the vulnerability of God.
There is much talk out there about the strength of God and the mightiness of God and the awesomeness of God.  But what of the vulnerability of God?
That God would breath into dust and create us in God’s own image….that God would bring humanity into being as God’s own beloved children was to leave God’s self vulnerable to a broken heart in a way nothing else could have. What a risk God took creating us. Giving us enough freedom to be creators and destroyers.  Giving us enough freedom for us to make a mess of everything and act as our own Gods and to also trust in God and love each other.
I just wonder if this is what Jesus is telling us about in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
I’m now going to continue last week’s theme of preacher confessions and confess to you that until this week I totally thought the word prodigal meant returning having repented of your wrongs.  Or at least I thought prodigal meant coming home after having been independent and stupid for awhile.  I’m sure you guys already know this, and that I’m the only one to have just discovered it, but the word prodigal actually means Spending resources freely and recklessly; being wastefully extravagant.
I’ve always heard this parable, one of the most famous stories in the Gospel, titled the Parable of the Prodigal son.  But out of everything we could say this story is about – why do we say it’s about the wasteful extravagance of the younger son? Why is that the focus when it’s not even that interesting?
I mean, It’s actually common for young people to leave home, waste their lives and their money for awhile until they have no other option but to come home to the parents they didn’t treat very well when they were leaving in the first place. Maybe we make this a story about the wasteful stupidity of the younger son because it’s a story we are more familiar with than the alternative, which is this: if the word prodigal means wasteful extravagance, then isn’t it really the story of the prodigal father?
Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to give his children so much freedom?  Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to discard his dignity and run into the street toward a foolish and immature son who squandered their fortune? Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the father to throw such a raging party for this kind of wayward son?
But, see, I love that kind of grace.
I personally love that Jesus tells this story of the prodigal father in response the to Pharisee’s indignation that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and prostitutes because, when it comes down to it, give me a church filled with awful sinners over a church filled with pious Pharisees any time.
Some of us might find the grace the father shows to the younger son to boarder on offensive, but the thing that really gets me in this story is how wastefully extravagant the Father is toward the older son.  The kid who never left him.  The one who has always done everything right.  The kid who is clean cut and went to college right out of high school and came back to work in his father’s business.  The kid who always signs up to do jobs at synagogue but resentfully notices all the slackers who show up and never help at all.  The kid who feels entitled. The kid who can’t stomach going into a party to celebrate the return of his screw-up of a brother.  I can’t stand that older brother even as I cringe at the ways I may be a little bit like him.  You know what’s wastefully extravagant in my book?: the fact that the Father says to that kid “all that is mine is yours”.
What risk God takes on us. Children who waste everything in dissolute living.  Children who begrudge grace being extended to people who so clearly don’t deserve it. But this is a risk born of love. God risks so much by loving us which is why, tonight anyway,  I prefer calling this the Parable of the Prodigal Father.
Because it is here we see that your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue.  It is not determined by being nice, or being good or even, and I struggle with this, but it’s not even determined by how much you do at church.  Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. Amen.

Fox News Conspiracy Theory: 'Very High Probability' Iraq Hid WMDs in Syria & Evidence suggests chemical weapon not used in Syria: official 22&21MAR13

THIS mainstream media hysteria about the alleged use of WMD, in this case chemical weapons in Syria by assad, is just like the mainstream media hysteria about WMD in Iraq before we invaded.  Get big headlines in the big national papers, bring out the "military experts" to mouth their opinions about the threats from these weapons on mainstream news programs. Click the link  to watch this video, the general says he is "doubtful" chemical weapons were used and at the end "reporter" brian kilmeade says "the world red line is these chemical and biological weapons and somebody crossed it it seems". Is our government planning to put boots on the ground in Syria? I pray to God not. I think, with cuts to the defense budget happening due to sequestration, and more cuts being called for, the military-industrial complex, with complicity of members of the military, active and retired, are ramping up their propaganda campaign to preserve the warfare state our nation has become. See my earlier post 

The U.S. Warfare State and Evangelical Peacemaking & A Heart for Peace from SOJOURNERS FEB 2013 and check this out from Crooks&Liars and the Reuters article disputing chemical weapons were used......

Video link
A Fox News military analyst who has previously justified the U.S. invasion in Iraq by asserting that Russia conspired to hide Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) now says that there is a "very high probability" that those WMDs are in Syria.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on Friday spoke to retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney about recent rumors of a chemical attack near Aleppo, Syria.
"What are the chances of the return address on these chemicals being from Iraq?" Kilmeade wondered.
"Well, I think there is a high probability of that," McInerney declared. "That's conjecture, but we do know prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was a lot of vehicles crossing the border into Syria. And there was a great deal of conjecture. A Iraqi major general swore by it. He said he delivered it."
"And so I think that it would be a very high probability if we could get into those bunkers that they would have Iraqi signatures on them."
In 2006, McInerney told Newsmax that there was "clear evidence" that Iraq had WMDs before the war and that the Bush administration "ignored Russia's involvement" in helping to hide the weapons.
"[T]he administration needed the Russians, the Chinese and the French, and was not interested in information that would make them look bad," he said.
A U.S. official on Thursday said that evidence suggested that chemical weapons (CW) had not been used in the latest attacks in Syria.
"Our growing sense is that weaponized CW was not used," the official remarked, according to Reuters.
A European security official noted that the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria would have left a death toll much higher than 26.
(h/t: Media Matters)

Evidence suggests chemical weapon not used in Syria: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It increasingly appears that a chemical weapon was not used in Syria this week, a U.S. official said Thursday, although officials cautioned that U.S. intelligence agencies have not yet reached a final conclusion.
"Our growing sense is that weaponized CW was not used," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Still, the official left open the possibility that information could arise that changed the analysis.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and rebels accused each other of using chemical weapons in a rocket attack near Aleppo on Tuesday that killed 26 people.
A European security official said that if chemical weapons or other "weapons of mass destruction" had been fired off, the casualty toll would be much higher than 26.
The official said he did not believe that the evidence showed chemical weapons had been used.
After the attack on Tuesday, some of those hospitalized told a Reuters photographer they detected a strong smell of chlorine in the air and that many victims had fallen down dead after the blast.
President Barack Obama said in Israel on Wednesday that Assad would be held accountable if it were determined that chemical weapons had been used in Syria.
On Thursday a U.S. intelligence official said, "The intelligence community has not made an assessment as to whether or not chemical weapons were used or not."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the announcement of a U.N. investigation.
"As the U.N. proceeds with these efforts, we will also continue to work closely with our partners to obtain further information regarding any and all credible allegations of the potential or actual use of chemical weapons in Syria," she said.
Two senators wrote a letter to Obama saying that more must be done to stop the killing in Syria and force Assad to relinquish power.
"The potential use of chemical weapons only makes the case for greater action more compelling and urgent," said the letter from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.
(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Phil Stewart; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Xavier Briand)