Do people have any idea what is going to happen to the global economy?

David Buckner is one of the smartest people we know when it comes to the economy and what's coming, so with everything happening in the world today it's no surprise Glenn wanted to meet with him during his New York visit. Are Americans prepared for what's coming...and coming soon?

Let’s start with Davos.

David: Isn’t that a lovely place?

Glenn: I don’t know. I’ve never been there.

David: Nor have I.

Glen: But all of the bigwig jets—

David: Yeah, 1,700 jets, these are people, private jets flying in to talk about global warming.

Glenn: Right, and they’re talking about the world economy.

David: And they’re mostly billionaires talking about the inequality in the market.

Glenn: Correct. So they’re there, and one of these guys, there was a story up on TheBlaze last week, and I actually agreed with everything that he said somewhat, you know, but the fact that he was flying in on his corporate jet and, you know, eating like a $300 hamburger kind of took the taint off, but he was saying that Americans and the rest of the world need to understand you’re going to have to do with a lot less soon. And I saw that, and I thought okay, again, he’s on the corporate jet eating the $400 hamburger, but he’s right. People don’t have any idea that what is coming is going to be dramatically different.

David: He’s right for reasons that you and I may not see the world looking at. We think we need to because we need to be self-reliant, financially prudent, stay within our means. Pay as you go. If you can’t pay, don’t go. That maybe our philosophical view.

His view on doing less, what we need to do more with less is this, first of all, what does America provide? He knows that we don’t produce a lot. Most manufacturing is done in Malaysia and other places. Services, most services have gone to India because India has got English-speaking, well educated, no infrastructure. They don’t produce stuff, but they have services. Where do you find all of the lower cost locations in the world? You can go there, so he knows that. So, we don’t offer production. Two, we’re not offering the dollar much anymore, because if you think about the dollar, that’s for the exchange of oil.

Well, guess what, China signs an agreement with Russia, no longer going to exchange with the dollar, using the dollar. Seventeen days later, Australia signs with China. Australia? No, they’re not part of that fraternity. Australia signs. Seventeen other countries have now signed. They’re not going to exchange using the dollar as the basis for exchange. So what happens when there’s a lot of excess dollars and people have been hoarding because they need it for oil, then no longer need it?

And as oil prices go down, how many of them actually need it even if they do use dollars? So, what happens? Dollars go on the market. So, he knows first of all, the dollar is not relevant or as relevant as it was. We don’t produce as much. We’re not that critical. We outsource everything. We buy things from others. We’ve become an outsourced economy where we transfer any wealth that comes in from rich to poor if we can, the innovators and creators to those that don’t have jobs. Rather than giving them a job, we give them the money, and the third thing that they look at is they say okay, you are invested in America as military weapons producers.

But guess what, what does he know? The next war is not going to be military. It’s going to be cyber. It’s going to be banking. It’s going to be financial. So, all the things that we add value to the world, production, innovation, no longer. We punish innovators, right? The dollar, not really needed anymore, especially if you bypass it, and I’m not talking about creating a new currency. I’m just talking about they just decide to exchange between themselves.

Glenn: Right.

David: And what do we finally have? The reality of it is our big picture of we’re going to make something, we’re going to produce something, we have the dollar, we’re going to have military…we don’t care about your military anymore. We can change one dot, one one or one zero. We can cyber attack, which you’ve shown it all over the place, and America is pretty much less relevant. The only thing we have left over is consumption. We consume. So, we walk in, we’re the fattest person. We walk in, we go, “We want to eat. Prepare food.” “Do you have money?” “No, but we’ll borrow from you.” “Really, you’re just going to run up your tab?” “Yeah, but we consume the most. You need us to stay in business.” So, if others walk through the door and say I can actually pay for it, they’re not going to come to us. You don’t want to be the fattest person.

Glenn: How long?

David: Again, each of these dominoes require a couple of things that the poppy seeds can mitigate, and they only mitigate. They don’t take away. Trust me, if a bank has no money and no ability to make its money, even though you slow down the run on the bank, the bank still has no money. That’s where we are. So even though we can slow this down, as interest rates go up, that’s going to reveal more of what we have. As we won’t produce, we’re not going to manufacture.

Glenn: They’re talking about negative interest rates now in the United States.

David: They are, but that’s more like when you think about deflation and things like that, you’re talking about at a point in time where they want people to take things. But let me be clear, regulation will probably protect us from negative interest rates for a season. Dodd-Frank and many of these others are so restrictive that nobody can get loans. Any money that’s going in right now that you want to borrow, it’s not being loaned here.

It’s actually hurting the poor, because if you are able to allow a natural bank to increase interest rates so people can deposit and lenders could borrow, now the poor who hold cash put their money in there, and they’re getting half a percent. You get to negative, all the elderly, all the pensioners, all the cash holders, all the poor who hold cash…

Glenn: Would you agree this is the biggest theft in the history of the world, what’s going on right now around the world?

David: It is probably the largest on scale illusion. I’ll put it that way, and I want to be careful here because banking is an illusion. Investment relies upon illusion, but I don’t believe that it relies on trust. I call this an illusion. There’s a difference between trust and an illusion. President Reagan used to say trust but verify, okay? Same kinds of things, trust is based upon you and I could actually put it out there, show that we’ve got it, we’re good to go, okay?

Glenn: Correct.

David: Illusion is you don’t need to see it.

Glenn: Don’t ask.

David: You don’t need to see it.

Glenn: Right.

David: And as long as you believe it, you’ll never need to see it. That to me is the most terrifying part of it.

Glenn: So, let me switch gears. Pat and I were talking over the weekend, and I said I think it’s time we take our family to Europe and see Europe, because I don’t know if it’s 1933 or 1939, but the world is going to change, and it might be 1950 before we could get back there. If I would have said in 1933, you know what, let’s go see Germany, no, let’s wait. Come back in 1950, it’s not the same place. With the way things are shaping up with ISIS, with the Fascists all across Europe, with the Communists now coming to play, am I wrong to think that maybe it’s time to go see things that you might not see again?

David: I think you’re right, full stop, period, okay? But I will tell you this, there’s a fundamental problem that Europe has that it can’t fix, which is why you go. Europe has this egalitarian approach to everybody’s got to be equal. There is no fiscal responsibility from the top. Even the Central Bank doesn’t have the control, so when one child steps out of line or one child is not perfectly aligned with the others, and you just saw it in Greece. You’re seeing a far move in Greece.

All of a sudden, the other countries are saying wait, you do that, you destroy the whole family picture. You can’t tell me what to do. That creates huge stress within the family of the euro zone, so that point you’re going to start seeing the drachma is going to come back. I start seeing that the euro as a currency, the system as an organized everybody will be equal—

Glenn: You also have Dugin in Russia who is pushing…I mean, that’s why Le Pen is being pushed and financed by Russia. PEGIDA is on this, and it is nationalism. It is you’re Germans, you’re Italians, you’re Frenchmen, and stand up for that, which again, Fascism, the Holocaust came from those.

David: If you can isolate and make them smaller.

Glenn: It tears everything apart.

David: It does. The fabric tears. You have no tapestry, and not that the tapestry is elegant, but when you divide, it’s why NATO was formed, not that it’s good, bad, or indifferent, but why it was formed to say look, you mess with my brother, I will be there to help the best I can.

Glenn: What’s going to happen to Europe, David?

David: Europe has got a severe challenge in the future, because the storm is going to be there, and they can’t fix it because they can’t agree. So, while the United States can isolate, we can stop, and we can look externally, which we haven’t done. We can look externally and protect ourselves. They can’t.

So, I candidly believe that Greece has its moment coming where the drachma, you’re going to see a pushback. Italy then is going to have to say how do we get bailed out from all the debt we’ve given them? France, Spain, all the others that our debt-ridden are going to have to say how do we do it? And one way they’re going to try to do it, and this is what might be interesting in the United States, is they woo our businesses for safe havens like Switzerland once did, and they bring us there. Whether companies really want to do that or not, that may be their only way, and we may be foolish enough to be pushing our people that way by saying we’re going to tax our way into prosperity. It can’t work.

Big picture is they’re going to have to break apart. There’s going to be some isolationism, and they’re going to see arduous battles in that community to try to figure out can the overall EC group keep it together or are you going to have those people breaking it apart? And that’s where all these isms, where the isms come in. It gets really scary because you can have an ism in a community. It’s hard to have a guaranteed ism across a large organization.

That’s the balancing of isms, but you get one little ism here, you’ve got Greece doing what they’re doing, you have Italy that may go this way, you have France this way, all of a sudden these little isms, and you have fiefdoms and kingdoms that start battle. Then it gets really scary.

Glenn: China?

David: China is a fascinating place. I love the people in China genuinely. The problem is my time when I meet with them and I talk about markets and I talk about business and I try to explain how markets work, many of them while embracing conceptually have been so raised in an environment where planned and state-owned enterprises control everything. You drive in from Pudong Airport in Shanghai, there’s tall buildings that are empty. The plan is elegant. I mean, you see the roads mapped out, but they’re empty. There’s no efficiency there. You ask people, and they go, “Well, they’ll fill them some time.” And so there’s a false economy because you can’t really see supply and demand. It makes it unpredictable.

Glenn: How clear is it? I saw some pictures. This morning we were looking at how bad the environment is over in China, and we couldn’t believe some of the pictures we saw.

David: You would be stunned.

Glenn: I was stunned.

David: I go to Beijing in January and February. I was there last year on the worst…you’re supposed to have so many particulates per, and it was thousands above it. People walk around, you know, everybody’s got the masks, and they even have these that they buy with little kitty things. It’s a fashion accessory. You walk out, and you smell, it feels like you are at the back of a jet engine. It’s pretty strong.

So many of my colleagues that are really dear friends genuinely that I’ve met there, they’re the people, you know, have lung problems and challenges. It is so…Beijing specifically, where I’ve been, that’s the place that is the worst that I’ve observed. Shanghai can be, but it’s got, you know, but it is so sad because the pollution just settles in. It’s winter. It gets cold, but the laws and things that they’ve got for environment are not in keeping, and with that it’s not just the laws, even if they worked. State-owned enterprises, you know, it would be less productive if they have to regulate as much.

It’s really significant. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where I woke up in the morning and go, “Wow, that’s a lot of fog. Where’s the river?” No, it’s fog. Really? You can’t see. It’s the only place I’ve been where it is outside looking out, you don’t see it.

Glenn: Yet these are the ones that the people in the United States say lead us.

David: They may lead us in the ability to replicate and produce, but they don’t lead us in environment.

Glenn: Oh no, talk to Al Gore.

David: I understand. I’m telling you, they don’t lead us.

Glenn: I know.

David: In fact, I’m telling you they don’t. We both know this.

Glenn: Well, I saw the pictures.

David: I breathe it. Anytime in the winter, anybody will tell you as lovely as that wonderful city is and the people, the pollution that just socks in and stays there, and there’s not much they can do. When they had the Olympics there, they had a moratorium on cars and people coming in, you know, the number of cars that could come in. Even now they have if you have a car, you only have certain days you can drive, and even with that regulation, the pollution just is outrageous. It’s a sad situation to see because they’re good people that are experiencing disease.

Glenn: I talked to Peter Thiel, a pretty wise guy, and he said I think we make it to the next election, but whoever becomes president the next time, he said you can only have this poppy field for so long. He said you can only hold onto this illusion before it just completely falls apart. You agree with that?

David: I agree that politics plays into the illusion or the trust. The trust is we can verify or the illusion is don’t worry about it. I believe that an election, after up to the election, everything gets clouded for me. It bothers me because I’m a practical person. Just tell me what’s true. I don’t care if you’re an ism on the right or an ism on the left, tell me what’s true. Tell me the truth. And leading up to the election, we get too many photo, you know, ops. We don’t get truth. No one talks about investing, government investing, with truth. Governments don’t invest. They transfer. They can’t invest. They don’t create anything. It’s inherently inaccurate to say that, and yet during the elections, we’re going to invest in the people, we’re going to invest in schools.

So, we’ll get up to that election, we’ll get past the election, if there’s an exuberance for a candidate, somebody that may come from behind and says this is great, and people like him, charismatic, you know, central enough to satisfy some, far enough to one way or the other—

Glenn: Like Elizabeth Warren.

David: Yeah…wow, I thought you were talking about Greece for a moment there. You took my breath away on that one. But if you get somebody that people go, “This is great…,” I mean, I have to go back to where I was a child. Ronald Reagan, like him or hate him, people go, “This is great!” The Hollywood, Californians liked him.

Glenn: I don’t think anybody who has announced or skating around, I don’t see anybody that everybody—

David: There’s no romance in it right now, and the problem is you’ve got a lot of people that go well, it’s the Hillary thing, you know? I don’t think there would be great romance even for those that are embracing her right now. I don’t think there’s romance. It’s a known quantity. Even when they talk about Jeb Bush, well, it’s a known quantity. I mean, they’re talking about known quantities. Why can’t America be innovative? Why can’t we go out and say somebody who has ideals, who, by the way, when in office will be my president?

I’ve told my son 100 times, he goes to school, I say you need to understand Barack Obama is my president. I want you to know that. We are Americans. I want you to recognize that. I would say the same thing with George W. Bush, he’s my president. And then we talk candidly about real issues and where things align and don’t align because I want my children to understand there’s a necessity to be loyal to my country, but the flipside of that is if we don’t get that, there’s no romance.

There was some romance because of firsts, but if there’s no sense of real, practical, verifiable, you know, principles with integrity and tell me the truth…I just want to know the truth. Don’t tell me what I want to hear, and guess what, I’m going to pay my way, and yet, you’re going to give me a chance to innovate, and I can succeed. If you don’t have anybody say that, we get into that next election, that perfect storm, the fear I have is a perfect storm happens to us, and we don’t take control of where that perfect storm goes, and that’s the worry I have. That’s where he’s right.

It could hit that moment, we get past that election and then go okay, no hope, no confidence, let the weather happen, and it just hits us. We have interest. We have dollars that don’t matter. We don’t produce anything. All of a sudden, the rest of the economy and the world says, “What do you guys do anymore? You used to be America. Now you’re and also-ran, you know?” Yeah, the big eaters, and that to me is the most unnerving part of where we’re going to go.

Ryan: The Ascent of Kanye West

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Apollo, god of poetry, light, prophecy, dance. Star of Greek mythology, rivaled only by Zeus, his father. God of justice. God of purification, knowledge, healing. God of the Sun. But most of all, god of music. So they called him the Leader of the Muses.

And on a bright Sunday morning midway through November, at the tail end of a decade, Kanye West looked out at the congregation of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, a 16,000-seater originally built for the Houston Rockets, and said, "Jesus has won the victory: Now the greatest artist God ever created is now working for him."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye's newest album, Jesus Is King, had been out for three weeks, and like every Kanye album, it was controversial, as adored as it was unaccepted.

Critics had shown a mostly tepid response, but nobody could tell if their disinterest was genuine, or if it was politically motivated.

After all, for the past year, Kanye had once again managed to penetrate the epicenter of American society. The last two Presidents had literally shamed and cursed Kanye, but, still, who could've guessed he would befriend this one?

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The week after Kanye's Olsteen appearance, at the House impeachment hearings, as the entire country watched and listened, Congressmen and diplomats would mention longtime Kanye collaborator A$AP Rocky no less than five times, in casual reference to the Kardashians and the deal between Trump and Sweden, struck at the urging of Kanye West.

Meanwhile, Jesus is King became the ninth consecutive Kanye album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 — a feat he shares with Eminem and The Beatles — and the sixth time in the 2010s alone. And, to be fair, his only studio album not to debut at number one was The College Dropout, his first, which went triple platinum and earned the third-most Grammy nominations in one night, winning Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song with "Jesus Walks."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Jesus is King was also the first record ever to top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Rap Albums, Christian Albums, and Gospel Albums simultaneously. All eleven tracks charted on the US Billboard 100, joining the other 96 Kanye songs to have landed on the Top 100.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

This album was different, and not just because of Kenny G. For the first time, Kanye was not a god or a self-destructive fallen angel. He was a father, a husband, a son, and, most important, a man full of belief, with his hands outstretched, surrounded by a choir.

"I remember sitting in the hospital at UCLA after having a breakdown," he told the congregation, "and there's documentations of me drawing a church and writing about starting a church in the middle of Calabasas."

That night, following an afternoon of ice-skating at the Galleria, Kanye returned to Lakewood Church and performed a concert. Imagine hearing a his electro-gospel opera in an arena designed, acoustically, for professional basketball games. Only better, because everything had been padded. With LSD graphics on the swirly blue carpet.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When we experience art, it changes us.

So there I was, four rows from the stage, crying in front of FoxNews. Because Kanye had brought his Sunday Service choir with him, and they were singing "Ultralight Beam," one of the few perfect songs ever made, a song that played during my wedding ceremony, the song my daughter, God willing, will be born to, a song I have never once listened to without at least tearing up.

“Jesus Is King" A Sunday Service Experience at Lakewood Church with Kanye West youtu.be

"This is a God dream, this is a God dream. This is everything."

Kanye was the only person onstage dressed in his own clothing, a neatened blazer. The choir were draped in grey, like holy silhouettes.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

So who cares about FoxNews and their snotty reporters in their shoulder-padded blazers. The rest of us had drifted into the immediacy of it all. And I wasn't about to play stoic journalist here. I wasn't a reporter first and a human or an American later.

The choir zigzagged on the loft flanking the stage. Each of them had a headset microphone, like Garth Brooks.

God only knew how they sang so perfectly. How did they project their voices like that? More beautiful than anything we had ever heard, more beautiful than water.

After "Ultralight Beam," it was "Every Hour," the mesmeric opening track of Jesus Is King.

Sing every hour, Every minute, Every second, Sing each and every millisecond, We need you

Every Hour youtu.be

The performance felt all the more sacred because this was church, where people gathered to lose themselves, to sing as a chorus, to confront who they really are.

Across the street, one protestor stood hollering.

Meanwhile thousands of people waited at the entrance, giddy to get in. They would join us in no time. Soon, they would fill every seat in this church.

*

That morning, Kanye told Olsteen,

"It's like the devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good business people and said, 'you gotta come over and work for me.' And now the trend, the shift, is going to change."

Jesus Is King was the result of a new cultural and artistic movement that more or less started with 2016's Life of Pablo, Kanye's closeted gospel album. Which was a surprising departure from 2013's Yeezus, with its tangled social commentary and fashionable solipsism. And that drum sound, the one every half-decent producer has spent the last six years failing to emulate.

The 2010's saw him grow more cerebral. He even teased a book of philosophy titled Break the Simulation.

Then, in 2018, he released Ye, the second of five albums in a Kanye-produced series, all recorded at his Wyoming studio. In keeping with the criticisms of hip-hop he voiced on "Ye vs. The People"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye eschewed many of the themes he'd embraced for so long, replacing them with meditations on mental illness, fatherhood, suicide, love, and addiction. The album's working title had been "LOVE EVERYONE."

On "I Thought About Killing You," he raps,

The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest.

The title "Ye" is not just the diminutive of "Kanye."

As he said in an interview

I believe 'ye' is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and, in the Bible, it means 'you,' so it's [saying] "I'm you, I'm us, it's us." It went from being Kanye, which means the only one, to just ye – just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything, that I'm just more of a reflection of who we are, just as beings.

Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote that

All individuality is a manifestation of universal life, and hence everyone carries a tiny bit of everyone else with him, so that divination is simulated by comparison with oneself.

In the months following the release of Ye, Kanye would live out this idea, and build his own movement, a reflection of who we are, then begin his church in Calabasas.

*

At 10:30 that morning, the three of us — Samantha Sullivan, my wife Caroline, and me —- strolled into the arena and claimed seats in the media section.

That place resembled the inside of an ant colony. We were three ants.

The service began with errorless music, then shifted into a quick, stirring message by Osteen, who always seemed to appear onstage from nowhere, privvy to the kind of big-money stage tricks you find at a Shania Twain concert.

The entire place and all the Jumbo-Trons and all the people, it all had a cinematic presence.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

A preliminary giddiness spread through the room. Then, Kanye emerged, there on the stage, and the place erupted.

A man in a "Jesus is King" shirt danced around his seat.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Everyone took their seats, but one man standing in the crowd shouted affirmations. "Speak truth my brother," he shouted.

The man shouted several more times, then Kanye politely told the guy to hold off on the support because it wasn't helping, because Kanye needed relative quiet to capture and release his flow.

The ceiling glowed in skittish purple.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye described the corrupting force of the media. A chill came over the room. Behind him, the unapologetic blue of Jesus Is King.

It was my first encounter with Joel Osteen, and I was surprised and somewhat baffled to find him likeable, based on everything I'd ever heard about the man.

Kanye said as much, that Osteen is nothing like the version of Osteen many people have broadcast.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Osteen laughed, "When you've got Kanye defending you, you've made it, man."

Rays of light danced through the arena. I'm talking Pink Floyd light show levels.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

With 21 Grammys, Kanye is tied with Jay-Z as the most decorated hip-hop artist of all time.

Osteen asked Kanye what he would say to his younger self, if he could go back in time.

"You know, it's nothing I can say to the younger Kanye through words," he said. "I could speak to the younger Kanye through music."

*

Osteen played the middle section of "God Is," arguably the focal point of the album.

And Kanye danced and rapped along with it. And the surreality of the situation was daunting. Was that really Kanye West up there? with Joel Osteen? dancing to his gospel song?

Six or seven years ago, I saw Kanye a mile away at the Toyota Center — coincidentally, the current home of the Houston Rockets — for his and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne tour. It was a much different experience than this.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When Kanye finished, the media flooded out. As did a quarter of the people in the congregation. This bothered many of the regulars.

Security and ushers yanked big grey mop buckets from cabinets, and dispersed them down aisles, and money music played.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then the time for prayer. Prayer leaders lined the walls and pews. And anyone could walk over to them and pray. Men and women clung to strangers, crying sometimes, hugging. Holding hands, whispering phrases.

*

One of the media coordinators pulled us out of the sermon, led us through passageways and elevators, past classrooms and security guards, through a black sheet, then behind a barricade.

This is where all the media had rushed off to like old folks trying to get the best seat for bingo.

Each news outlet was allowed one question.

After 15 minutes, the energy changed and you could tell they were near.

Then, Kim Kardashian-West was walking our way, holding her daughter's hand, followed by Kanye, who was followed by Osteen.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

"Nice tags," Kanye said, referring to my "GOOD" necklace.

Then:

Brief interview with Kanye West and Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Nov. 17 in Houston, TX www.youtube.com

Some of the outlets asked more than one question, but that was on them. They were the ones sinning in church.

*

As Kanye and Olsteen shuffled away, down the line of journalists, I said hello to a small crew from FoxNews as they packed their equipment.

"We're from TheBlaze," I said, smiling. To which they sneered and glanced at one another then got back to their conversation.
Samantha rolled her eyes and the three of us wandered around for an exit.

"Did we just get stiff-armed by Fox News?" Said one of us. "I didn't think they were allowed to look down on anybody."
"I've had that with people from Fox on several occasions," one of us replied.

"I mean, I thought I was doing them a favor a favor by acknowledging them. Nobody else does."

Then it happened again, a few minutes later, this time with someone we had worked with, someone who knew us.
You bet we were salty.

Bad as it felt to be judged like that, it was good to be underestimated. A relief. It meant we could perform without anyone caring or watching.

They had no idea who we were or what we were really doing. Good.

*

In November 2007, Kanye's mother died during a routine surgery. He and his mom, Dr. Donda West, had always been incredibly close. She raised him alone, after Kanye's father left, when Kanye was three.

A few months later, his engagement with Alexis Phifer abruptly ended.

He was 30 at the time.

Oddly, this tragic sequence of events would cause the birth of auto-tune in rap. Broken-hearted, Kanye wanted to sing. So he ran his voice through a vocoder.

Kanye's album 808s & Heartbreak, which like Jesus is King has no curse words, shoved music ahead at least two decades, into a world of synth-driven robotic R&B/Rap love songs belted out in janky auto-tune. That description doesn't sound ridiculous today. But that's only because Kanye eschewed the stale hip-hop of the early 2000s and reinvented the genre, something he has accomplished with every album.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then, he went on tour. But he never took off any time following his mother's death. And, by the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he'd fallen to what he calls his sunken place.

He and then-girlfriend Amber Rose brought a bottle of Hennessy with them to the award show. They took slugs in the limo. Then on the red carpet.

When Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video, Kanye stormed the podium, sunglasses on, and grabbed the microphone, said "Imma let you finish," then let everyone know the award should've gone to Beyoncé, for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."

He was kicked out immediately. He tweeted, "Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture... I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real."

Followed by an apology. Then a few days later, during an appearance on debut episode of "The Jay Leno Show"

Leno asked Kanye, "What do you think [your mom] would have said about this?"

That hit Kanyelike a punch to the jaw. He teared up, froze.

He publicly apologized to Swift. Several times.

But it did little to quell the blowback. Once again, it felt like the entire nation hated Kanye. Compounded by a hot-mic recording of Barack Obama — the country's first black President — calling Kanye a jackass.

So the embattled Kanye retreated to Hawaii to record a masterpiece, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

*

"We are a Christian country," Kanye said at one point, to uproarious applause.

The vast majority of Americans, 90 percent, believe in a higher power.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

And America has the largest number of Christians in the world, with roughly 167,000,000, comprising 65-to-70 percent of the population. But that's down from 80 percent, as part of a downward trend over the last two decades.

The percent of Americans who attend a religious service of any kind — church, synagogue, or mosque — is even lower, less than half.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

One political scientist blamed the public's growing distrust in institutions. Another blamed conservatives. A writer from New York Magazine took it a step further.

Meanwhile, David French.

As always, the issue is far more nuanced than either side will admit.

Somehow, in the last twenty years, church and religion had become not just uncool, but slightly villainous.

All day, every time I looked around — at people singing, at people dancing, at people crying in joy or in the relief and recognition of their pain — I thought, "How could this ever be a bad thing?"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

I had spent my life going to concerts, had seen Kanye West numerous times, and this was something other than a concert, and unlike anything I'd seen from Kanye. It was also more than just religious or spiritual.

A family of strangers in a city of 6 million, in a world of 7-and-a-half billion, broadcast live, led by a man who fought off the devil in front of us for years. Who struggled with life just like we do, only we could nitpick through the one-way mirrors of our phones and our TVs.

But, now, he had been baptized in public.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Some people were still negative about Kanye's recent faith, especially Christians. As Kanye raps on "Hands On"

What have you been hearin' from the Christians?
They'll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

Consensus was, they couldn't believe him. As a Kanye fan since I was 13, I can tell you that he is genuine. It's really his only setting. Plus, his spiritual transformation has been building for quite some time.

*

By the time we returned to Lakewood that evening, the sky had turned dark blue, and frantic with airplanes.

The sidewalks around the arena overflowed with people. Police cars jutted out in crooked lines to block entrances or exits, the strobe of red-white-blue whirling onto pedestrians' faces.

Across the street, facing the giant arena, a man with a bullhorn ranted about the evils of sinful music.

Earlier that day, sheepish protestors had occupied the spot, holding red poster-sized letters that spelled out "I M P E A C H." There were only four of them, though, so they had to double up and share, and sometimes the "H" slanted down or the "I" slipped loose.

"Impeach Kanye?" one of us said, laughing.

"Kanye 2020," shouted someone.

The air was electric. People bounced when they stepped, or walked faster than normal, or turned oddly as they spoke like a third-year professor.

They sang along as they passed traffic-jam cars, most of which were blasting Kanye.

A chorus of police whistles and the usual rumble of semi-trucks passing on US-59. Just down the street, porn shops and strip clubs and a Ferrari dealership. Immediately Southwest, the Mahatma Ghandi District. West, the Galleria, home of the opulent Galleria mall, where Kanye and Kim and family gone ice-skating earlier.

Inside the arena, a different world, low-lit and glowing. A dreamscape of lambent crimsons and violets, a deeper, warmer, slower take on the lights atop the police cars outside. Globular squares of blue were arrayed along the ceiling.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When the musicians emerged to their instruments, the arena was still half-empty. The show had already been delayed 40 minutes. The demand to get in was so ferocious that the security gate was jammed up like a glass Ketchup jar.

Then, like spirits, men and women drifted onstage in all-grey uniforms and matching hats that looked like they should say "VIETNAM VETERAN" but actually said "Sunday Service."

Every single member wore brand-new grey YEEZY Boosts.

From the start, the performance was cinematic, a sort of new-world opera sung by a chorus of young American muses with nose rings or gold chains or dreadlocks or pink hair.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

From the huddle, a young man rose, and began reciting a poem. It was the invocation of the muse.

Gadamer wrote that poetry "becomes a test of what is true, in that the poem awakens a secret life in words that had seemed to be used up and worn out, and tells us of ourselves"

*

After a whirling rendition of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," the choir began "Ultralight Beam."

They let the song spread. It grew enormous.

The air swirled as the song widened.

Kanye waited out of view, then appeared without ceremony.

A collective gasp when people recognized the melody of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." Which sounds like a dream already, with all that wilderness.

So it was even stranger when the song morphed into SWV's "Weak," a skating rink anthem written by Charlie Wilson of the GAP Band. A classic.

The choir were their own countervailing force. Yet they also connected us to the drama of the performance.
Looking back, I wish I could live in those moments forever.

*

Then came their cover of "Father Stretch My Hands" by Pastor T.L. Barrett And the Youth for Christ Choir.

Father Stretch My Hands www.youtube.com

Kanye has paid homage to Barrett's track on two different songs, from two different albums.

It was his prayer.

Pastor T.L. Barrett, a man who's lived an exciting and at times difficult life, only to become a Pentecostal preacher on Chicago's south side, and form a choir of 40 teenagers from his weekly choir practice.

If you dive into Barrett, you'll better understand what Kanye is doing.

*

Ten seats from Kim Kardashian-West, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX) stared ahead in a neat grey suit, occasionally poking at his phone and blasting people on Twitter.

Which means there were at least two people in the building who have appeared on Saturday Night Live.

There were other politicians, including Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick. And even more at the earlier service. You could tell they were politicians the same you can tell a vegan burger from a real Whopper. Several times, Kanye held up his phone up and read the words from his newer songs.

Like "Selah," which built into "Hallelujah"s at the end, intoxicating and perfect, like being sucked into an undertow. Which led into "Follow God," a continuation of "Father I Stretch My Hands."

Kanye uses the image of stretched hands to express his own submission and the process that leads to his healing. As a reference to John 21:18

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

But the song is also about Kanye's literal father, and an argument they had. Then, under it all, he adds a sample of "Can You Lose By Following God" by Whole Truth. He ended the song with his Kanye shriek, somewhat confusing and abrasive with a choir present.

Then — something I did not expect. The thumping bass of Cajmere's "Brighter Days (Underground Goodie Mix)."

And now this was cosmic gospel.

It felt like a rave. Have you been to a rave? It's people dancing, taking MDMA. That is what it felt like.

Flourishes like that were part of Kanye's genius. No other gospel performance would dare. You won't find that kind of diversity at any other hip-hop show, either. The acoustic instruments, the choir. Maybe during a set by electronic musicians like Moodyman or DJ Koze. But, no choir. Yet here Kanye was, at Joel Osteen's church, blasting classic techno.

Oddly enough, though, the most popular song of the night was "Closed on Sunday," Kanye's ode to Chic-Fil-A.

Everyone in the arena knew the words. So then there were two choirs, in a dialogue. I didn't think it was possible, but the collective harmony got even more intense and engulfing than it had all night. So much so that the house speakers started to peak in one corner of the arena.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The Ancient Greeks were the first to use a chorus. In the 5th Century B.C., 50 actors would gather in the orchestra pit and sing in unison, commenting on the action of the play, describing scenes to the audience. They were a collective force. They represented one character, who was able to connect the audience to the characters and events onstage.

Kim Kardashian was front and center filming with her phone, as two of the West kids jumped around on the trippy blue carpet.

The performance was nearing its end, and suddenly Kanye was dressed like everybody else in the choir. Grey Yeezy kit and the Sunday Service hat. His transformation. From Kanye West to Pastor Ye, stretching hands.

Then, he was gone.
One by one, the choir began fluttering off the stage, to the Clark Sisters' "You Brought the Sunshine."

Half were gone, when I noticed the singer with braided hair crying. With every exhale, she collapsed her hands into the floor. Let them fall like tired flowers. Arrayed in fitful blue. She gasped. She heaved her shoulders like a wingspan. For a moment it was like she would actually take flight.

A security guard peered over the railing from above the stage. He looked like God.Symbolically, he was.

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

Don't believe in time travel? Think it's just a wild conspiracy theory reserved for late night alien radio programs? Well, we have unearthed bombshell evidence that will blow you away and have you questioning everything!

A 120-year-old photo PROVES climate change activist teen Greta Thunberg is actually a time traveler warning all generations of the dangers of global warming.

Glenn did some exhaustive research and found several other photos and subjects in historical paintings. Check them out here and see if you are now a believer:

Warning Elvis fans

Ryan: Suction energy, pt. 1

Photo by Sean Ryan

After his speech at the Boone County fairgrounds, Joe Biden nodded and people engulfed him like he was their oxygen. Journalists shouted questions, photographers shoved people aside. Biden's bodyguards even drew closer. I found a good oak tree and hid out in the shade, 100 yards from the chaotic huddle.

Photo by Sean Ryan

They shoved closer and closer and closer, with a vacant urgency to their eyes. They had to get as close as possible. It was like some force of nature had taken control of everyone, and now their only goal was to merge their lifeforce with Biden's.

The frenzy of writhing arms and contorted bodies reminded me of Shark Week, when the hulking Great White breaks through the protective cage and how's the diver gonna make it out alive this time?

*

A need for convergence, often leading to upheaval.

Most of the Democratic candidates caused this effect. As did their opponent, to a far greater degree. Because he was the president, and he was Donald Trump, so, for the time being, he embodied this magnetism more fully than anyone else in the entire world.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time Trump entered a room or a building or a space of any kind, every person within a reasonable distance felt it. And they couldn't help but bob their head around, and arch up on their tiptoes, scouring till they saw him, and then all they could do was lean forward and wonder if it was actually him.

Some of the Democratic candidates had a stronger magnetism than others. Which meant the gravitational pull had laws that guided it. The term I started using for it was "suction energy."

It was something you could physically feel.

At the Iowa State Fair, Bernie Sanders' suction energy was so intense, so visceral that it reminded me of a hurricane.

Photo by Sean Ryan

People wanted to be as close to the man as possible. They wanted a picture. Proof that it happened—that they had actually seen someone that famous.

And they were perfectly right. And their reactions were understandable and lovely even, and altogether innocent. Encouraging. Because they were genuine.

Even journalists were susceptible to suction energy. In fact, they could spazz even harder. Unlike the public, they were there as workers.

*

Suction energy is an art, something you cultivate. But it's also a result of luck and reality. Some people will just never have an ounce of it.

Take, for instance, Jay Insleey, who was apparently a Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election. At some point in my travels, I wound up in the same place as him.

Maybe it was a couple times. A couple, two, three. I can't remember.

All I know is that I went to Clear Lake, Iowa for the Democratic Wing Ding, to see Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and the 20 other candidates, and this guy Jay Insless ... sorry, I mean Inslee took the stage at some point. It's hard to say when exactly because, as I mentioned, he was impressively forgettable, like a human thumbtack.

Wing Ding featured Jay Insee?Photo by Sean Ryan

He was yammering about something, and, man, he looked and sounded like P.C. Principal, from South Park, and that was pretty funny.

I told my dad, and then we were both laughing. Then my dad did an imitation of P.C. Principal, and we were really hooting.
Then all I could think about was P.C. Principal. So I ducked out into the hall to watch a P.C. Principal clip compilation, and I laughed and laughed and nobody went "Shush!," because there were plenty of others like me.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, boy, I laughed. I was actually a bit sad when the clip was over. I'd forgotten where I was, and when I caught a glimpse of the guy onstage, my sadness deepened into pity. The feeling you get when you realize that the amateur thinks he can beat the professional. When the replacements think they will know valor. When your dog thinks they're going to the park, but really it's the vet, and they wake up without balls.

Do we have an obligation, a moral imperative, to tell a Square when she's trying to shove into a Triangle hole? How much teeth-lettuce does a person lodge into their incisors before you are inclined to alert them?

Like, after this speech, that guy John Insley, would wander around the walkways of the Surf Ballroom, same as Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang, only he'd lack their glow.

Crowds flocking to Kamala HarrisPhoto by Sean Ryan

At one point, he'd clench his jaw into what must have been a smile, ready for any nearby journalists to sneak a candid photo or rush forward for a quote.

Photo by Sean Ryan

If any of the others noticed, they didn't let on. So here was this chubby kid in a costume knocking on the front door, and I know full well Halloween was weeks ago, but who's gonna feed the harmless lie if I don't?

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nobody, that's who.

So I groaned and shrugged and told my dad, "Let's give the tubby kid some Starburst."

"Wha?" he asked.

Then I asked would he get a picture of that candidate over there.

"Who," he replied. As in, "I can't see an important person over there, which one is running for president?"

In other words, Insleep had absolutely zero suction energy. To a near-magical extent.

Within a few weeks, he would announce the end of his campaign on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yet there he was, somehow center stage, looking out at the packed Surf Ballroom, where, on February 2, 1959, Buddy Holly played his last show.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Buddy Holly, now there's a man with suction energy. So much suction energy that, when he died, music went with him.

*

When I saw Kamala during the week of the Iowa State Fair, she was at the height of her campaign, having climbed to second place, within nine points of Biden.

Everywhere I went, there was Harris, with her personalized KAMALA bus, and her chartered press pool, and her entourage of staff and fans and media.

Photo by Sean Ryan

On the first Saturday of the Fair, my dad and I wound up seeing Harris five times. Five times! In part because she could hustle. She wanted that job. But also because she understood power and optics.

Before her speech at Jasper Winery, (when she played savage 4D chess with Andrew Yang, she spoke to several hundred people packed into the atrium of Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, her fourth rally of that day.

Photo by Sean Ryan

When she finished her speech, a horde surged straight for her, eighty or so.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Just a month earlier, The New Yorker had run a glowing profile on Harris. That was huge. As of the release of this story, Harris was the only 2020 presidential candidate that The New Yorker had featured.

Photo by Sean Ryan

At that point of the election, excitement for Harris was so intense that it seemed obvious she would get the nomination, or close to it. So I wrote five pieces about her.

But by the time I finished all five stories and added them to the publishing schedule, Harris had sunk 11 points to 4 percent, which put her in 8th place. In New Hampshire, the first state to hold primaries, she was polling at 1 percent. By comparison, Biden, Warren, and Sanders were locked at 19.

Now, the only headlines were about her foundering campaign and her dwindling cash and her downsized staff. In each case, the sentiment was the same, "Whatever happened to Kamala Harris?"

Which answer a question I posed in my first story. Would Harris "I got this one in the bag" attitude help her or ruin her? Turns out the ostentatious bus and the unnecessary press accommodations had been a premature move, and now she just seemed cocky.
Because suction energy can, and often does, vanish in an instant.

A Bernie can always become a Jay InslepInslee. Nobody is immune, no matter how powerful they appear. Look at Bill Cosby. Harvey Weistein. Both were godlike in their power. Both had a gravitational pull so intense that they raped women for decades and nobody did a thing. Cosby's suction energy was so intense that he collected honorary degrees like a vacuum collects dog hair. 70 of them. Then, off to prison to eat pudding in the dark.

By the time I saw Harris at the Democratic Debate in Houston, a month after she stormed Iowa, she'd begun transforming into Joe Biden, focused on all the wrong things, laughing at her own jokes, without realizing that nobody else was laughing.

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com