Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tucker Carlson vs Bill Nye the Science Guy

Libertarian calendar for February 2017


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February 27
Mt. Airy, Maryland

Mt.Airy Townhall
7 pm

110 S Main St, Mt Airy, MD 21771-5357, United States

Mike Wonsala moved from New Jersey to Mt. Airy, MD and tried to re-open his home-based FFL business. The way the law in Mt. Airy works is that a person cannot operate a business in a neighborhood without special exemption from the town council.
Tomorrow night (Monday), I am showing up with the Stonegait Institute at 7pm to address the town council and rebuff the petition pushed by anti-Second Amendment and anti-small business activists. These activists are pushing the narrative that having a FFL in the neighborhood will increase crime, depreciate the value of homes in the neighborhood, that the chemicals used in restoring firearms are dangerous, that the zoning regulations in other counties would ban the business, and that the ATF won’t regulate Mike’s business so they have to come up with a plan to have the town do it.
We appreciate everyone who can show up to help persuade the council that this appointment-only home business does not deserve to be bogged down in bureaucracy by anti-Second Amendment activists.

Yours in Liberty,
Austin Petersen

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February 28
Minneapolis Minnesota

Antiwar.com's Angela Keaton explains it all to you
7:30 pm

University of Minnesota - Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

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February 28
New York, NY


The New York Libertarian Party Meetup Group

7:00 PM
Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel
687 Lexington Ave
New York, NY
Are you going?

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    February 28
    Hertfordshire, England

    Libertarian Alliance
    Bob Layson
    "In What Sense Can Economics be an a
    Applied Science?  And ought it to be?"

     7pm

    Shephall Community Centre,
    Shephall Green, off Hydean Way, 
    off Valley Way, Stevenage, SG2 9XR.


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    February 28
    San Francisco, CA



    HigherPurpose17
    8am to 5pm
    Omni Hotel San Francisco
    500 California Street.
     Join us for a deep dive into a more meaningful understanding and practical application of the principles of Conscious Capitalism.Enjoy a full day of thought-provoking and inspiring keynotes, interactive and actionable breakout sessions, and heartfelt connections and conversations that will fire up you and your team!

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    February 28
    Washington, D.C.

    Hemp on the Hill expo

    On Tuesday Feb 28th : 
    Please join host Congressman Jared Polis and Co-hosts Congressman Blumenauer, comgressman Massie, & Congressman Comer with Honorary Co-host Senator Wyden for the 2nd annual Hemp on the Hill: Expo and Conversation.

    Leaders in the Industrial Hemp community are invited to host a booth to showcase their product and the value their business provides to the economy. This unique event will bring together policy makers and business leaders in industrial hemp. We hope that by demonstrating the varied uses of industrial hemp as well as showing the diverse economic benefit the industry has to offer, more legislators will help propel legalization of industrial hemp federally.

    Register for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hemp-on-the-hill-expo-and-conversation-tickets-30895380916

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Young Libertarians Think Outside the Common Political Spectrum

ISFLC 2017: Whither Libertarians?

This was published yesterday at The Daily Caller.

Libertarians and President Trump - what is that relationship going to be like for the next 4 (or 8) years?

In December Politico argued that libertarians were emerging as the opposition to then President-elect Trump, and Nick Gillespie, one of the editors at the flagship libertarian publication, reason magazine, agreed.  James Hohman and Matea Gold wrote in the Washington Post about how libertarian philanthropist Charles Koch was emerging as a major force of opposition to the Trump administration.

On immigration policy that may be true, but as several writers have pointed out the Koch-seeded world of libertarian-lite non-profits that attempt to influence the GOP have many connections to both Vice President Pence and to the people likely to staff the Trump EPA.    If you apply for a job listed with one of the many Koch-connected firms - FreedomPartners, I360 - and ask the recruiter (as I have) why so many jobs are open at these campaign and data science firms, you may be told that it is because many people have left their old jobs to work for the Trump administration.

But what about the young people?

You might expect the oppositional, radical, protesting, "left libertarians" to be found among the young.  This weekend marks the 10th International Students for Liberty Conference, where a couple of thousand libertarians descend on D.C. for their own 3 day version of next week's CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference).  The libertarians have even moved - as they've grown - to the Woodley Park Marriot Wardman Hotel, which was the venue for CPAC through the last CPAC that flame throwing publisher Andrew Breitbart attended before he passed away.  (Officially CPAC moved out to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center because it had outgrown the Marriot, though if you check the number of voters - before and after the move - in its presidential straw poll, the numbers did not grow.  Some say it moved to the inaccessible Gaylord - in Oxon Hill, Maryland - because Occupy protesters - some hired off Craigslist - were protesting CPAC.  SO far, they don't protest the libertarians.)

SFL was started by a small group of east coast, mainly Ivy-educated students, including Alexander McCobin, who very ably ran and grew the group to a huge international federation operating on every inhabited continent, while simultaneously trying to finish a graduate degree in philosophy.  McCobin, who speaks at ISFLC this weekend, has left the group to run an SFL for adults, Whole Food's founder John Mackey's organization Conscious Capitalism.  Besides a change in leadership, this year's ISFLC seems to have a change in political coloration.

In the past the libertarian students' keynote speakers have included former Mexican president Vincente Fox (best known as an answer to a trivia question about Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's memory lapse) on ending the drug war, and featured panelists have included film maker Oliver Stone and Intercept founding editor Jeremy Scahill.  Edward Snowden has Skyped in as a speaker.

This year's keynote speaker is Senator Rand Paul, only a day after appearing on TV standing behind President Trump with Senator Manchin and other coal country union leaders and politicians, as the President signed directives easing regulations that had decimated that industry.  Other speakers include Steve Forbes, tax cut advocate Grover Norquist, and historian Amity Shlaes.

The optics are more accommodation and less opposition, or if opposition definitely a GOPish, right of center, free trader, #NeverTrump opposition.

These more GOP-leaning, conservative-seeming panelists are mainly Friday afternoon and evening.  Saturday and Sunday pick up with a more left-leaning or "liberal-tarian" assortment of speakers:  AntiWar.com's Angela Keaton, Israel critic Sheldon Richman, Institute of Justice litigator Rob Pecola on civil asset forfeiture, Electronic Frontier Foundation anti-surveillance state critic and organizer Shahid Buttar, and Cato Institute pollster Dr. Emily Ekin on the central question for libertarians now "President Trump: How did we get here, and where do we go now?"

For the past several years many of the major speakers at ISFLC would be featured on John Stossel's Fox Business show, which mined ISFLC for content in a happy symbiotic relationship.  No one else (Kennedy? Tucker?) seems to have picked that up this year, so to learn what the future of the libertarian movement is thinking, you'll actually have to travel to Woodley Park.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Federally Funded Censorship

A different version of this was published at The Federalist this morning.

Donald Trump famously tweeted a question of whether schools that don't protect free speech on campus should lose federal funding, after flamboyant conservative speaker (and Trump promoter) Milo Yiannapolous was prevented from speaking at UC Berkeley earlier this year.

But generous federal funding of universities - which critics say has fueled tuition hikes and the growth of expensive university plant, property and equipment like palatial conference centers and spa-quality gymnasiums - may also create a more permanent threat to free speech on campus.


Almost three million of the the 13 million undergraduate students in the U.S. could be hearing their fellow students talk about "Bert" this year.

But they won't be talking about Bert of Bert and Ernie, or any other Bert they've met before.


They'll be talking about "BRTS," Bias Report Teams, a new collegiate institution now found on about 232 campuses that serve those 3 million students.


A new report on free speech on American campuses was just released by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a report that tabulates and surveys the rise of Bias Response Teams.



While colleges and their surrounding communities have long had mechanisms for addressing ugly hate crimes, BRTs address the subtle slights and micro-aggressions – whether intentional or unintentional – that might make someone feel unsafe.

BRTs are mainly staffed by deans, administrators, and campus staff borrowed from diversity, student life, LGBT, and Equal Opportunity offices. But FIRE reports, 42 percent also include law enforcement personnel, what FIRE called “literal speech police.”

The BRT at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. deemed the message “Make America Great Again” written on the whiteboards of two female faculty members of color as a “racial attack.” Pro-Trump messages written in chalk at the Emory University in Atlanta and the University of Michigan also prompted school-wide investigations.

BRT officials at the University of Oregon spoke with staff members of the campus newspaper in response to an anonymous complaint alleging a lack of coverage of transgender people.

Mike Jensen, an adjunct professor at the University of Northern Colorado was warned “not to revisit transgender issues in his classroom” after a student complained about If somebody has never been a woman, how can they know they feel like a woman?

“Inviting students to report a broad range of speech to campus authorities casts a chilling pall over free speech rights,” Adam Steinbaugh, senior program officer at FIRE, said in a statement. “Bias response teams solicit reports of a wide range of constitutionally protected speech, including speech about politics and social issues. These sometimes anonymous bias reports can result in interventions by conflict-wary administrators who then provide ‘education,’ often in the form of a verbal reprimand, or even explicit punishment.”


Martin Berger, the Acting Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of California–Santa Cruz told AMI that BRTs are necessary. “For many year bias reports, if they were dealt with at all, were handled haphazardly.  Campuses in recent years have sought to build multi-disciplinary teams capable of handling any incident that arises."  Berger says there were hundreds of reports last year at UC Santa Cruz, though he doesn't know exactly how many.

So far, according to Steinbaugh, BRTs are mainly staffed by deans, administrators, law enforcement, and campus staff borrowed from diversity, student life, LGBT, and Equal Opportunity offices.  But just as these bureaucracies once did not have their own separately funded staff and offices, separately funded BRTs may be the next bureaucratic growth to sprout under the rain of federal funding.


Even the University of Chicago, whose Provost famously issued a statement against restrictive campus speech codes in 2016, has a Bias Report Team.


I interviewed Carleton College Professor Jeffrey Snyder for this article, because he'd written for The New Republic last year critical of the chilling effect of BRTs on free speech.  I asked about the irony of the University of Chicago promulgating the "Chicago Statement" while having a BRT, and he agreed but said it was part of a more general problem where administration and faculty are often at cross purposes and have opposed interests - a point I was interested in hearing in part because it raises the question of whether government funding doesn't tend to expand the administrative bureaucracy and its power relative to that of faculty, and shift the mission of schools away from teaching.  (Curiously Dr. Snyder a day and a half later sent me an email saying I could not use his quotes if I was writing an article for Breitbart.  When I said I was, as I had originally stated, writing a short newsy piece on the FIRE report for my own employer, the American Media Institute Newswire, and then a longer more op ed-ish piece for The Hill or the Daily Caller, and I sent him a rough draft of this article, with his quotes so he could see them, Dr. Snyder decided he did not want to be quoted. Apparently it's dangerous to be an academic and be quoted in a favorable way by an author who might not be writing for politically correct venues.)


When Dr. Snyder surveyed the existing BRTs only a year ago he found only 100. This year the FIRE report finds over twice as many.  The FIRE report's author, Adam Steinbaugh, says that though the number of BRT's is growing, he doubts it doubled in one year, and he suspects Snyder just had a different method of surveying campuses (Steinbaugh surveyed 500).


Off-campus rioters used the occasion of a peaceful protest by students of  Yiannapolous at U.C. Berkeley last week to set fire to university property.  A group of students and faculty at NYU protested another conservative speaker, Gavin McGinness, the next day.  Earlier this week the student government at Santa Clara University banned its local chapter Turning Point USA, a group that advocates "fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government," reportedly claiming that such beliefs and discussions were in themselves racist and made liberal students uncomfortable.


Steinbaugh (and Snyder) points out that though conservative and libertarian groups feature heavily in reports on campus censorship, campus speech codes and institutions like Bias Report Teams can and are being used by almost anyone, including white students who claim they are offended by Black Lives Matter style protests or lecturers claiming policing in America targets blacks, by conservative students claiming they are offended by progressive groups claiming then candidate Donald Trump was racist, and even by progressive and minority students squabbling among themselves.  In a 2015 incident, discussed by FIRE founder Greg Lukianoff in an article he co-wrote for The Atlantic, when a group of Asian students at Brandeis University had an installation on campus attempting to raise awareness about smaller, unintended slights referred to as "micro-aggressions" - things like being questioned about "where did your family come from?" or "what was your first language?" - only to have it shut down by other students claiming that the installation itself was a micro aggression.


According to FIRE, only half of the BRTs surveyed said they believed there was a tension between free speech and combatting bias.  Almost half involved law enforcement officials in their bias reports.


Steinbaugh thinks the impetus behind the growth of BRTs is more bureaucratic than purely ideological, resulting more from campus administrative bureaucrats importing harassment reporting and counseling practices from corporate HR departments than from ideas about taking power from or censoring privileged groups and empowering minorities derived from academics like Herbert Marcuse or Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick.


Trying to find proponents of Bias Report Teams who will discuss them can be difficult.  Two days spent emailing Dr. Archie Ervin, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education finally resulted in his secretary reporting that he said he was getting ready to go on a trip and could not talk.  Attempts to reach those in charge of Bias Reports at the University of Chicago was similarly difficult.  The number used to make a Bias Report asks the caller to choose from a menu including being connected to the police or to the "Dean on Call," with the latter option leading to a beeping voice mail box with no greeting or other message.  One University of Chicago dean's office referred me to an employee in a student affairs office with an LGBT portfolio who is on the University website, but when called turns out to have left the university the year previous.


Dozens of email queries to campus BRT offices around the country and to a variety of civil rights groups produced only one response. to the earlier quoted Martin Berger, Acting Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Campus Diversity Officer for Faculty.  Berger argues that FIRE is wrong to be concerned that police officers on are on the BRTs: "They seem concerned that 42% of bias teams contain members of law enforcement.  They apparently take this as a sign that police are used to suppress free speech... Campuses in recent years have sought to build multi-disciplinary teams capable of handling any incident that arises."  But lumping "any incident" reported as "bias" seems to be exactly the problem: having a belief, stating a belief, and other forms of protected speech, are lumped together with violence, threats, intimidation.  In a previous era much of what most people would view as "bias" that should be punished on campus would simply be considered "hazing."  But punishing "hazing" means punishing actions, not protected speech or beliefs - it is not a tool of re-education to eliminate wrong thoughts. (A few university BRTs - George Washington University, the University of Virginia - do actually also refer to the older concept of "hazing.")


If President Tump and the GOP decide to reign in federal spending on post-secondary education, especially in the non-STEM subjects, highlighting the institutionalization of censorship on campus may give them plenty of talking points and anecdotes that will resonate with the voters who elected them.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Campus censorship

A different version of this was published last week at American Media Institute Newswire.

Three million of the the 13 million undergraduate students in the U.S. could be hearing their fellow students talk about "Bert" this year.

But they won't be talking about Bert of Bert and Ernie, or any other Bert they've met before.

They'll be talking about "BRTS," Bias Report Teams, a new collegiate institution now found on about 232 campuses that serve those 3 million students.

A new report on free speech on American campuses was just released by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a report that tabulates and surveys the rise of Bias Response Teams.

BRTs - composed of students, administrators and law enforcement officials - investigate cases of biased statements, usually made against people because of their membership in a protected class or minority.  Reports can even be made about questions, statements, or other content of classes.

Even the University of Chicago, whose Provost famously issued a statement against restrictive campus speech codes in 2016, has a Bias Report Team.

"It's telling that on the one hand what is now called the Chicago Statement was written by University of Chicago faculty, while on the other hand the administration has set up a Bias Response Team.  It illustrates a fundamental disconnect between faculty and administration," says Carleton College professor Jeffrey Snyder, who co-wrote an article on BRTs only a year ago.  "It seems like a paradox, but it reflects a broader divide between faculty and administrators."  Faculty can also be the subject of bias complaints, including if the content of the lectures is thought to "trigger" students by discussing sensitive topics like rape, race, or a growing list of subjects.  Snyder says he's not had any personal experience with bias complaints, but he worries about how the institution of bias reporting will stifle research and teaching in the social sciences, including in his work on the history of race and desegregation in education.

When Snyder surveyed the existing BRTs only a year ago he found only 100. This year the FIRE report finds over twice as many.  The FIRE report author, Adam Steinbaugh

Bias and free speech on campus have been in the news this month.  Off-campus rioters used the occasion of a peaceful protest by students of conservative Milo Yiannapolous at U.C. Berkeley last week to set fire to university property.  A group of students and faculty at NYU protested another conservative speaker, Gavin McGinness, the next day.

Snyder points out that though conservative and libertarian groups feature heavily in reports on campus censorship, campus speech codes and institutions like Bias Report Teams can and are being used by almost anyone, including white students who claim they are offended by Black Lives Matter style protests, by conservative students claiming they are offended by progressive groups claiming then candidate Donald Trump was racist, and even by progressive and minority students squabbling among themselves.  He points to a 2015 incident when a group of Asian students at Brandeis University had an installation on campus attempting to raise awareness about smaller, unintended slights referred to as "micro-aggressions" - things like being questioned about "where did your family come from?" or "what was your first language?" - only to have it shut down by other students claiming that the installation itself was a micro aggression.

Critics say they function to censor free speech and shut down discussion, as when one faculty was reported for saying  he didn't think a male author being discussed could imagine what it was like to be a woman.  Defenders say students, especially minority students, cannot learn in an environment where they do not feel comfortable and respected, and that discrimination and bias prevent them from being able to focus on their studies.

In a survey of almost 500 schools, 232 had Bias Response Teams.  According to FIRE, only half of those surveyed said they believed there was a tension between free speech and combatting bias.  Almost half involved law enforcement officials in their bias reports.



Saturday, February 4, 2017

Kermit Gosnell, America's most prolific serial killer

This was published yesterday in the Daily Caller.

Marchers, rioters, and construction crane climbers of the last week have closed down subways, smashed windows, burnt limos, unfurled banners from hijacked building cranes, incinerated newspaper boxes, and in one case set themselves on fire to call attention to how a Republican agenda of deregulation will result in death: deaths of people newly insured under Obamacare, the death of the earth and the environment.


D.C. has one more national march this week, the annual March for Life, which promises to bring half a million supporters to the Capitol on Friday.  For the first time a high White House staffer, the ubiquitous KellyAnne Conway, the first woman to manage a winning presidential campaign, will address the marchers.

And in advance of this final march, a husband and wife journalist team make the case that this march is also about how a Republican agenda of deregulation created the occasion for death and tragedy.

In their new book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer, Anne McElhinny and Phelim McAleer, blame Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Ridge (1994-2002) for creating the lax regulatory climate that allowed Kermit Gosnell to murder women and children for two decades.  Ridge, the couple argue, took a laissez faire approach to reproductive health clinics, not so much as part of a general libertarian economic policy as of a campaign strategy that only a moderate-to-liberal Republican could win and be re-elected in Pennsylvania.

McElhinny and McAleer, Irish nationals who have re-located permanently to Los Angeles, were previously known as sort of libertarian fellow travelers who shied away from social issues; their previous 2013 documentary, FrackNation, covered hoaxes and intimidation by environmentalists trying to outlaw fracking.

The genesis of their current project was, as McElhinny told a Heritage Foundation audience this week, providential.  McAleer was in Pennsylvania promoting his fracking documentary and had a three free days, and decided to sit in the audience at the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, then on trial for murder.  Upon his return to LA McAleer insisted that McElhinny and their business partner should make this their next project.

They resisted.  As McElhinny writes:


I never trusted or liked pro-life activists. Even at college I thought them too earnest and too religious. I thought the shocking images they showed were manipulative. I distinctly remember my argument: a heart transplant is gross to look at, too. I don’t want to look at pictures of that, and heart transplants are brilliant. So back off, prolifers with your scary pictures. I also didn’t trust the provenance of the pictures; I was sure they had been photo shopped.

If the anti-abortion position was so strong, it should be able to argue without resorting to emotionally manipulating its audience with fraudulent horror pictures.
Once you have this mentality, it’s very easy to completely dismiss pro-life activists. And the universities of the world are teeming with young people just like that young person I once was.
Fast forward to April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia, when everything changed.
McAleer changed their minds just by having copies of the court transcripts sent to them and asking them to read them.

The couple paint a picture of Gosnell as a classic serial killer that will be familiar to fans of Patricia Cornwell novels of the series Criminal Minds:  Gosnell, who is something of a shoe and foot fetishist, kept collections of jars of severed baby feet in his clinic; he collected photos of the genitals of his patients; he tells grandiose stories about his life and accomplishments; he violates boundaries, constantly touching McElhinny when the couple visit him in prison, and constantly calling them and writing them (a detective friend warns them that this will be for life) after their visit; he makes delusional references to his imprisonment, telling the couple his current "break" from work has allowed him to catch up with his studies of music (he claims he could have been a concert pianist).  During their interview Gosnell refers to the collection of children's shoes at Auschwitz as "impressive."
Gosnell's practice - of delivering lives babies and then stabbing them in the heart with scissors, sometimes hours later, to finish them off - seems to have escaped attention for years in part as a result of a kind of environmental racism.  His clients were viewed as poor black women who should be grateful for what they could get by both many of the low trained nurse interns Gosnell employed and by the Pennsylvania state health department.  Gosnell had two sets of exam rooms, one for poor black women, with rusty equipment and blood on the walls, and somewhat more presentable quarters for white clients who might have been more likely to complain.

Though at least two adult patients died under his care - besides the many babies killed a few minutes or hours after being born - no Pennsylvania health inspectors ever looked into his clinic.  His murders only came to light because of a narcotics investigation - Gosnell, who owned 17 houses at the time of his trial, was also selling oxycontin.

The book has been bouncing between #3 and #4 all week on Amazon, despite a total blackout of coverage in all mainstream media.
Besides the book, which came out this week (there is a book signing Saturday at a pro-life conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Chinatown), McElhinny and McAleer have produced a forensic drama, directed by Cast Away director Nick Searcy and starring Dean Cain as the narcotics investigator who cracked the case.  The film was crowd funded on Indiegogo (after Kickstarter threw the project off for being "controversial"), with 29,000 donating $2.3 million in 45 days.  So far every movie distributor has refused to take on the film because it is too controversial.

One wonders if Ms. Conway might not arrange a White House screening.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Milo: Media legitimizes violence against dissidents

Senators Cruz and Sanders debate Obamacare February 7

This week the DC punditocracy, GOP and Democrat alike, criticized President Trump for the clumsiness of his enhanced vetting of refugees, which led to hours of detention for 109 people.  Those detained included people in flight before the Executive Order was promulgated and Green Card holders (the technocrats say LPRs, for "legal permanent residents").  The roll out of this program was said to be a disaster.

Simultaneously the DC punditocracy agree that the Affordable Care Act has some problems.  Thirty one million people have deductibles so high they effectively are no longer insured - even though they are paying higher premiums than ever.  This however just shows that Obamacare needs, according to Democratic pundits, some "fine tuning."

Passed in a rush, slapped together from wish lists in the desks of Democratic Congresspeople, as then Speaker Pelosi put it "we have to pass it to find out what's in it."

Now nearly a decade later, the Affordable Care Act is about to be repealed, with Democrats outnumbered and unable to stop it.  Millions are now dependent on it for access to healthcare; millions of others are paying higher premiums for insurance but can't actually use it since under Obamacare their deductibles are too high (my employer based insurance has a deductible of $4500, $6500 for expenses outside of my network).

Two former Presidential candidates are now going to clear this all up for us.

According to off the record sources, Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz are going to debate Obamacare and its repeal next week.  The debate will occur at the Studio Theater on 14th Street NW, where President Obama held a Townhall back in July last year.  CNN will air it later that night (ABC and ESPN aired President Obama's TownHall).  Senator Sanders had his own solo CNN TownHall back on January 9, and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan have also had CNN Townhalls this year.





Falling asleep in front of the TV

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