It's Here! It's Here! The Senate Health Care Bill Is Here (And It's Just Like Obamacare)

At long last, the Republican-controlled senate released their version of the health care bill. And it sounds so much better than Obamacare: The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. Unfortunately, it's better in name only, as it retains essentially the same framework as Obamacare.

"I am so tired of Washington, D.C., I have to tell you. I have to apologize for, you know, my behavior over the last year and a half when I was fighting for Ted Cruz. You know, I believed that we could fix this country because we could go back to the Constitution. I think you were ahead of me. You knew that Washington, D.C. is so broken that there's no one going back to the Constitution. It's just not going to happen in today's climate. So I apologize for actually believing. You were ahead of me on that," Glenn admitted Thursday on radio.

The details of the senate plan, which prompted Glenn's gloominess, were outlined in a tidy, easy-to-read 148-page summary. Co-host Stu Burguiere gave the Cliff Notes version of the summary, courtesy of Reason:

It is exactly what critics predicted: a bill that, at least in the near term, retains weakened versions of nearly all of Obamacare's core features while fixing few if any of the problems that Republicans say they want to fix. It is Obamacare lite—the health law that Republicans claim to oppose, but less of it. It represents a total failure of Republican policy imagination.

Even more than the House plan, the Senate plan retains the essential structure of Obamacare's individual market reforms. Like the House plan, the Senate plan retains Obamacare's major insurance regulations, including the requirement to cover preexisting conditions at the federal level.

"If this continues, insurance companies will go out of business," Glenn predicted.

So, yay, senate Republicans for putting those big, well-paid brains to use and delivering exactly the opposite of what the American people wanted: A complete repeal of Obamacare.

Listen to this segment, beginning at mark 1:40, from The Glenn Beck Program:

GLENN: You know, I am so tired of Washington, DC. I have to tell you, I -- I think -- I have to apologize for, you know, my behavior over the last year and a half. When I was fighting for Ted Cruz, you know, I believed that we could fix this country because we could refer -- you know, we could go back to the Constitution. I think you were ahead of me. You know that Washington, DC, is so broken, that there's no one going back to the Constitution. It's just not going to happen in today's climate. So I apologize for actually believing. You were ahead of me on that.

Let's look at what's happening with the health care bill.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: Health care bill -- and we have to --

PAT: Well, keep in mind, this is Republicans. So they're fixing it. This is going to be -- it's fixed.

JEFFY: Keep in mind, it's the beginning. It's just the beginning.

PAT: It's repeal and replace. And I'll bet you, they've really taken a hard stand here.

GLENN: Keep in mind, we're at 11:08 Eastern Time in the morning, if you happen to listen to this show delayed. So we're just getting the bill. It's just been released. So we're kind of -- Stu is looking at the whole bill. We're looking at the reads of the bill. So we can't give you our opinion quite yet on this. But we will tomorrow.

They have -- they've released the G.O.P. Senate version. The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. It looks more than a little like the House bill, which kept most of Obamacare's structure in place. The Senate plan actually looks closer to Obamacare, that is already on the books.

You don't have to be told this. But this is why I'm so sick of Washington, DC. And I apologize to you.

The average plan has -- has risen by 22 percent. By the way, that was last year. The average plan rose in cost by 22 percent.

PAT: Bearing in mind, that this was going to save everybody $2,500 per family, per year. Remember? That was the promise.

GLENN: Yeah. In just the last year. And early reports show large spikes are coming this year as well.

The -- the for-profit health insurance providers -- you know, the people who actually think we need to be able to make money to be able to keep this thing running, have lost so much money, they've either scaled back their participation, or have dropped out entirely. Obamacare is collapsing now. The -- unlike the House plan, the Senate plan does not allow states to apply for a waiver to opt out of those rules. But it does eliminate the health insurance mandate.

Here's Stu to give us -- who has been trying to read this 148-page summary on exactly what it means.

STU: It's pretty -- I mean, it's interesting. Here is -- I like this -- to give you the boildown here to start: It is exactly what critics predicted.

This is from Reason.

A bill that at least in the near-term retains weakened versions of nearly all of Obamacare's core features, while fixing few, if any of the problems that Republicans say they want to fix. It is Obamacare-lite, the health care law that Republicans claim to oppose, but less of it.

It represents a total failure of Republican policy imagination. Here's some of the details of it. Even more than the House plan, the Senate plan --

GLENN: By the way, can I ask -- I heard last night the Republicans are saying they wanted to keep Donald Trump away from this bill because it was so hard to get done, and they just wanted him, because they were afraid he would make a mess of this, that they wanted to keep him away from this bill.

STU: I don't know if that's true.

GLENN: That's what I heard. I saw a report and I saw the actual screen grab of that text coming from a congressman.

And looking at this, how could have anyone made this worse?

STU: He's apparently been lobbying for it. He's -- reportedly was lobbying Rand Paul to try to get him to vote for it. Mike Lee had also been lobbied, reportedly by Ted Cruz on this, to see how he could get down the road. So --

PAT: Does that mean Ted Cruz is for it?

STU: No, that's not been announced. It just was one report.

GLENN: There are four -- I don't know who they are yet, but there are four -- they need all but two Republicans to sign up.

STU: Uh-huh.

GLENN: And there are Republicans who said, from what I know so far, I'm not interested, but I'm not ruling it out.

STU: And that's -- look, I think that's -- you shouldn't rule it out yet. Right?

GLENN: No, you shouldn't, until you've read it.

STU: There's lots of debate to happen. The problem is, what usually happens in these debates is the bill gets worse.

GLENN: It gets worse.

STU: But -- so let me give you some more, the actual details of this. Again, this is the new Senate version of the, quote, unquote, repeal and replace bill from Obamacare.

Even more than the House plan, the Senate plan retains the essential structure of Obamacare's individual market reforms. Like the House plan, the Senate plan retains Obamacare's major insurance regulations, including the requirement to cover preexisting conditions at the federal level.

GLENN: Okay. So that's the thing that Chuck Schumer said, it's a very, very sad bill. I'm sorry. Very, very mean bill.

Because they were saying that they wanted to take out preexisting conditions. So you understand -- so your friends understand, the entire thing about insurance is -- and this has been lost through SSI, Social Security Insurance. That's not insurance. That's a guarantee. Health care is not a guarantee. The way insurance works is you're in pools of people, and the bigger the pool, the better. But what do we do? We break those pools up. You cannot cross state lines. So I can't be in a pool with people all across the country.

So what happens? If you're put in the pool, the company is betting that you're not going to get sick, knowing that some people will be born with cerebral palsy, and somebody will have a heart attack, and somebody in their pool will have cancer. But it's not a sure thing.

If I said, "I'm going to cover everyone who has cancer," and you don't have to pay me prior to having cancer, that's a losing proposition. Cancer centers can't do that. The American Cancer Society can't do that. If you want to cover everyone with cancer, then you should demand that the American Cancer Society covers everyone with cancer.

No one can afford to do that.

PAT: And this is why we said at the beginning, if this passes, there's no getting rid of it.

GLENN: No.

PAT: Because once you've given this to people, it's nearly impossible to take it away.

GLENN: You can't take it. And if you wanted to do something, where people had preexisting conditions of some -- something, then you -- and you can't feel like you can't take it away. Okay. Then come up with a government program, which I'm completely against. But I'm not hearing anybody say this. That is outside of the insurance system. Come up with something different for people with preexisting, catastrophic conditions that need help.

Okay. I don't like that. I would never propose that. But that's the way you do it, to protect the insurance for people who have the sniffles and the cold and a broken arm.

What's happening is, people are not -- you have insurance -- and I can't go to the insurance company and say, "Hey, I just broke my arm -- I need to you -- I need you to sign up." No, I'm sorry. You can't sign up once you've broken your arm. But that's what is happening. You don't have to have the insurance. You don't have to pay in. But you're guaranteed, if you have a preexisting condition, to get it.

So I've never paid a dime to an insurance company. I'm not paying in for the pool.

PAT: Why not just wait till you get sick and then sign up? Why not?

GLENN: Right. And I sign up. And then the insurance company has to take you and cover you.

PAT: This is why so many -- so many insurance companies have dropped out of the exchanges. They just can't do it.

GLENN: If this continues, insurance companies will go out of business.

PAT: Yep.

GLENN: Now, they signed -- I have no sympathy at all for these insurance companies.

STU: Many of them pushed for this, for Obamacare.

GLENN: Yes. And the biggest ones did.

STU: And, of course, you know, I don't know, could it be because it benefits them in the long-run? I mean, basically what they have designed is a system that legally required people come into their store and buy their product.

GLENN: Yes.

STU: So, of course, obviously you're going down a road here which ends likely in them, you know, getting -- their industry getting money from every single citizen in the country.

GLENN: But it doesn't -- but it doesn't work that way.

STU: It doesn't work here. This is a half step -- again, I don't think any of it works. But insurance companies like it for that reason.

GLENN: Here. Let me explain this outside of insurance. If the NFL said everybody has to --

STU: Uh-oh.

GLENN: Listen to me.

STU: Oh, no. We're going to the sports analogy.

GLENN: No, no, no. We're okay.

STU: Okay. We're okay.

PAT: Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.

GLENN: Everybody has to buy NFL season tickets.

PAT: Uh-huh.

GLENN: And everybody has to buy it, but the government then said, you have to guarantee that those people who already have season tickets gets season tickets and those are free. Those are -- don't have to worry about it. They pay regular price. You know, and it's a reduced price. But then no one else in the country is buying their season tickets because they didn't want them. And it doesn't matter to them. What the hell is going to happen to the NFL? Now, the NFL is just having to buy all their own tickets? There's no -- they're not making any money. I think they thought, well, if we get everybody in the country to pay, we're going to make tons of money. Nobody is doing it. Nobody is doing it.

STU: Yeah. I hate to step on your point here, which is a good one. And obviously the preexisting conditions argument is something we've had for a long time. However, that argument is completely irrelevant in our society right now. Currently, Obamacare guarantees preexisting conditions. The House bill guarantees preexisting conditions. The Senate bill guarantees preexisting conditions. And the president has said he must have preexisting conditions in any bill that he would support. So it is like there is no one on the other side, outside of nine people in this audience, who actually think insurance is insurance anymore.

GLENN: Right. Right. And so that's the problem. If you want to take preexisting conditions and come up with something that's not insurance, then that's good. Or if you say, all right. We're going to do preexisting conditions -- we as the United States of America believe that no one should have to worry about a catastrophic failure. And, you know what, there's a lot to be said for that. That no one in this country should ever have to lose their house because they have cancer or their kid has cancer and they've lost everything. Okay.

So we as a society step in and say, we're going to take care of you. I don't think that's a wise idea. But it's charitable and it's nice and it makes us feel good. And it is a nice thing to do.

Okay. Great. But that's not insurance. So let's solve that problem. And then, how can we make the insurance that everybody needs really cheap? They're not doing that.

They're not making insurance more cheaply. They're making it much more expensive. This is only going to make things worse and collapse the entire system.

STU: Quickly on this point -- because this is point one of this. This is really not one even one that's being argued about at this point.

GLENN: Argued. Yeah.

STU: It also retains another thing that is in Obamacare, in the House plan, now in the Senate plan, and also something the president wants, which is, you keep your kids on your insurance until they're 26 years old. So the only difference here --

GLENN: How is it my kid is an adult to the government and to the doctors when they're eight, when they can -- when they could get birth control the minute they start to menstruate and have an abortion and they're an adult and they have nothing -- I have nothing to say about that. But they're a kid that I have to continue to pay for until they're 26.

STU: I will add to this, the one difference between the House and the Senate plan is some of these restrictions, under the House plan, gave the option for states to opt out, to get a waiver and opt out of some of these restrictions. Not all. But some.

GLENN: The House plan did, which was awful.

STU: The House plan did. It was already bad. The Senate plan does not give states the option to get a waiver and drop out of some of the more --

GLENN: Can you see if we can get Mike Lee on? See if we can get Mike Lee on. I'd love to hear what he has to say about this bill.

STU: I mean, it just -- you know, it's just coming out, so he may not want to.

GLENN: He may not know. But if he knows about it, maybe we can get him on tomorrow.

[break]

GLENN: All righty.

So we're looking -- so Stu says, "Glenn shut up. You've brought up two things that are not in the bill, and nobody is even arguing for." Okay. So let me ask you this: State lines. Insurance across state lines. Right? That one is in there.

PAT: I mean, that's a no-brainer. That's what everybody thought could make this so much better.

GLENN: Yeah. You're seeing that, right? I mean, Reason and Politico and everybody else.

PAT: So surely that's like point one.

STU: That is not point one. No. Per se.

PAT: Two. Okay. It's two.

GLENN: But it's at least mentioned in all the articles that you've read. I know you haven't read the full bill yet.

STU: Right. No.

GLENN: No. It's -- wait.

STU: No.

PAT: Where is it then? Okay. It's not in the first one or two --

GLENN: It's not in any articles about it.

STU: No.

So it's interesting in that --

PAT: It's hard to believe they can't even do that, isn't it?

STU: I just don't know.

GLENN: No. No. No. Hang on.

May I have an intervention? It's time for an intervention.

STU: I agree with that. I mean, it might not be the same kind of intervention you're talking about.

GLENN: You're referring to like having one with me.

STU: No. I would not.

GLENN: Okay. I think it's time for an intervention on Pat. He's like, it's crazy that they couldn't even get that done.

Stop it. Let go of that silly belief that these people will do the right thing. Stop it, Pat. It's harmful to you, your family, your relationships. Our relationship. The country.

PAT: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

GLENN: Give up on that belief.

PAT: Give up all hope in our government. In our government.

GLENN: In our government. All hope.

PAT: Okay.

JEFFY: I mean, people are already giving up hope on the feed: If health care costs continue to rise, they're going to have to start selling face cream.

STU: Sure.

JEFFY: So they're worried.

GLENN: Joanna Gaines is already doing it. She's doing it.

STU: No, she's not.

GLENN: Right.

STU: I actually got an email from someone, very beginning of the sort of Trump administration, from a person who was a big Trump skeptic. Did not like Trump at all.

And they said, oh, my gosh -- when these first reports were coming out -- oh, my gosh, they're going to repeal Obamacare. I can't believe this. I did not think this would happen.

Yeah, this is where we are now. Just a few months later, I mean, all of that -- even the hope I think from almost everyone on the conservative side looking at these bills is dead. Now, you hope maybe you get the individual mandate and a few of the taxes gone. And you say, "Hey, celebrate. We backed off ten on the horrible scale to a 9.5." That's all we're hoping for. That's the only thing we're even wishing for out of this bill anymore. And that is really where we are. If what you hope for is a small government and a free market and a conservative platform, you're not even hoping anymore for something good. You're hoping to take a ten and reverse it a little bit to an eight or a nine.

GLENN: I'm hoping that they don't torture me before they shoot me in the head.

STU: Okay. All right.

(laughter)

GLENN: That's kind of where we are. Just, will you just kill me quickly?

PAT: No.

GLENN: Or do you have to torture me too? Back in just a second.

(OUT AT 10:32AM)

GLENN: All right. Let's -- let's go to the health care bill. We're going to give you the full rundown of this tomorrow, what it means. And then we'll hopefully talk to a couple of Senate leaders on it tomorrow. This just came out about an hour ago, so we haven't read the entire bill yet. We're trying to scan it as we go in between the breaks. Stu has a couple of updates. And then we're going to move on to something else that is happening, the border wall.

STU: Okay. So we know one of the big complaints about the House bill, was it's going to create all this instability. Some people are going to drop off insurance. Blah, blah, blah.

The way the Senate bill attempts to manage that is by buying off health insurance companies with payments Republicans previously argued were illegal and should be stopped. They're called CSR payments. Cost-sharing reduction payments. They're subsidies due to insurers through 2019. It authorizes those and back payments of those subsidies that insurers have not received. On this front, it's actually an expansion of Obamacare.

GLENN: So wait. So we're paying our tax dollars, and we're giving subsidies to insurance programs?

STU: Right. Yeah. To insurance companies to make it essentially worth their while, to reduce their cost.

GLENN: How about my freaking 21 percent increase that I paid last year as being their incentive? Jeez.

STU: Now, to give Trump some credit here, these are the payments that he, in particular, was talking -- at least had been floated in the media that Trump was talking about, withholding these payments to the insurance companies, which basically would make the entire individual market fall apart. And so this is the Senate saying, no, not only are we going to do them, we're going to give them back payments, which is actually going to give them more money and actually expand Obamacare slightly on that.

PAT: Jeez. Jeez.

GLENN: So we know that the insurance company lobby got their chit in.

STU: Yeah, they got their stuff in.

So --

GLENN: I did say C-H.

STU: I assumed you didn't just swear in that --

GLENN: Yeah. I just saw -- I just saw kind of everybody look at each other. And I'm like, no, I just want to make sure.

PAT: I was trying to think, what was that word exactly?

STU: Yes, they got their stuff.

So this is probably -- if you want the clearest example as to what the G.O.P. Senate health care bill does -- if you just want to understand it with one little function, it's this: The House version of the repeal provided free money to people for health care, as does Obamacare. They did it based on age. The Senate bill does it based on income, which is the exact same way Obamacare does it. Here's the difference, however. Again, this is what I'm talking about, the difference of these plans. Obamacare gave free money to people up to $98,000 a year in salary. Okay. That's Obamacare.

PAT: All right.

STU: $98,000 a year.

PAT: You get free money up to 98,000. Okay?

STU: Yes. The Senate bill will give free money to people for health care, up to $86,000 a year.

GLENN: Wait. What?

STU: So that's the difference. It is -- instead of 98,000, they're making it 86,000.

GLENN: So wait. That's more money than --

STU: No. Why do I -- why do I use numbers? Why do I even use them? Why even say them out loud?

GLENN: Wait. So wait.

STU: If you earn up to $86,000 a year, under the G.O.P. plan, you'll get free money. Under Obamacare, it was 98,000. So it is a slight tiny, teeny roll back of what this was.

GLENN: Got it. Got it. Got it.

STU: And if you want to look at it easily -- you know, if what we had in 2008 was a zero and Obamacare was a ten, as far as where these plans are --

GLENN: This is a nine and a half.

STU: This is -- let's say the health -- the House plan was an eight, and this is a nine. Right?

GLENN: Which is exactly what we said it would be.

STU: Yes.

GLENN: We said it would go to the Senate and it would get worse. And everybody said, "No, no, it's going to get better."

JEFFY: Just the beginning. We're working through this one.

GLENN: Okay. All right. Okay.

STU: So there you go. You want a basic understanding. We'll get into more --

PAT: But it does two good things that we know of, right? It removes the individual mandate.

STU: Which to me -- and I've said this before many times.

PAT: Which is good.

STU: I believe is the most offensive part of Obamacare. The individual mandate.

PAT: Well, it is. It's unconstitutional.

GLENN: Yeah.

STU: I maintain that regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

PAT: Yes.

GLENN: But the individual mandate is the only thing that makes this work, supposedly.

STU: I don't know. You could argue that. You know, one person who argued the opposite of that was Barack Obama in the campaign. He said you didn't need an individual mandate. If you wanted an individual mandate, you could just --

PAT: Make people buy homes, and you won't have homeless.

STU: Have people buy homes, and there would be no homelessness. I mean, he used to mock that idea. But you're right, I mean, there is a function of it, to force people and gather all their money through tax penalties to pay for this nonsense.

GLENN: Is the Cadillac tax gone?

STU: The Cadillac tax, I have not read that on this particular bill. The House bill pushed it out, but did not remove it.

GLENN: Okay. That's craziness. How can you continue -- look, as a businessman, I cannot run my business and plan for the future when I don't know what the government is going to cost me next year or the year after or the year after that.

STU: I know.

GLENN: I have to have a stable environment to be able to run my business.

STU: And so much of this is just bookkeeping, figuring. Right?

GLENN: No. You know what it is? It's not only bookkeeping, figuring, it's also, when is the next election that we need to be the savior of the world?

STU: Exactly. For example, the Medicaid. What they're doing with Medicaid is they're slowly rolling back the Medicaid. And they're cutting it deeply. Deep cuts to this Medicaid program. And that's one of the things that the Democrats are going to say about it.

However, it pushes those cuts so far out in the future, but still within the ten-year frame. The ten-year frame is important because that's how they score these CBO bills.

So when they're -- they have to do this to get reconciliation to work. So what they're doing is, they're telling you, you know what, we're going to cut Medicaid by 900 percent, we promise, in 2026.

We all know that is not going to occur. When it comes down to 2026, they're going to just change it and start spending that money again. So it is not even real. The savings here is not even real. They're obviously going to change that later on, as they've done many times before or on both sides of the aisle.

He may not be a super hero like he plays in the movies, but Chris Pratt is proving once again why he's a hero to so many. The silver screen protector of the universe announced on his Instagram page a contest that will benefit the Brain Treatment Foundation, who is a partner of Mercury One that does amazing work with veterans. The Brain Treatment Foundation specializes in helping combat veterans who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The contest asks fans to donate $10 to the foundation for a chance to win a trip to drop in on the Guardians of the Galaxy star on the set of his new film Tomorrow War.

Watch his video below to hear all the details.


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