As in the song "Lawyers In Love" we have a land, a nation with too many in high places willing to do anything for money neglecting people, honor and principle but a change is coming. No more falling for the lie of living only individualistic and independent lives leaving us divided and conquerable by powerful special interests but a people, a nation collaborating for the greater common good in various groups all across the nation. A land of people working together to help one another with a vision moreover as Jesus would have us be. Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Kindness....something about another Land. The change is coming

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Divided Supreme Court Sides With Businesses Over Workers

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that businesses can prohibit their workers from banding together in disputes over pay and conditions in the workplace, a decision that affects an estimated 25 million non-unionized employees.

With the court’s five conservative members in the majority, the justices held that individual employees can be forced to use arbitration, not the courts, to air complaints about wages and overtime. Four dissenting liberal justices said the decision will hit low-wage, vulnerable workers especially hard.

While the complaints in Monday’s decision involved pay issues, the outcome also might extend to workplace discrimination and other disputes if employee contracts specify that they must be dealt with in one-on-one arbitration.

Workers who want to take action against sexual harassment, pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and racial discrimination “may now be forced behind closed doors into an individual, costly - and often secret - arbitration process,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.

Lawyers representing management said the decision protects businesses from endless, costly litigation.

The outcome does not affect people represented by labor unions, but an estimated 25 million employees work under contracts that prohibit collective action by employees who want to raise claims about some aspect of their employment.

The ruling reflected a years-long pattern at the Supreme Court of limiting class actions and favoring employer-favored arbitration over lawsuits in the courts, generally preferred by workers.

The Trump administration backed the businesses, reversing the position the Obama administration took in favor of employees.

The court’s task was to reconcile federal laws that seemed to point in different directions. On the one hand, New Deal labor laws explicitly give workers the right to band together. On the other, the older Federal Arbitration Act encourages the use of arbitration, instead of the courts.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the contracts are valid under the arbitration law. “As a matter of policy these questions are surely debatable. But as a matter of law the answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote.

Monday’s ruling is in line with earlier decisions, he said. “In many cases over many years, this court has heard and rejected efforts to conjure conflicts between the Arbitration Act and other federal statutes. In fact, this court has rejected every such effort to date (save one temporary exception since overruled),” Gorsuch wrote.

In dissent for the court’s liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision “egregiously wrong” and likely to lead to “huge underenforcement of federal and state stautes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.” Ginsburg said that the individual complaints can be very small in dollar terms, “scarcely of a size warranting the expense of seeking redress alone.”

Ginsburg, who read a summary of her dissent aloud to stress her disagreement, said employees do not really have a choice about whether to sign such agreements, labeling them “arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts.”

She said “congressional action is urgently in order,” echoing her call in 2007 for Congress to address pay discrimination following a high court ruling from which she dissented.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said she fears the decision will have far-reaching effects. “Today’s decision will make it easier for employers to escape liability for widespread discrimination and harassment. No American should be forced to sign away their right to invoke the meaningful protections afforded by our nation’s critical civil rights laws,” Clarke said.

The National Labor Relations Board, breaking with the administration, argued that contracts requiring employees to waive their right to collective action violate the labor laws.

Business interests were united in favor of the contracts. Gregory Jacob, a former high-ranking Labor Department official in the Bush administration, said the court got it right Monday. “This decision thus will not see a huge increase in the use of such provisions, but it does protect employers’ settled expectations and avoids placing our nation’s job providers under the threat of additional burdensome litigation drain,” Jacob said.

Lower courts had split over the issue. The high court considered three cases — two in which appeals courts ruled that such agreements can’t be enforced and a third in which an appeals court said they are valid.

- Mark Sherman 

My take: So here we go. Now you will start to see why it was paramount to elect Clinton over Trump even if you didn't like her ties to the system but too late, in your mesmerized need of a change agent state you didn't understand Trump would be a hundred times worse. It was important Clinton be elected over Trump on one issue alone not to mention a couple others but that one issue is the Supreme Court Justice nomination. Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch means decisions favoring corporate power and businesses over workers rights which has already been beaten down severely in recent decades plus decisions opposing reform of politics through campaign finance legislation meaning continuing unlimited contributions to politicians from the rich and the nomination of Gorsuch means giving a free hand to the NSA spying on all Americans communications under the guise of battling terrorism which is one of the most grievous deceptions upon the American people in the history of this republic. This Supreme Court Justice nomination was important enough to Wall Street and the 1% that it is reasonable to suspect the election could have been thrown for Trump. You know it now but Trump had no intentions of working for the working man as you have crystal clearly seen. That he had a backdoor covenant with Wall Street and the rest of the 1% is wildly apparent now isn't it?  

Progressive Christians are Saving Jesus from Extinction

It’s easy to be fooled by loud things.

American Bible Belt Evangelical Christians have gone all-in with this Presidency, and in order to do so, they’ve had to sell their souls, abandon their namesake, and remove any semblance of Christlikeness from their corporate faith expression.

He has been rendered largly nonexistent in their midst.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity in America is now marked by a poverty of compassion and an abundance of cruelty; inextricably tied to this Administration, purposefully disfigured and remade in its own ugly image. It has become synonymous with hostility to outsiders, with contempt for the poor, with privilege and supremacy, with rabid nationalism, with a Christianity of might.

In other words, practically speaking, Jesus of Nazareth is extinct in this supposed community of Jesus followers—and I’ve fully grieved it all.

With great sadness I’ve watched it all unfolding over the past eighteen months; high-profile pastors, Conservative politicians, and once reasonable pewsitters, all slowly succumbing to the seductive pull of power and the cheap high of nationalistic war rhetoric. They’ve made a series of small or quite substantial moral concessions along the way, leading them here: miles away from their spiritual center—to a Christianity that has no need for Jesus.

It’s all been fairly disheartening to see one’s faith tradition swallowed up by a violent, bullying, gun-toting, whitewashed, “don’t tread on me” cultural smallness, that has nothing in common with the generous, open-hearted, least-loving Christ of the Gospels.

I’d started to believe that this Jesus was gone forever—but I was mistaken. I’d been paying too much attention to this loud, hateful clanging cymbal. Thank God for the heretics.”

The Jesus I knew as a child and came to aspire to in adulthood is still here, and it is the heretics who are preserving him.
It is the maligned backsliders, the Godless heathens, and the derided social justice warriors who are replicating his compassion for hurting people, his welcome for foreigners, his generosity toward the hungry, his gentleness for the marginalized.

I’ve been visiting these local Progressive faith communities every week, and they are doing joy-giving, life-affirming, wall-leveling work—alongside people of every color, orientation, and nation of origin.

They are providing Sanctuary for refugees, making meals for multitudes, offering embrace to the estranged, standing between the vulnerable people and the opportunistic predators around them—you know, like Jesus would.

And in our gatherings, Atheists and Muslims and Jews and Agnostics have stepped into these communities and found something they have not found in the counterfeit Christianity so loud in this country: they have found welcome.

It’s all been fully and beautifully surprising, to see this Jesus still alive here in these people.

You may have given up on a Christianity that resembles Jesus, and I can’t blame you. The people claiming his name right now who have the microphone, the platform, the headlines, and the legislative pull—are providing good reason to lose hope, ample cause to imagine Jesus’ extinction, great evidence that this thing is devoid of goodness.

But there is a quieter, more loving, less self-seeking, less headline grabbing expression of faith in this country, that is everything Jesus said he would be: good news to the poor and the disenfranchised, hope for those feeling tossed by the storms of this life, refuge for the oppressed—and trouble for the wolves who come to devour them.

In these progressive Christian communities all over this country, the peacemaking, neighbor loving, foot washing, leper-embracing Jesus is not only still present, but being multiplied by kind people determined to perpetuate him here.

There is a Jesus here who invites women into ministry, who feels compassion and not contempt for the poor; one who calls disparate people to join him, one who destroys all barriers.

There is a Jesus here of justice and mercy; one championing diversity and equality, one committed to altering the planet in a way that gives voice to the voiceless and resistance to the hateful.

This Jesus is here, and he will never be driven to extinction so long as there are heretics, heathens, and backsliders who refuse to let him die simply because religious people have no use for him.

These people are still reaching out a hand to this hurting world because they are compelled by their faith to do so.

If you are a person of faith and you’re exhausted from a Christianity of cruelty and malice; if you’ve given up on finding anything more redemptive or anything worthy of your presence and time, seek out a Progressive faith community this week—and allow yourself to be beautifully surprised by a radically loving, lavishly welcoming, compassionate activist Jesus you thought was gone for good.

Be encouraged.

- John Pavlovitz

My take: "These people are still reaching out a hand to this hurting world because they are compelled by their faith to do so."

I take this statement to heart. Yes, by their faith they reach out their hand. It is the true Christians in the progressive faith movement that will overcome and save the Faith from "extinction" by bearing true witness to God's love and compassion. It is these that support civil rights having understanding putting themselves in others shoes. It is these that see the hurting and pain in millions across America and realize the witness of Jesus is in providing these people with life saving health care. Oh you of the comfortable christian conservative right so at ease in your nice homes and gated communities and so indifferent that you see no relevance in the knowledge that Jesus had the favor of the people and what that means for today. The story of the sheep and goats is not about your faith or belief or carefully cultivated political ideology, it is about what you did and didn't do for others in need.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Movement to Break Up Facebook Has Begun

Privacy and anti-monopoly advocacy groups launched the Freedom from Facebook campaign on Monday, demanding that the Federal Trade Commission force the social media giant to break up into four separate companies. Sensing a moment of weakness, activists hope to establish stronger privacy protections and cross-platform communication.

After spending years ignoring privacy concerns and the potential for its platform to be used by bad actors, Facebook has made itself incredibly vulnerable to criticism. The Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated how it could lose control of millions of users’ data, and it has served as a tipping point for public outcry and political pressure. A coalition of groups that includes Demand Progress, Move On, Citizens Against Monopoly and the Open Markets Institute sees an opportunity.

On Monday, Freedom from Facebook launched a petition with three core demands:

1. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger should be separated into four companies that operate independently.

2. Require interoperability between competing social networks.

3. Create “strong privacy rules that empower and protect us.”

According to Axios, the petition will be accompanied a digital ad campaign that will target Facebook and Instagram users with simple messages like: “Facebook keeps violating your privacy. Break it up” and “Mark Zuckerberg has a scary amount of power. We need to take it back.” The ads will also run on platforms that aren’t run by Mark Zuckerberg, like Twitter.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that Facebook is just one player in a broader systemic issue—almost any criticism one could level at Facebook would easily apply to Google. But when it comes to initiating drastic measures against a powerful company, timing is everything. Google may be formally cleansing its culture of the “don’t be evil” slogan that was part of its foundation, but Facebook is the one with the most high-profile scandals at the moment.

The campaign’s organizers write:

Facebook unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day. It buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly, killing innovation and choice. It tracks us almost everywhere we go on the web and, through our smartphones, even where we go in the real world. It uses this intimate data hoard to figure out how to addict us and our children to its services. And then Facebook serves up everything about us to its true customers — virtually anyone willing to pay for the ability to convince us to buy, do, or believe something.

The appetite for the federal government to step in and force Facebook’s hand seems to have hit a rare point at which it could enjoy bipartisan support. Zuckerberg faced criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers at his House and Senate hearings last month. But conservative legislators often prefaced their questions and concerns with comments about their general opposition to regulations. Still, Zuckerberg repeatedly said that Facebook was open to appropriate regulations; however, he noted that a large company like Facebook can often comply with strict rules that would be onerous for a small startup. Singling out Facebook could be a solution to that problem.

We asked Facebook for comment regarding the campaign and a spokesperson sent us a statement that repeated talking points the company seems to be sticking with—that it’s not the social media juggernaut people think it is. The statement argues that Facebook is operating in a competitive environment in which “the average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected.” This has become a standard defensive point that Facebook flacks and Zuckerberg himself are relying on. Facebook doesn’t mention that it owns the top three apps in that category and has a history of ripping off the features of the other competitors.

The timing is also interesting because last Friday marked the 20th anniversary of Microsoft’s landmark antitrust fight that it eventually settled. There are ample parallels between ‘90s-era Microsoft and Facebook, including a culture that believes it’s too big to be tamed by the government and a relentless dedication to dominating competitors it can’t out-innovate. That case is generally viewed as having set the stage for companies that spurred the tremendous growth in the tech sector throughout the aughts. And many experts believe now could be time for the U.S. government to set a new example in the social media age.

The broad demands that Freedom from Facebook lays out in its petition certainly appear to be a long shot. Even though it’s uncommon these days, the U.S. has a history of nationalizing and breaking up large companies that run monopolies or pseudo-monopolies. Facebook, meanwhile, is dramatically expanding its lobbying team in Washington while it rushes through minor policy changes that it hopes will suffice. It also scored a major political win last week when Andrew Smith, one of its former lawyers, was appointed to oversee the FTC’s consumer protection unit. Smith has promised to recuse himself from the FTC investigation into whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree with its handling of the Cambridge Analytica agreement breach. But that doesn’t mean that Smith would stay out of deliberations over a forced breakup.

You can find Freedom from Facebook’s petition here. Even if the group doesn’t achieve its goals, it’s encouraging users to follow its privacy guide to limit Facebook’s privacy invasions.

- Rhett Jones

My take: Whatever it takes.

No, You’re Not Tired of Being “Politically Correct”

“I’m so glad I don’t have to be politically correct anymore.”

Boy, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that since the 2016 Presidential campaign began—today I’d own a country club in Florida where I could spend 33 percent of my year golfing.

Why is it that every time someone claims they’re tired of being “politically correct,” it really seems like they’re saying something else?

It seems like they’re saying they’re tired of being a decent human being.

They’re always using the term while mansplaining some vulgar attitude toward women or excusing derogatory language about people of color or justifying the bullying of Transgender teenagers or rationalizing reckless politicians or defending incendiary preachers. It’s seemingly always wielded in protest at being asked to compassionately coexist in community with people who aren’t like them.

The phrase politically correct usually accompanies some knuckle-dragging “boys will be boys,” “locker room banter” language, that pines for “the good ol’ days” in America—when white folks could say or do whatever they wanted with impunity.

(White folks, I’ve noticed are almost always the only people who use the phrase politically correct. I wonder why that is.)

Whenever someone expresses outrage at the political correctness they’re supposedly being subjected to by the world, invariably that outrage is because they’re being asked to participate more fully in civilized humanity. They’re being asked to evolve with the rest of us—and they are vociferously resisting.

Political correctness is code language.
It’s a dodge.
It’s citing some nonexistent speech-suppression conspiracy theory, in order to avoid levels of kindness and respect that the rest of us are aspiring to—and that the person in question objects to.

I wish people would just be honest and say that they want to be rude and offensive; that they want to disparage people groups and disregard another’s worth and never listen to anyone else’s expressions of pain or engage in any self-awareness that might require a behavior adjustment.

Friend, I hear you say you’re tired of being politically correct—but I don’t think you are.

I think you’re tired of being called out for the subtly or overtly racist comments you used to get away with.
You’re tired of no longer being able to freely harass women you work with, or make jokes about disadvantaged people, or show open enmity for those who don’t speak English or share your religious views.
You’re tired of being held accountable for the epithets and slurs that you’ve previously used unabated.
You’re tired of your privilege being challenged instead of accommodated and celebrated.

Please don’t tell me this is about being a “straight shooter” or “telling it like it is” or “speaking truth” because that’s nonsense.

This is about you not getting to be as horrible to people as you’d like, and to the degree to which you’ve grown accustomed—and about how odd a feeling that is for you.

This is about you seeing the expectation of living with dignity as a punishment, the request to be respectful as personal oppression.

It’s about showing every human being the decency they deserve, even if you don’t want to—and you don’t seem to want to.

You might find these words completely offensive, and if so, I’m sorry.

I’m just being a straight shooter and telling it like it is. I’m speak truth to you.

Guess I’m through being politically correct too.

- John Pavlovitz

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Fraudulence of ‘Pro-life, Christians’ Bullies

Over the past month I’ve watched the monsters descend on the students of Parkland, and other young people throughout the country moved to activism after their latest exposure to bloodshed and carnage.

They’ve trolled their social media accounts, attacked their sexuality, made fun of their college application rejections, and unleashed millions of minions and bots on them.


They’ve been doing this to teenagers—middle and high schoolers, many of whom only buried classmates and teachers a few weeks ago.

Someone’s minor children—kids who are already living in the most turbulent, most confusing, most disorienting time of life. They are joyfully, unrepentantly bringing more turbulence upon them.

And what’s most stunning, most infuriating, is that the monsters doing this, claim to be “pro-life” Christians.
This is apparently their single-vote issue: life.
They treasure it, defend it, celebrate it.
They preach and protest and petition for it.

While they’re dragging these already traumatized young people on social media; manipulating their images, using them as talk show fodder, while verbally abusing them, and excusing every kind of sick harassment of them—they would tell you they fiercely value “life.” (That they support a President who is a bully messiah is a discussion for another day.)

This is the perfect illustration of the fraudulence of so many supposedly pro-life, Evangelical Christians: they largely have contempt for life outside the uterus.

They love the idea of benign, pristine embryos.
Support for them doesn’t cost them a thing.
It doesn’t really require any work.
They merit Scripture quotes and flowery words and effusive praise.

But if it’s distraught teenagers, trying to both grieve and be agents for change in the public eye: Screw ’em. They’re all Tidepod eaters. They have to deal with this if they want to open their mouths. They should shut up and study.

Compassion, gone.

If it’s a young black man executed in a traffic stop: Not my problem. He was probably asking for it. We’ll troll their supporters, criticize their grieving siblings, and vilify any protests.

Contempt, strong.

If it’s a Transgender teenager being terrorized at school: You’re an abomination. you’re a freak. you’re going to Hell. Here’s a hateful meme.

Gentleness, evaporated.

It’s a kneeling professional athlete: They should shut up and play football or get fired or get out.

Hatred, prevalent.

If it’s a Muslim teenager forced to remove her head wrap at school: She gets ridicule and mockery and comments about terrorism.

Enmity, easy.

If it’s an immigrant veteran forced to leave the country they love and the home they’ve built: To hell with them. This is our country!

Empathy, nonexistent.

Over and over, these professed “life lovers,” go to great lengths to make living really, really difficult for so many people.

And that’s perhaps the most distressing reality that sinks in as I watch a vast multitude of supposed pro-life Christian adults, relentlessly going after the students of Parkland and others: they’d have been passionate and loud and unyielding in defense of them—while they were in the womb.

They’d have leveraged their platforms and talk shows and political position and pulpits to declare their inherent value, their God-designed beauty, the sanctity of their individual lives.

But now that they’re here and they’re hurting, and their opinions and politics conflict with their own—suddenly their lives really aren’t of value. Suddenly they’re the deserving objects of ridicule and harassment and violence. Suddenly they can be trolled for sport.

Now that they’re teenagers who don’t like being murdered by the guns these folks really like—to hell with them and their lives.

If only these teenagers had stayed there in the womb: they’d be safe from the pro-life Christians.

There, they’d still be beautiful.
There, they’d still be worth defending.
There’ they’d still be sacred.

- John Pavlovitz

The Texas School Shooting Reminds America What Veterans Already Know: Civilian Gun Culture Is A Dysfunctional Mess

The U.S. military has a lot of guns, but not a lot of non-combat fatalities. Why is this? Because of common sense military regulations. That’s why, like many other military veterans, I view America’s civilian gun culture as dysfunctional.

Today, Americans mourn yet another tragic mass shooting, this one in a Texas high school. It has been a mere three months since 17 teens lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Much has been made of U.S. gun control laws — or lack thereof. But instead of listening to politicians battle across the partisan divide, we should be listening to the men and women who work with guns the most.

Instead of listening to politicians battle across the partisan divide, we should be listening to the people who work with guns on a daily basis.

Most Americans would be surprised, for example, at how little time military personnel in particular spend with their weapons over the course of a career. Apart from firing on highly structured firing ranges or routine maintenance, access to your weapon on base is rare. Military Police provide security, so soldiers move about the base unarmed. There’s a reason for this: In the military, anything that reduces accidents, homicides or suicides isn’t put up for a vote. It’s a requirement.

The military’s strict rules on weapon and ammunition access can apply to wartime as well, as my own experience demonstrates. In 1991, I was a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. My unit was mobilized and sent to Fort Bragg, N.C. Shortly before boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia I was issued my M16 along with several magazines of live ammunition.

Although I had fired countless live rounds over the years on various military weapons ranges, it’s a different feeling when you’re issued live ammunition before heading to a combat zone. This time it was real.

That’s right. Once we arrived in an operational war zone, one of the first things the U.S. Army did was take our ammunition away.

After a 16-hour trip — most of which I spent sitting on the hood of a truck with my back against the windshield trying to stay warm — we emerged into the intense desert heat. Because of the ear-splitting noise of departing jets we quickly inserted hearing protection, and then surrendered our ammunition.

That’s right. Once we arrived in an operational war zone, one of the first things the U.S. Army did was take our ammunition away.

We were in a location where small-arms engagement with enemy forces was unlikely, so, as far as the Army was concerned, there was no need for a bunch of wound-up soldiers to be walking around with live rounds. Even without any ammunition, before entering a building every soldier had to demonstrate his or her weapon was empty by pointing it down toward a barrel of sand and pulling the trigger, causing it to make the “click” sound of an empty weapon (hopefully).

Banning bump stocks isn't as simple
as Trump thinks it is 03:50

Eventually, my unit moved north toward Kuwait, where we were re-issued ammunition just before the start of the ground war. Several weeks later, after successfully completing our mission in Kuwait City, we were re-routed to northern Iraq to address the Kurdish refugee crisis. On arrival, we once again surrendered our ammunition.

These military safety requirements are a stark contrast to civilian U.S. gun laws. Where the military requires background checks before a service member is allowed anywhere near a live weapon, the majority of U.S. states allow private gun sales without a background check. Where military personnel are trained to take a weapon away from a soldier who poses an extreme risk to himself or others, most states do not have laws enabling law enforcement or loved ones to do the same.

Compared to the weapons training that military and law enforcement personnel undergo, the training required of civilian gun owners is a joke — if it exists at all.

Before I was sent out to use it, I had to prove an intimate familiarity with my weapon — how it worked, its maximum effective range in meters, how to load and unload it safely, how to disassemble and reassemble it, how to clean it, clear jams, sight it and fire it accurately. So it’s hard for me to fathom how easy it is for almost any civilian to walk out of a gun retailer carrying a new weapon without a clue about so many of these standards.

And where military and law enforcement undergo extensive training on how to make the right shooting decision quickly while under extreme stress, civilians receive no such training, contributing to avoidable deaths arising from poor decisions and petty disputes. In this context, the National Rifle Association’s favorite slogan about good guys with guns defeating bad guys with guns is more naive myth than solution.

It’s crucial that veterans now bring our voice and experience to the national conversation about reasonable gun reform. As a group, we understand guns and appreciate that responsible gun ownership is an important part of American life — but we also understand that a safe environment is achieved through training and regulation.

We fought to protect of our country, yet see our fellow citizens being gunned down in schools, churches, restaurants and concert venues at a rate unseen anywhere else in the developed world. More Americans have been killed by guns since 1968 than in all of the wars in U.S. history. It’s ridiculous and tragic.

As a veteran, I am often asked what lessons the civilian world can learn from the military. There are many insights each can gain from the other. When it comes to guns, however, the greater wisdom lies with the military. It maintains a high-functioning gun environment because it remains serious about background checks, training and accountability.

It is time for the civilian world to do the same.

- Michael E. Diamond

My take: Yes, America's gun culture is a mess full of misguided emotions, pridefulness and fear all compounded by immoral politicians that manipulate and reap those emotions for political gain.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

Dear White Evangelicals,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you.

They’re done.

They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly.

They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.

But I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do.

Maybe you need to read what he said again—if he still matters to you.

- John Pavlovitz

Life is Short. People are Hurting. Don’t be a Jerk

I walked around today and I looked at people; those passing me in the grocery store, driving beside me on the highway, filling my newsfeed, walking by the house.

I tried to really see them.

I tried to look beneath the surface veneer they wore; to imagine the invisible burdens they might be carrying beneath it: sick children, relational collapse, financial tension, crippling depression, profound grief, crisis of faith, loss of purpose—or maybe just the custom designed multitude of the nagging insecurities and fears they’ve been carrying around since grade school and have never been able to shake.

As I looked at all these people, I wondered what kind of specific and personal hell they might be enduring, and it reminded me—so I’m reminding you:

Life is stunningly short and it is eggshell fragile.
Most people are having a really tough time.
They are almost always in more pain than you think they are.
Everyone is doing the very best they can to get through this day, and many are going through all manner of horrors in the process.
No one is immune from the invasive collateral damage of living.

And you don’t have to save these people or fix them or give them any special treatment.

They are rarely asking for such things.

The thing these wounded and weary human beings most need from you as you share this space with them—is for you not be a jerk.

It’s really that simple.

They need you to not contribute to their grieving, not to compound their sadness, not to amplify their fear, not to add to their adversity.
They need anything less than contempt from you.
They need you to embrace the vow of doctors and caregivers, of trying to do no harm to them.

This isn’t difficult, either.

Actually, when it comes right down to it, not being a jerk is about as elementary as it gets:

Don’t impose your religious beliefs on other people.
Don’t demand that they adapt to your preferences of identity or orientation.
Don’t try to take away things that keep them physically healthy or give them peace of mind or allow them access to education or opportunity.
Don’t put obstacles in a parent’s way of caring for their children or working to support them or guiding them safely into adulthood.
Don’t do things that make them more vulnerable to sickness and sadness and stress.
Don’t try to keep people from having things that you take for granted.

And strangely enough, it’s actually so much more work to be a jerk to people—and yet so many seem hopelessly bent on it.

Right now in America we are seeing what happens when people discard the Golden Rule; when they abandon simple decency and choose enmity; when they feel compelled to show cruelty to strangers; when another’s sorrow is of no concern.

On social media, in our school hallways, in our neighborhoods, even in the highest levels of Government, we are seeing an epidemic of malevolence; men and women seemingly driven to be hurtful and to do damage—human beings compelled to be jerks.

Friends, I wish I could find a more eloquent, more poetic, less abrasive way to say this, but I can’t.

At the end of the day, so many of the grieving, struggling, fearful human beings filling up the landscape you find yourself in today, are hanging by the very thinnest of threads.

They are heroically pushing back despair, enduring real and imagined terrors, warring with their external circumstances and with their internal demons.

They are doing the very best they can, sometimes with little help or hope—and they just need those of us who live alongside them to make that best-doing, a little easier.

These words are for me.
They’re for you.
They’re for ordinary people.
They’re for our elected leaders.
They’re for our President.

Life is short.
It is extremely fragile.
People are grieving.
They are struggling.
They are hurting.

For God’s sake and for theirs—please just don’t be a jerk.

- John Pavlovitz

My take: Well no, "Don’t impose your religious beliefs on other people." You can't really. They have to truly choose for themselves and hopefully by seeing the love of Christ in others and in you. When you begin to "impose" you are seriously risking driving them away and turning them off to God. Don't go there. It's not your responsibility to impose. Sharing your faith with others can be done without imposing, i mean share it like you have something great to share. If they don't want to hear it, cool it, love them, be people, win the day. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Senate Voted to Stand Up for Net Neutrality, Now Tell the House to Do the Same

Despite the fact that millions of Americans of all stripes want to keep net neutrality, the number of House members supporting the Congressional Review Act (CRA) there languishes below the 218 number needed to pass.

The Senate has voted to restore the 2015 Open Internet Order and reject the FCC’s attempt to gut net neutrality. This is a great first step, but now the fight moves to the House of Representatives.

The final Senate vote was 52 to 47 in favor. That puts a bare majority of the Senate in step with the 86% of Americans who oppose the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections.

Net neutrality means that the company that controls your access to the Internet should not also control what you see and how quickly you see it once you’re there. We pay our ISPs plenty of money for Internet access, they shouldn’t have the ability to block or throttle any application or website we choose to use or visit. And they shouldn’t get to charge extra to deliver some content faster while slowing down others or get to prioritize their own content over that of competitors.

The 2015 Open Internet Order was a great victory in banning blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization by ISPs. But under Chariman Ajit Pai, the FCC undid that good work by repealing the order and abandoning any responsibility for oversight. And it did so despite the huge number of Americans calling on it not to and despite the incorrect assumptions about how the Internet works that underlie its reasoning. The so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” does nothing of the kind, and it’s good to see the Senate acting to stop the FCC.

Despite the fact that millions of Americans of all stripes want to keep net neutrality, the number of House members supporting the Congressional Review Act (CRA) there languishes below the 218 number needed to pass. The Senate has led the way; now it’s time for the House of Representatives to step up especially as net neutrality is set to expire in June.

You can see where your representatives stand here and then give them a call telling them to use the Congressional Review Act to save the Open Internet Order.

Katharine Trendacosta

It’s Amazing How Many Countries Appear to Be Trying to Bribe Our President Right Now

In light of the news that entities controlled by the Chinese government will contribute $500 million to an Indonesian development project that includes several Trump-branded properties, it’s worth taking a step back and marveling at how many powerful foreign groups and individuals appear to be attempting to influence the U.S.’s distinguished president by giving money or favors to his chintzy real-estate company and/or sketchy pals. And while there’s not conclusive evidence (yet) of such incentives having led directly to changes in the administration’s policies, there’s certainly no evidence that sending cash in the president’s general direction will hurt your chances of getting the hookup, so to speak, from the American government. Take a look:
• China, as mentioned, just committed $500 million to build a theme park in an Indonesian luxury mega-development that will also feature Trump Organization-branded hotels and a golf course. Days after the commitment was finalized, Trump announced that he wants to lift sanctions that have been imposed on a Chinese telecom company called ZTE, which did business with Iran.
On another front, White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family business has solicited individual Chinese investments in one of its U.S. developments with a presentation that explicitly noted that Kushner is Trump’s influential son-in-law. In February, the Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence agencies have collected evidence that the government of China believes that Kushner can be manipulated through his business interests.
• A well-connected investor from Qatar, Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, is accused in a U.S. court filing by an aggrieved former business partner of having attempted to bribe said former partner for an introduction to Steve Bannon—and of having claimed in the process that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had taken Qatari money. The latter claim was made more noteworthy by video footage that shows Al-Rumaihi entering Trump Tower in New York City at the same time as infamous Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on Dec. 12, 2016, a day that Michael Flynn was also in the building. (Al-Rumaihi, in a bombshell interview published Wednesday by the Intercept, acknowledged having met with Trump officials and says Cohen asked him for a personal $1 million “fee” to help facilitate Qatari investments in the U.S.—but said he did not pay the fee and did not meet on Dec. 12 with Flynn. Cohen denies asking for the $1 million.)
Qatar’s government has also reportedly met multiple times with representatives of Newsmax, the conservative media outlet run by Trump’s frequent Mar-a-Lago companion Christopher Ruddy, about a potential investment in the company. The reported negotiations have coincided with a shift in the Trump administration’s rhetoric about Qatar: After initially condemning the country for supporting terrorism, a condemnation that coincided with a Qatari decision not to invest in Jared Kushner’s company, the White House has now decided that Qatar is a trustworthy ally whose leader is, in Trump’s words, a “great friend.”
• Michael Flynn was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by companies connected to Turkeyand Russia in 2015 and 2016 before reportedly pursuing Turkey- and Russia-friendly policies during his short tenure as national security adviser. It was also recently revealed that, in 2017, a U.S. investment company controlled by a Russian billionaire named Viktor Vekselberg paid Michael Cohen $500,000. Vekselberg is among the Russian individuals targeted by economic sanctions that Trump has reportedly been reluctant to impose despite the advice of his advisers and the wishes of Republicans in Congress. (The investment firm in question, Columbus Nova, denies that Vekselberg ordered the payment to Cohen and says Cohen was employed to provide legitimate business consulting services. There are, however, several reasons to doubt Columbus Nova’s version of the story.)
• A lobbyist named George Nader reportedly arrangedlucrative contracts with the government of the United Arab Emirates for a security firm owned by Republican fundraiser/Trump buddy Elliott Broidy. Broidy then reportedly advocated UAE-friendly positions to Trump on several occasions, including a meeting in the Oval Office. (You may recognize Broidy’s name because he resigned from his role with the Republican National Committee when reports emerged that he’d employed Michael Cohen to arrange a $1.6 million NDA payment to a Playboy model. It’s a situation that has not quite been fully explained.) Nader, for his part, is now reportedly cooperating with Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
• Saudi Arabia, in addition to sharing the interests pursued by its ally the UAE, is reportedly involved in negotiations to invest in businesses owned by Trump crony and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Saudi Arabia was also reportedly involved, as a potential client, in a private-sector plan to build nuclear plants that Michael Flynn helped promote during his time in office. The Trump administration has consistently pursued policies that benefit Saudi Arabia and the UAE, most notably by withdrawing from the nuclear deal that provided economic and geopolitical benefits to the countries’ Middle Eastern rival Iran.
• The Trump Organization has a number of active projects in India’s notoriously corrupt real-estate market—where several of its suspect local partners, as the New Republic has documented in an exposé, are “closely intertwined with the ruling party” of prime minister Narendra Modi. Donald Trump Jr. traveled to the country this February to promote Trump-branded apartment properties, a sales trip during which new buyers were offered the chance to have “conversation and dinner” with him. Don Jr., in addition to being the president’s son, has taken a role in the already-active Trump 2020 re-election campaign—and, during his trip to India, was scheduled to give a speech about U.S. foreign policy at a conference at which Modi also appeared. (After backlash, Trump Jr.’s speech was canceled and he instead participated in a softball interview about his life and “business culture.”)
On the potential “quo” end of things, the Trump administration has been consistently hostile toward India’s rival, Pakistan.
• Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, named the developer of a Trump-branded building in Manila as the country’s trade envoy to the U.S.
• Diplomatic and lobbying delegations from some of the countries above and several othershave spent significant sums at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Trump Organization has said it is donating all the profits the hotel derives from foreign government patronage to the U.S. Treasury—but hasn’t released any documents or details to support that claim.
One piece of subtext to all of this: European heads of state, who are generally governed by laws prohibiting bribery, have treated Trump like a typical U.S. president, making the case to him via formal diplomacy that doing things like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords and Iranian nuclear deal would damage U.S. interests. He’s generally ignored them in favor of developing buddy-buddy relationships with a number of authoritarians whose countries are friendly toward the Trump Organization and the people in its orbit.
All in all, it’s really starting to seem like Trump’s promise to create a “blind trust” that would completely insulate him from his business interests has not been entirely effective in its implementation. Sad! 

An Open Letter to Trump’s Evangelical Defenders

A Christian’s primary purpose is not to defend his own religious liberty. It’s not even to fight abortion — as vital as that task is. His basic task on this Earth isn’t protecting Christian education or preserving the freedom of Christian artists. Each of those things is important. Each of those things is necessary. But their defense cannot and must not compromise our true purpose.

And what is that purpose? I’m reminded of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Or, I’m reminded of Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Or, let’s refer to Christ’s famous words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Taken together, these words indicate that our life on this Earth should glorify God, demonstrate profound virtue, and count even our lives forfeit in the pursuit of eternal truth. We are told — promised, even — that in living this life we should expect the world’s scorn. We are told — promised, even — that we will suffer trials of many kinds, and those trials can include brutal persecution.

We are not told, however, to compromise our moral convictions for the sake of earthly relief, no matter how dire the crisis. We are not told to rationalize and justify sinful actions to preserve political influence or a popular audience. We are not told that the ends of good policies justify silence in the face of sin. Indeed — and this message goes out specifically to the politicians and pundits who go on television and say things they do not believe (you know who you are) to protect this administration and to preserve their presence in the halls of the power — there is specific scripture that applies to you:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

The president of the United States has paid hush money to a porn star — apparently to cover up a tryst that occurred shortly after the birth of his son. And that’s hardly his only affair. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault or some form of sexual harassment. He has been caught lying, repeatedly and regularly. Yet there are numerous Christians of real influence and prominence who not only won’t dare utter a negative word about the president, they’ll vigorously turn the tables on his critics, noting the specks in his critics’ eyes while ignoring the sequoia-sized beam in their own.

I’m sorry, but you cannot compartmentalize this behavior, declare that it’s “just politics,” and take solace that you’re a good spouse or parent, that you serve in your church and volunteer for mission trips, or that you’re relatively charitable and kind in other contexts. It’s sin, and it’s sin that is collapsing the Evangelical moral witness.


We live in a time of profound existential pain. Americans are dying deaths of despair at such a rate that our nation’s life expectancy is actually decreasing. Reality is revealing the moral rot at the heart of the sexual revolution. Christians have answers for this crisis. We have a message that can renew hearts and transform lives. But there are now millions — millions — of our fellow citizens who despise us not because we follow Christ (the kind of persecution we expect) but because all too many fellow believers have torched their credibility and exposed immense hypocrisy through fear, faithlessness, and ambition.

Soon enough, the “need” to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, “Was it worth it?” The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.

- David French

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Dying Mothers Plea For Her Life - Circa 2018 The U.S.A

Her only chance at life is a new liver, but her insurer said no. Then she wrote a powerful plea to the CEO

Portland, Oregon (CNN)All Erika Zak wants to do is play with her daughter on the playground. Take her to the zoo. Walk her to school.
She's never been able to be the mother she longs to be.
At 38, Erika is dying.
Her battle to live began almost as soon as her daughter, Loïe, was born four years ago, when Erika was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
The cancer was removed from her colon and, her doctors say, she responded well to treatment. But a microwave ablation surgery last year to remove two tumors from her liver went terribly wrong, leaving a fist-sized hole in her liver and destroying her bile ducts.
Every day since has been a fight to survive. She's been hospitalized 19 times in Oregon over the last 12 months for infections, bleeding and an array of other health issues.
She has high blood pressure in her liver, which backs up the veins in her esophagus and can be catastrophic. Her surgical oncologist constantly worries she will fall ill with a bad infection and die.
Without a liver transplant, her doctors say Erika will likely die before the end of the year.
"Every time she calls me and has a fever and some bleeding, we all hold our breath, worried: Will this be the time Erika bleeds to death?" says Dr. Skye Mayo, her surgical oncologist at Oregon Health & Science University.
    "This is kind of the end game of what liver failure looks like."
    More than 100 doctors at three of the nation's top medical centers have weighed in on her case, which is complex and exceedingly rare. Their conclusion: The only way to save Erika's life is to give her a new liver.
    After weeks of evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic in December and January, Erika finally got her big break.
    On February 2, doctors there approved putting her on the wait list for a liver transplant.
    The news changed everything. Erika finally had hope. Around the house, 4-year-old Loïe would say, "Mommy, when you get a new liver, can you push me in the swing?"
    But Erika hit an immediate wall. Her insurer, UnitedHealthcare, denied coverage for the transplant, saying it would not be a "promising treatment." She appealed and was rejected again.
    The mom who desperately wanted to live looked into Oregon's Death with Dignity program. Erika had written a letter to her daughter months ago to be read after she died. Now she worried Loïe might receive it sooner than Mom had planned:
    Dear Loïe,
      If you're reading this, I'm probably not on this earth anymore. So please remember this:
      I am with you always; even if you can no longer see my face or feel my hands through your hair. I am with you when you look up to the sky and see tiny birds flying free or the stars twinkling in your eyes. I am with you when you feel a perfect, warm breeze upon your sweet face.
      Erika wasn't going to give up. Her little girl with bright blue eyes was a constant reminder of all that is precious.
      Outraged and heartbroken, Erika wrote a four-page letter to the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of UnitedHealthcare (UHC), giving him a piece of her mind about what she felt was a rigged review process, riddled with errors, that determined her life wasn't worth saving.
      Weeks passed until the company reached a decision. Despite her plea, the answer was the same: Denied.
      Then, last week, an amazing thing happened.
      Erika Zak and her husband, Scott Powers, lock hands during a recent hospital visit. The two met 20 years ago.

      'My life hangs in the balance'

      If it's true that opening your heart, revealing your feelings, unleashes freedom and makes you whole, Erika turned to one of the things she loves most in an effort to save her life. Writing.
        It was early April. She sat at her computer, her keyboard clacking. She wasn't going to leave her husband, Scott Powers, and their daughter Loïe behind without trying her damnedest to stay on this Earth for as long as possible.
        There was too much at stake.
        UnitedHealthcare had overruled her treating physicians and denied the transplant, saying "unproven health services is not a covered benefit." The words burned, like chemo. Her first appeal went nowhere, and she felt trapped in a labyrinth of red tape.
        The young mother -- frail from having lost 20 pounds in the past year, her skin and eyes yellow from jaundice -- felt the only way to get a new liver was to plead her case directly to the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, David Wichmann.
        Her frame may be tiny, but don't mistake that for weakness. She is one of the strongest women you will ever meet.
        As she typed, Erika bared her soul. Of longing to live. Of seeing her daughter grow up. Of the need for "my only option," a liver transplant.
        "Given that my life hangs in the balance based on this review," she wrote, "it is unconscionable that it has not been undertaken with the level of competence and professionalism anyone would expect of UHC."
        She blasted what she called the "shockingly incompetent manner" in which the country's largest insurance company handled her case. She outlined what she described as a series of errors made in the review process -- ranging from UHC saying her liver failure stems from "chemotherapy toxicity" to an insurance medical director who erroneously said she had "life-threatening lesions."
          "Neither are true," she wrote Wichmann. "(UHC's) handling of my case has been plagued by unnecessary delays, incomplete responses, inept scheduling, contradictory statements, and worst of all repeated factual errors regarding my medical history.
          "Most importantly, decisions based on inaccurate information and analysis have already delayed my listing and transplant two months."
          Loie has been with her mother throughout the process. Erika calls her "my tiniest, most amazing companion."
          One review doctor noted she had a "9cm tumor" in her liver, she wrote, apparently unaware that was actually the hole from the ablation surgery resulting in her chronic liver failure.
          "I have been doing every single thing I possibly can do to stay alive for these past four years, scratching and clawing by day and praying every night an opportunity like this would come along," Erika wrote. "Now, when the promise of my long-term survival is actually greatest, I need UHC's support more than ever."
          She sent the letter via FedEx on April 11.
          Her concerns were valid. Her transplant team at the Cleveland Clinic made clear to UHC's appeals unit the primary cause of her liver failure was not from chemo toxicity or cancer, but instead was the result of "a consequence of complications following microwave ablation."
          "Of note, what mainly drives the indication of liver transplantation in this case is liver failure and NOT liver metastases from colorectal cancer, which makes the patient's post-transplant oncologic outcome more encouraging," wrote Dr. Federico Aucejo, the director of the Cleveland Clinic's Liver Cancer Program, in an appeal on Erika's behalf on March 6. He did note that she had some chemotoxicity, which was a secondary cause of liver failure.
          "The opinion of the experienced Cleveland Clinic multidisciplinary liver transplant committee (is) that liver transplantation would prolong this young patient's life substantially, and that there is NO other treatment alternative that could match this outcome at this point in time."
          Two days after sending her letter, Erika and her husband were told the UHC executive team had received it and that her case was undergoing further review.
          Several times, the family said it was told a decision would be made by a certain date; those dates came and went without a decision.
          As time wore on, Erika grew ill with a high fever and was hospitalized for several days. It was the fifth time she'd been admitted since February 2, the day Cleveland Clinic doctors approved her for a transplant.
          On Instagram, she posted an illustration with the words "waiting, waiting, waiting" on a pink backdrop with black crosses.
          "Waiting for insurance to approve the only thing that will save me: a liver," she wrote. "Waiting for my liver to fail completely; waiting to die. Waiting to be saved."
          'Wait or die'
          More than 100,000 Americans are on wait lists for organ transplants, and every hour someone dies while waiting for the life-saving surgery, said Dr. Andrew Cameron, the chief of transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins and the surgical director of its liver transplant program.
          For liver transplants, 20,000 Americans are on the wait list and only 7,000 will receive a new liver in 2018, according to Cameron, who is not connected to Erika's case.
          "The lucky few undergo a transformative life-saving procedure," he said. "Those who don't get that lottery ticket wait or die."
          Transplant teams at hospitals spend hours upon hours -- months even -- assessing and debating whether a patient is a good candidate for a transplant, Cameron said, typically with more than a dozen doctors weighing in.
          It is deeply disturbing, he said, when an insurance company overrules the "decision made by a thoughtful, careful transplant team to utilize one of society's limited resources -- that precious gift to save somebody's life."
          The negotiated cost for a liver transplant for an insurance company is roughly $200,000, Cameron said, adding it is "exceedingly rare" for an insurer to deny a transplant.
          "That is highly unusual and highly undesirable," Cameron told CNN.
          In Cleveland, Dr. Aucejo is trailblazing the field for patients like Erika, having performed the only two transplants in America this century on people suffering from what is called unresectable metastasis in the liver from colorectal cancer.
          It's groundbreaking and could prove transformative.
          "I hope that we can achieve good results and set precedent," he said.
          When you're trying such a new approach, Dr. Aucejo said, it can be difficult 
          getting insurers to agree to treatment and he wished getting them aboard 
          could be done "in a more expeditious way."
          He explained that in the late 1980s and 1990s, surgeons tried transplants on patients like Erika with "unresectable metastasis in the liver from colorectal cancer," but the "outcomes were not good."
          Only 18% of the patients lived past five years, so the transplants were stopped, Dr. Aucejo said. But, he emphasized, most of the bad outcomes were the result of technical complications and post-transplant management, not from the cancer returning. The field of transplants has greatly improved in the decades since, he said.
          Doctors in Europe, primarily in Norway, have begun changing the field, he said, finding that about 50-60% of patients with Erika's condition survive a transplant past five years.
          That is a substantial difference, he said.
          Dr. Mayo, Erika's surgical oncologist in Oregon, said no one at the insurance company reached out to him during the review process "to help explain the facts of her case."
          That is troubling, he said, especially when it's one of the most complicated cases a doctor will ever see.
          "It is frustrating when it seems that the facts aren't all being considered," Dr. Mayo said.
          "Her life now is not limited by her cancer," he said. "It's limited by the fact she will go into liver failure and die within the next several months if she doesn't have a liver transplant."
          Erika wrote a note for her daughter if she does not survive: "I am with you always; even if you can 
          no longer see my face or feel my hands through your hair."

          When opposites attract

          Erika was in the prime of her life. At 34, she'd given birth to her first and only child, Loïe, the little girl who Mom calls "my tiniest, most amazing companion."
          She'd been married to the love of her life for four years. She and Scott met in 1998 when he was at Brown University and she was at the Rhode Island School of Design, both in Providence.
          The two were polar opposites. He was the MVP of Brown's soccer team and majored in economics. She was into the arts and majored in textile design. He was from the tightly wound East Coast, she from the free-wheeling West Coast.
          The connection wasn't immediate, so Erika had a mutual friend slip a tiny drawing to Scott. It contained her phone number; he called it.
          Soon they clicked. Scott made her laugh and feel beautiful. Erika saw in him someone who was kind and devoted; in her, he found the woman who he'd always searched for, with a captivating sense of humor and a sailor's mouth.
          They tied the knot on Halloween in 2009 in the wine country of Healdsburg, California.
          Her career was taking off, too. She was working for Old Navy, choosing and designing the fabrics, prints and plaids for the company's baby and toddler division. While she was pregnant, she was promoted to senior textile designer.
          "It was all coming together," she wrote on her blog. "And then, like that, my foundation crumbled."
          During the final trimester of her pregnancy, she'd experienced pain in her stomach. It was thought to be nothing more than part of the difficulties of pregnancy. But in the weeks after delivery, the pain grew excruciating and she felt a lump on her side.
          On April 8, 2014, she received the awful news -- that she had stage 4 metastatic colon cancer that had spread to her liver. Her daughter was just 3 months old.
          "Worst Day Ever" read the headline of her blog.
          She had survived cancer once before. At 28, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Her thyroid was removed, and life continued as normal. It was nothing close to a stage 4 diagnosis.
          In the years after her colon cancer diagnosis, she blogged about most everything. Of losing her father to Alzheimer's at age 83. Of the pain over two friends' deaths -- including an oncologist she'd met in a cancer support group.
          "Have you ever cried and screamed so hard that the blood vessels around your eyes burst?" she wrote.
          In her blog posts, she was brutally honest about her cancer and the effects of chemotherapy.
          Erika and Scott Powers met in college while they were both in school in Rhode Island.
          She'd sit on the shower floor in a fetal position, screaming and sobbing. It was "anguish and pain and longing for my former life and utter disbelief for the war my body was waging on itself," she blogged.
          Her fingertips felt like they had been "burned on a hot pan most of the time." Her hands cramped into weird, contorted positions. Her hair was dry and brittle, like straw. Her energy was so drained she felt twice her age.
          As a teen, she'd suffered debilitating depression and anxiety that was so bad at times, she said, "I hoped that I could just disappear forever."
          "It's funny how afraid I am of that now: disappearing. How much I want to live. How important it feels to be here," she wrote on December 1, 2016, two and half years into her cancer battle.
          She would face multiple surgeries and undergo more than 70 rounds of chemo. On February 28, 2017, she wrote:
          "This is chemo day. Scream in your pillow day. Hide in the shower day. Lie to your baby day. Tell her you're going to work day. Vials and vials of blood day. Tell your doctor you're angry day. Make your husband cry day. Poison your body day."
          On another day, she penned: "Cancer is a slow form of torture. It strips you of dignity; of peace of mind; of stability."
          On April 4, 2017, nearly three years to the day of her diagnosis, she and her daughter had a soul-crushing conversation. The cancer had been eradicated from her colon shortly after the diagnosis, but it remained in her liver.
          "Mommy, are you going to last?" Loïe asked.
          "What do you mean, Loïe?"
          "Will you be here forever and ever?" the girl asked.
          "I really don't know, babe."
          As she awaited word from her insurer about the transplant, Erika said, 
          "I'm mad and grouchy, but I still feel like I have a fighting chance."
          Six days later, Erika underwent the ablation surgery at a facility in New York to target two small tumors on her liver. Something went wrong. She ended up with the hole in her liver.
          To save her life, surgeons had to block off the veins and arteries going to her liver. The entire central part of her liver died, Dr. Mayo said. Two bags are now attached to her abdomen to drain the bile.
          With bile going immediately outside her body, instead of through the liver and her body, Erika was susceptible to extreme sickness and potential fatal bleeds.
          "All of those things culminated in what is now liver failure for her," Dr. Mayo said. "She's in this cycle right now where she's losing on a daily basis some of her body's most vital fluids."
          The cancer in her liver, meanwhile, was progressing on a path, he said, where "she would die of cancer." She could no longer tolerate any standard form of chemo treatment.
          Her doctors in Oregon last fall tried one last treatment to fend off her cancer: a groundbreaking immunotherapy cancer drug called pembrolizumab, known by its brand name Keytruda.
          Her sky-high tumor marker levels fell to normal. "She had an incredible response to this new drug," Dr. Mayo said. "I think all of the cancer remaining in her body is dead at this point. What she will die of is liver failure."
          With a new liver, he said, her problems with bleeding and high blood pressure could be resolved. Her jaundice would be gone, too.
          But transplant surgery is not without major risks.
          Most of those who've received a transplant with unresectable metastasis in the liver from colorectal cancer, Cleveland's Dr. Aucejo said, experience a recurrence of cancer within 12 months.
          Most of the cancers that return can be treated with standard care, like chemotherapy or surgery, he said, profoundly prolonging their lives.
          For a small subset of patients, though, the cancer comes back aggressively and it's not treatable with chemo or surgery, he said. "Unfortunately in that subset of patients, the survival is more dismal."
          While it's impossible to predict the outcome, he said, Erika shows "features that may do well." There's no evidence cancer has spread beyond her liver, he said.
          Plus, patients who had their colon cancer removed two years or more before the transplant, Dr. Aucejo said, tend do well. Erika had the cancerous portion of her colon removed in 2014: "That's a good indicator."
          Dr. Aucejo also emphasized the criteria for transplant qualification is stringent and that Erika shows promise.
          "We're talking about distributing limited organs," he said. "Again, we have to be very careful that we're not giving organs to people who are not going to benefit from it when there's people dying with standard indications because there's not enough organs."
          In the days and weeks after Erika fired off her letter to the CEO, her husband, Scott, worked the phones.
          He felt lost in an endless loop of delays and broken promises as to when the insurer would reach its decision.
          Finally, they were told a decision would come May 2.
          Erika couldn't sleep the night before. She pulled out her phone and recorded a message, weeping for much of the video.
          "My life is literally in their hands, and every day I feel myself kind of fading away more and more," she says. "I don't want to leave. I don't want to die."
          The next day came. Each minute crept by.
          Shortly after 2 p.m., Scott's phone rang.
          It was their point of contact with UnitedHealthcare.
          He had crushing news: Denied.
          He explained Erika's case was sent back to the three reviewing doctors. One of them, he said, "changed his decision from 'not promising' to 'promising.'"
          However, the other two doctors ruled the transplant not to be promising: "The bottom line is they're upholding that decision."
          The doctor who sided in favor of the transplant, their UHC contact told them, was the only one of the three who talked directly with her transplant surgeon.
          Scott grew furious. "Honestly, you know that is messed up," he said. "I don't know who you've got to go to, but I would go to someone now and have someone call us, because this is so messed up."
          "Scott, I know what you've been through," the UHC rep told him. "I know what you're going through."
          Erika sat silently for the first 10 minutes of the conservation, absorbing the news and what it meant for her fate. But at those words, it was time to speak up.
          "Hey!" she shouted. "This is Erika, and you've never heard from me before. You don't know what we're going through. Because I'm dying."
          Through tears, she said, "I need a liver transplant, and I need it now."
          The UHC rep confided he "was not hoping for this outcome. I was hoping that I'd have good news."
          He suggested Erika and Scott fax over any new information they thought might be relevant. He also acknowledged the delays in recent weeks were not in keeping with the company's policies.
          "Someone needs to be accountable for this," he said. "You know, why, when we have these guidelines in place, did we not follow them?
          "That needs to be looked into," he said, adding, "I'm not trying to sweep anything under the rug."
          He apologized for having to be the bearer of bad news, saying his goal had been to end the day on a positive note.
          "Like I said, I wish I had better news."
          After more than 30 minutes, he ended with: "Have a good night, OK."
          Not the words the couple wanted to hear.
          Erika went numb. Heartbroken and angry didn't even begin to describe her feelings.
          Scott felt equally distraught. "I just want her to get a liver," he said. "She deserves that."
          The CEO never responded -- not by email, phone or letter.
          Five days later, on Monday, May 7, a surprise call came. Erika and Scott were preparing Loïe for school when Scott's phone rang.
          They had spent the weekend trying to figure out their next move, while trying not to focus too much on when Erika might need Death with Dignity. They knew they had one appeal left, and they didn't want to blow it.
          They hadn't sent any new information since the last call.
          It was their UHC rep on the phone. This time, he had good news: The insurer would cover Erika's transplant.
          When Scott heard she'd been approved, he jumped up and down. Erika watched him from across the room.
          There was no explanation for the change. They were told to focus on Erika's health and next steps.
          Erika called her mother, who unleashed a guttural scream at work.
          Loïe has grown excited at the prospect of her mother's transplant. Erika just wants 
          to be able to walk her to school or take her to the playground.
          Dr. Mayo was preparing for surgery when he took Scott's call. Elation spread across the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University where doctors, nurses and staff celebrated.
          In Cleveland, Dr. Aucejo heard the welcome news from his transplant coordinator. He'd not spoken with anyone at UHC about the case in the five days since the previous denial.
          "They had decided on their own. We hadn't gotten back to them," he said. "I'm happy they ended up sharing our vision."
          I had been speaking with Erika and Scott for this story over the last month and had reviewed her medical records extensively. During the May 2 phone call in which Erika was told her transplant had been denied, Scott told the UHC rep that the couple had been speaking with a member of the national news media.
          I was on a flight to Oregon when they received the joyous news. "UHC just called and approved Erika. Unreal. Know you're in flight but call whenever," Scott texted.
          When we met a couple hours later, Erika's emotions were still raw. She thought this would be her last Mother's Day. Now, suddenly, she has hope for more.
          Glancing at her daughter and husband, Erika broke down in tears.
          "I can't imagine not being here," she said. "It's not because I keep the family together or anything. It's just the love I have for them."
          "Mommy, why are you crying?" Loïe said.
          "I'm crying because I love you."
          Loïe placed her fingers in her mother's right hand.
          "Love you," Loïe said.
          As she and Loïe locked hands, the tattoo on Erika's wrist displayed a fitting message: "Be brave."
          During her cancer fight, Erika and her twin sister got matching tatoos with one message: "Be brave."


          UnitedHealthcare declined to answer CNN's questions about the handling of Erika's case, except to issue this one-sentence statement:
          "We had on-going conversations with her husband and contacted him as soon as the decision was made to approve the transplant request."
          Even after the approval, Erika said she still wanted to move forward with the story, to speak up for others who've experienced the pain of similar denials. To let them know they're not alone. To encourage them to be their own best advocates.
          It can mean the difference between life and death.
          "No one should have to fight and work that hard," she said, "especially when I have all these doctors saying it will save my life."
          Since the approval, the family has been preparing to move to Cleveland for Erika's surgery and recovery at the Cleveland Clinic. Erika was officially notified Friday morning she was placed on the liver transplant wait list.
          It's impossible to know how long the family will be in Cleveland or when the transplant will occur. Transplant candidates are given what is known as a "MELD score," ranging from 6 to 40. Those closest to 40 are given the highest priority.
          Erika's MELD score has hovered around 22. If her score is still in that range, Dr. Aucejo said, her transplant could be a few months away.
          "But this varies a lot," he said. "There are many variables at play here."
          A patient for a liver transplant, he said, is typically hospitalized 7 to 10 days for the procedure, with a recovery time of 4 to 8 weeks before the patient resumes normal activities.
          Would Erika have had the transplant by now if the surgery had been approved in February?
          Erika Zak says her will to live is motivated by her daughter, Loïe. Here, they play on the couch
          as the family dog, Maddie, watches.
          He chose his words carefully, saying it's a "complex dynamic" between hospitals and insurance companies and he doesn't want to upset that balance.
          "She's been approved and that's what matters -- and hopefully we can move forward with her transplant."
          Dr. Aucejo said he can somewhat understand the insurance company's initial reluctance at coverage because the procedure is so rare for patients with Erika's condition.
          "It's a new territory," he told CNN. "I can't blame anybody."
          If Erika receives her transplant and succeeds, Dr. Aucejo said, she could help set precedent for many others down the road.
          More than anything, she would finally get a chance to be the mother she wants to be.

          - Wayne Drash

          My take: The pain, the long suffering, the thing real people do not need to be put through...oh yes this is messed up but pray for her and so many others like her. This is way messed up because this is what we were left from Trump's promise of "Great" healthcare for all....A big lie involving people's lives on the line..PEOPLE'S LIVES ON THE LINE. This is what Trump left us...situations where more and more insurance companies override doctors recommendations and if you can believe it, where peoples lives are left up to an insurance agent? and more and more because of the economically craven culture a grievously misguided president is creating. If Erika Zak doesn't get a life-saving liver in time, one she should have received when she should have received it then....
          This is where we are and this is what you would give us evangelical America. This is what you do and what you will reap, double down, double down, double down, doubledown, double down, ....

          This is the U.S. circa 2018. The tragic tedious management of our own stubborn selfishness goes on.