Ryan: Julián Castro at a Mexican Disco in Iowa

Photo by Sean Ryan

El Malecón Events Center and After Hours Club slumped behind a dumpy Git-N-Go, around the corner from Val Vista Trailer Park and New Hope Open Bible Church and Romantix, which was once voted Des Moines' "Sexiest Adult Boutique." In Spanish, "malecón" means "a stone-built embankment or esplanade along a waterfront." No obvious connection existed between El Malecón, the building, and malecón, the word.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Not a single stone in El Malecón, mostly drywall and plywood. The nearest body of water was a man-made lake frequented by pontooners. El Malecón was 800 miles from an ocean. But as evening shuttled darkly over the building's sagging roof and blacked-out windows, semantics didn't matter.

Photo by Sean Ryan

If you listen to "Seabird" by the Alessi Brothers outside El Malecón, on an August noon, you can catch the point in the sky when day tips into afternoon.

Inside, it was all drenching shade. For some reason, there was a bouncy castle at the back of the room. Inside! Children screamed over the generator and the rush of air and inflation. The balloon colors brightened a rig of Corona signs and tired bartenders, who glanced periodically at Julián Castro holding court beneath a disco ball.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Castro strained to focus as Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" boomed from mounted speakers. Surrounded by banners for his 2020 presidential bid, he barely moved as everyone else nodded to the words: Out along the edges, Always where I burn to be, The further on the edge, The hotter the intensity. All you could hear were music, and kids' yelps, and the occasional fumbled beer glass.

The meet-and-greet had started four hours ago. Now, it was 9:00pm, the second Thursday in August, opening day of the Iowa State Fair, where Castro would be speaking the next morning.

He may have looked tired, but he also looked sharp with his white button-up with the sleeves rolled and his strong handshake, his hair flawlessly pomaded.

Twenty-somethings in blue "Castro" t-shirts folded chairs and untied banners. Most people had left, all but a dozen or so, clumped into a line. Castro spoke to each person, all hispanic, mostly men.

Photo by Sean Ryan

In that half-light, Castro looked like he had sped through life without adventure. This was probably not the case. And for a guy who conservatives often consider hateful or combative, he was friendly, if a bit reserved.

Castro's campaign slogan adorned the walls: "One nation. One destiny." Various Castro stickers, signs, and momentos covered a poker table by the entrance.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The night before, Castro was all over CNN. He had tweeted a picture with the names and occupations of 44 San Antonio residents who'd donated to President Trump's 2020 campaign. Castro wrote that the people's "contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as 'invaders'." Conservatives decried it as doxxing, and warned that posting Trump supporters' personal information would put them in danger. Dirty gaming, on Twitter no less. Liberals, surprisingly, pivoted into a conservative stance by calling the tweets free speech. The information was freely available, after all.

As the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Castro was the youngest member of President Obama's Cabinet. Before that, he was the Mayor of San Antonio. Before that, City Council. Meaning, in 13 years, he expanded his power from the county level to the federal level, earning a seat near the most powerful man in the world, and now he was vying for his shot to earn that spot himself.

His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, serves in the House of Representatives. Texas, district 20. Also Democrat. Like many twins, the brothers look and act enough alike to make you squint, and different enough to make a career doing the same thing.
His mother is controversial civil rights activist "Rosie" Castro, who had joined La Raza Unida, a political party that sought to elect more Hispanic people. Castro's brother and mother introduced him at the San Antonio rally where he announced his bid for the presidency. In doing so, he'd signed up for a gold rush. 2019 had barely started and here was another Democratic candidate vying for the 2020 White House.

If Castro were elected President, he'd be the first Hispanic to get the job. And young, 44. Sharp. But everybody was saying that Castro didn't stand a chance, stuck at 1 percent in the most recent polls.

I had trekked 800 miles to follow the Democratic candidates around Iowa. My dad came along. The man had never held a proper camera before but would he be my photographer? Earlier, at the Joe Biden event, he proved adept at photography. A maniac for the perfect image!

Photo by Sean Ryan

Eventually, he wandered up to Castro, whose campaign manager smiled and asked if we wanted a picture with "Julián." Without answering, my dad extended his hand toward Castro. "I'm from Ireland," he said. "And I want you to know that my heart aches for El Paso, for what happened in El Paso."

Four days earlier, a psychopath killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso. He'd posted a manifesto full of bizarre and contradictory political ideas.

A mere 13 hours later, another psychopath killed ten people, including his own sister. It was the kind of terrible that filled your gut with darkness and made you wonder why, why, why. The shooters had designed their attacks to be explosively political. Everybody was nervous. Everybody kept wondering, "Who the hell would do something so heinous?" Politicians took it upon themselves to answer this question. They had to. Beto O'Rourke even cancelled his Iowa appearances and stayed in his hometown El Paso, although many people had begun to speculate that O'Rourke's campaign was collapsing.

When my dad said "El Paso," Castro had a graceful downtilt to his face and an immediate crestfallen slump in his eyes. It was the perfect display of empathy and sadness, with a dash of hope in there, because nuance is presidential. Then he said, "that's why I will make an excellent president."

Outside, my dad smiled. "I didn't want to tell him that I can't vote," he said. He is not an American citizen, but Irish. "I just wanted him to know that he wasn't alone. That El Paso is weighing on all of us."

A food truck puttered in the parking lot, and the sun declined into an ocean of violet red. We were not far from the birthplace of John Wayne, 30 miles. Where the world gets so quiet all you hear is birds and shush and the occasional green tractor ribboned with corn husk. Iowa retains an enduring, motherly spirit, like those birds that can fly for a year without landing, their saffron beak slicing the clouds.


Alessi Brothers - Seabird www.youtube.com

New installments to this series will come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out this page or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

On the radio program Monday, Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Pat Gray discussed the Trump defense team's arguments in the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

"This is different than what the Democrats were doing," Glenn said of the Trump team's impeachment defense. "We know the case of the Democrats, they just kept going over and over and over, for three days, the same stuff. The Republicans, at least on Saturday, did not ... and I thought it was really, really good."

Glenn added, "The president's defense was very compelling."

Watch the videos below to hear Glenn's top takeaways from the president's defense team:

Part 1: Why the president's defense is 'very compelling'

Part 2: Top takeaways from president's impeachment defense

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Americans are getting crushed by healthcare costs. In 2018 alone, we spent $3.6 trillion on healthcare — that's more than $11,000 per American and nearly a fifth of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It's on everyone's minds, which is why it has taken center stage in the Democratic party's primary. Of course, the solutions offered by the current crop of presidential candidates would do nothing to help alleviate that enormous spending. In fact, it would only add to it — what with Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All and Joe Biden's proposed ObamaCare expansion.

However, what also deserves attention in discussions about plans that increase the government's role in health care is how religious organizations would be affected. Faith-based hospitals and health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) play an important role in America, often serving as a critical provider and/or facilitator of payments for medical services in many states. If plans like Medicare for All were implemented, these groups would be at risk of going bankrupt or being severely curtailed due to the elimination of choice that comes with these proposals.

Instead of imposing a top-down and expensive health care system overhaul, faith-based providers and groups should be allowed to continue offering a variety of plans that work as high-quality, often cheaper alternatives. And more Americans should consider them.

Instead of imposing a top-down and expensive health care system overhaul, faith-based providers and groups should be allowed to continue offering a variety of plans that work as high-quality, often cheaper alternatives.

As mentioned, one such option is a health care sharing ministry. In this model, individuals contribute money into a pool managed by a religiously or ethically-affiliated organization, and costs for medical treatment are shared by people who adhere to that organization's belief system. Typically, applicants are required to sign a statement of faith in order to be accepted. It's basically like a subscription service: consumers pay a set amount of money into the ministry every month. Then, when they have a medical need or incident, they submit a claim to the ministry. Members whose claims are approved are reimbursed by the ministry from that pool of funds. Note, these ministries don't cover procedures they deem immoral.

Because providers are often getting paid in cash under this model — and typically within 90 days — patients are able to negotiate significant discounts, in some cases slicing procedures' costs to a fraction of the initial price. Insurance companies, by comparison, tend to not pay dollar for dollar on claims, and certainly not in cash. Additionally, insurance companies usually have onerous paperwork requirements, forcing doctors to spend half of their time on electronic health records and desk work. This increase in demand for administrative work is partly responsible for the United States leading the world in administrative costs in healthcare.

There are various types of HCSMs, each offering different benefits depending on what the individual needs — and a lot of savings on monthly plans. Take Christian Healthcare Ministries, for example. It's resulted in enormous savings for its members. Whereas the average healthcare plan can cost about $400 a month on the low end (with high deductibles), CHM plans can run between $78-172 a month for a single person. These kinds of plans are particularly great options for people who are relatively healthy and young, where the need for doctors and prescription drugs is less likely.

HCSMs have seen explosive growth in popularity recently. In 2014, there were only approximately 160,000 members. By 2018, membership ballooned to about 1 million HCSM members around the United States who have shared over $1 billion in medical expenses. But unfortunately, many people still feel locked into the traditional — and expensive — health care insurance model. HCSMs provide a way out, and, depending on their belief system, people should research them and see if there's one that best suit their needs. If more people deviate away from the traditional health care insurance market, insurance companies would be incentivized to adjust their pricing. That won't be possible, of course, if plans like Medicare for All are implemented.

Health care is one of life's biggest expenses, and voters are understandably desperate for a plan that cuts costs without compromising quality of care or access to it. Alternative options to health care insurance such as HCSMs are practical, free-market solutions that saves money. Americans should sift through these options before subscribing to plans that will only break the bank.

James Czerniawski is a Young Voices contributor. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCz19.

Bill O'Reilly: Adam Schiff is in 'wonderland' during the Senate impeachment trial

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On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Friday, Bill O'Reilly gave his latest take on the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and explained why he thinks House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is like "Alice in Wonderland."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

youtu.be


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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Friday to discuss the latest developments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

According to Cruz, Thursday was a "very consequential day" in the otherwise tedious and redundant impeachment proceedings.

"Yesterday, the House managers effectively threw Joe Biden under the bus," Cruz said. "They doubled down on what they started doing on the first day of arguments, which was making their entire case ... based on the proposition that there was zero evidence to justify investigating Burisma [the Ukrainian natural gas company that paid then-Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, $50,000 a month to sit on the board]."

Cruz went on to explain that every time the Democrats, namely House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), rehash the "zero-evidence" argument, they open the door for Republicans to present the overwhelming evidence that contradicts those claims.

"That proposition, that there's zero evidence to investigate Burisma, is utterly and completely absurd. So, I'm looking forward to Saturday when the president's lawyers will begin presenting his case. Because what the Democrats have done, is they have opened the door to this. And I hope the president's lawyers will stand up and systematically lay out the case," Cruz said.

"They've been arguing that Hunter Biden is completely irrelevant to this case. Well, the House managers have now, through their arguments, made Hunter Biden not only relevant — he was always relevant — but critical now," he continued. "They built the entire case, like a house of cards, on the proposition that there was no reasonable basis to investigate Burisma. And that's just absurd."

The two also discussed Cruz's new podcast, "Verdict with Ted Cruz," which he records with Daily Wire host Michael Knowles each night following the Senate trial.

"Last night's podcast went through systematically ... all of the overwhelming evidence of corruption from Burisma that any president, not only had the authority to investigate, but the responsibility to investigate," Cruz said. "And that, ultimately, is why President Trump is going to be acquitted at the end of this process."

Watch the video below for more details:

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