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Left, Right & Center

Author: KCRW

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Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.
274 Episodes
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Following his felony conviction, Donald Trump has spent the last week talking about revenge on his political enemies, such as throwing the president’s wife in jail. Some voters are concerned about the dramatics and inflammatory terminology, particularly Project 2025, the conservative playbook for realigning the federal government. How realistic are those ideas, and what are the safeguards to maintain the balance of prosecutorial power?Over the weekend, an IDF operation led to the rescue of four Israeli hostages and the reported deaths of over 200 Palestinian civilians. Journalist Abdullah Al-Jamal and his family were killed in the raid. Initial reports from Israel claimed that three of the hostages were in Al-Jamal’s home. The reporter was also linked to Al-Jazeera, an international media outlet that the Israeli government banned last month for alleged ties to Hamas. The Palestinian Chronicle, where Al-Jamal worked, is now disputing his connection to Al-Jazeera, as well as the initial reports on the hostage claims. The messy situation raises larger questions about the role of activism in journalism. Last year, a commonwealth judge in Pennsylvania ruled that the state’s public school system was unconstitutional. The verdict found that outdated textbooks, dilapidated facilities, and inadequate funding failed to produce fair academic opportunities for students in low-performing districts. Like in many other states, school choice advocates in Pennsylvania are promoting a new voucher program as a solution to their education system’s woes. The vouchers would give scholarships to students in the lowest-achieving schools, so they could transfer to private institutions. Results on voucher effectiveness are mixed. As part of our 50 states series, KCRW discusses the choices parents are weighing in the ongoing debate over vouchers and public school funding.
Hunter Biden’s trial on federal gun charges got underway this week. He faces an embarrassing and revealing court case, plus possible prison time if he’s found guilty. According to Sarah Isgur, senior editor of The Dispatch, the best thing for both Hunter and his father’s re-election campaign would be a plea deal, as she wrote for The New York Times. How would the president have to respond if a guilty verdict does come down? And what do the troubles facing Joe Biden in his son’s case reveal about his struggles on other issues?One of those issues: immigration. Earlier this week, Joe Biden enacted an executive order that imposes new limits on asylum seekers coming to the United States. The move follows an unsuccessful push for bipartisan legislation to overhaul the immigration process at the border. In a speech, Biden emphasized the need for action due to the legislation’s failure. It could win over people in the center who want something done about the migrant crisis, but will it cost him support from his base?Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory has long dominated its politics. For our 50 states series, KCRW tries to unwrap the growing influence of culture and societal issues shifting the island’s political scene.
A New York jury found Donald Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records. It is the first time a former president has been convicted of a crime. The case was rooted in Trump’s attempt to keep a damaging story about himself and actress Stormy Daniels out of the news during the 2016 election. With any potential punishment still far out, the focus now is on how the conviction will impact politics in the upcoming weeks and months. Will Trump or Joe Biden find the best way to capitalize on the ruling? Will voters who were already unmoved by the proceedings be stirred to action?Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito notified Congress that he would not recuse himself from cases involving the January 6th riots or the 2020 election. Members of Congress were calling for a recusal following reports that flags associated with the Stop the Steal movement were flown over his residence and a vacation home in 2021 and 2023. Alito claims his wife put up the flags and he was not involved. The situation rekindled conversations about justices’ responsibilities for their spouses’ actions. But more concerning is how this incident (and the Donald Trump trial) plays into growing levels of public mistrust in the judiciary.
The renewed bill — to address the ongoing border crisis — fails to advance from the Senate following a 43-50 procedural vote. The bipartisan legislation would have provided more money for border security and tightened asylum restrictions, among other provisions. Republican detractors viewed this latest push as a political stunt, while some progressives argued that it was too punitive. With immigration consistently rising as a top issue for voters, how might this latest congressional failure to act influence the election?  In a presidential election with two extremely unpopular candidates, down-ballot politicians in tight races are distancing themselves from the top of the ticket. They’re hoping to capitalize on popular policies without taking on too much of their party’s baggage. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s loyalists are flocking to his New York courtroom in a show of solidarity. Are average voters willing to separate candidates from their parties, and is Trump’s trial reaching anyone beyond political junkies?   AI and deepfakes pose an unprecedented threat to election integrity. With Congress and the law slow to keep pace with rapid advances in this technology, can we rely on tech companies to step up? And is government regulation of political speech a slippery slope, even in the case of misinformation and disinformation? 
President Biden is trailing Donald Trump in several battleground states, according to new polling from the New York Times and Siena College. While polling this far out from an election often doesn’t represent final results, it can reveal trends that candidates should seriously consider, says Mo Elleithee, executive director at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service. In Biden’s case, the polls indicate less support among young voters, nonwhite voters, and blue collar workers. With Biden and Trump agreeing to a series of debates in June and September, can the president use the head-to-head settings to regain ground with those crucial groups?The Democratic National Convention will take place in Chicago this summer. There are some concerns that the contentious atmosphere surrounding the convention, including nationwide campus protests and anger with the president’s support for the war in Gaza, could lead to a scene similar to the unrest at 1968’s DNC, also in Chicago. Are those concerns overblown? And would more protests allow Donald Trump to emerge as a figure who can end the growing sense of chaos among voters?Kansas is the focus of our 50 states series this week. Mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion statements have become a growing legal concern for legislators and administrators in Kansas and at universities across the country. Does requiring a commitment to DEI fall mean forcing an ideology on faculty and students?
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shuttered the Israel offices of news network Al Jazeera this week. The country blocked the network’s website, and Israeli police raided their studios, confiscating broadcast equipment. Americans would expect this move from an authoritarian leader, not a democratic ally. Will the United States’ relationship with Netanyahu’s country change how it views the threat to press freedom? South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is under fire for several controversies from her new memoir, including a reference to shooting a 14-month-old puppy she described as “untrainable.” Noem is pushing back at the criticism amid a bid to be Donald Trump’s running mate this fall, but her pursuit of the vice presidency may be over. KCRW speculates on Trump’s other options for VP, and wonders aloud why other Republican politicians seem unable to overcome controversy as easily as the former president. There are plenty of reasons to argue that the news ecosystem is biased — does that also apply to satire? Hear an excerpt from the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival, where the Left, Right and Center panel discussed political comedy and applauded the uniting power of karaoke.
Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses have taken over national headlines recently. Clashes between protestors and counterprotestors, as well as law enforcement, are top of mind for political leaders. Have the student-led demonstrations shifted the focus away from the actual conflict on the ground in Gaza? When it comes to states enforcing Title IX, the Biden administration recently announced new guidelines, which include extending discrimination protections to groups who previously weren’t covered by the legislation, including LGBTQ students. Several Republican-led states have filed lawsuits claiming that the administration overstepped its authority and attempted to change how they define sex and gender. And this installment of the 50 states series looks at a rare phenomenon in Idaho politics that could empower the political middle.
President Biden signed off on a $95 billion foreign aid package approved by Congress this week. It includes military funds to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. While Democrats were happy to work with the Republican leadership to get the bill done, a more conservative wing of the GOP was less than thrilled. Will the package cost another speaker of the House their job? And how are U.S. allies feeling about the drawn-out fight to get a deal done? New polling from NBC shows a shift in support for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign. The independent candidate is trending upward with voters who would otherwise be supporting former President Donald Trump. How will the Trump and Biden camps prepare to deal with a growing third-party challenge? Early electoral maps reveal a short list of battleground states. What will it take to capture the electoral votes that will define the 2024 election?
The embattled leadership of the Republican Party came together in a show of solidarity this week. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was joined by House Speaker Mike Johnson for a press conference at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago compound. Trump backed the speaker in the face of mounting pressure from conservative members of the House to remove Johnson from the role. This show of support came amid another legal challenge for the former president. Jury selection in Trump’s trial over alleged hush money payments began this week. It’s the first time a former president has faced criminal charges, and drew substantial media coverage. That coverage added increased difficulty to the selection process, with one seated juror dropping out over fears that media reporting on the case would reveal her identity. Can the media circus surrounding the case be wrangled to avoid further interruptions? Will Johnson be able to survive his own circus in the House to accomplish something — anything — as speaker before November’s election? U.S. colleges continue to struggle with the protecting free speech and fighting hate on campus. Another congressional hearing on campus antisemitism — this time with officials from Columbia University — arrived at the same time a valedictorian at the University of Southern California faced backlash for her support of pro-Palestinian causes. How can colleges navigate increasing tensions as the lines between anti-semitism and calls for an end to the conflict in Gaza continue to be blurred? An Oklahoma city councilman was elected last year, before reports he had ties to a white nationalist group became more widely known. For our 50 states series, we examine what lessons we all could stand to learn from the voters of Enid, Oklahoma.
This week, former President Donald Trump took credit for leaving decisions about abortion bans up to individual states, while pledging to maintain that choice for states if he’s re-elected. Can we expect the lack of federal guidance on individual rights to continue? And will Republican supporters hold any ill will for his lack of commitment to a classic conservative value? President Biden openly criticized Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadly campaign in Gaza following last week’s attack on World Central Kitchen aid workers. In an interview with Univision, Biden called for a temporary ceasefire and for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza. It’s a significant change of attitude publicly for the president. It could appease some more moderate observers who take issue with Israel’s military strategy. But many on the left believe nothing has actually changed regarding U.S. policy with Israel. President Biden vowed to federally fund the rebuild of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge following a tragic accident late last month. That promise could be slowed by opposition to commit taxpayer dollars towards the project without certain guarantees. We hear and use the phrase “taxpayer dollars” so often, but what does it really mean?
Donald Trump and Joe Biden aren’t the only ones preparing for a tight race this year. With every House seat and a third of Senate seats up for grabs in November, both Democrats and Republicans are hoping to take control of Congress. But will congressional candidates be able to overcome the unique situation that Trump and Biden’s policies and personalities present? More Americans than ever believe religion’s influence in politics is dwindling. Evangelical voters have pointed to President Biden’s support for abortion access and LGTBTQ issues as signs that he lacks a commitment to religious values, despite his Catholic faith. Those sentiments were on display last weekend in the conservative uproar over Biden’s choice to simultaneously acknowledge Transgender Day of Visibility and Easter Sunday. Why did a statement from the president cause so much outrage? Will the lack of religious faith in Biden play a role in 2024? As part of our 50 States series, we explore a proposal from Kansas Republicans that aims to change the mail-in ballot process.
Two dozen Democrats and over 20 Republicans plan to retire from Congress this year. Several members of the House have chosen to end their terms early, making the situation especially difficult for an already tight GOP majority. The most recent examples include Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher and Texas Congressman Ken Buck. In interviews prior to his exit this month, Buck called out a lack of professionalism in the current Congress. How serious is this wave of exits? And what are some of the underlying factors making it harder for well-intentioned members to do their jobs? Vice President Kamala Harris is campaigning for Joe Biden’s re-election with strong messaging on protecting abortion rights. It seems like an opportune time for Democrats to push the issue, with oral arguments in a Supreme Court case over access to the abortion drug mifepristone beginning earlier this week. There is hope that keeping abortion in the news could drive fringe voters to the polls this fall. But does a strong push on abortion miss the issues that matter to the class of voters at the foundation of the Democratic party? How would Biden’s re-election bid fare if the current realignment of non-college-educated voters continues? A new law in Indiana seeks to create more space for intellectual diversity in college classrooms. Supporters say the law could change a culture of silencing conservative voices on campus. It’s a serious problem, but will legislation provide a real solution?
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer upset critics on the right when he called for an election in Israel to remove Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Schumer’s counterpart, Mitch McConnell, called the move “disrespectful” of Israeli democracy and sovereignty. Many think Netanyahu’s administration is on the path to peace in Gaza, but a planned offensive in the southern city of Rafah could worsen the situation. Despite Schumer’s perceived overstep, was he right about the need for leadership to resolve the conflict and secure the return of Israeli hostages? Should American officials re-examine their relationship with Netanyahu? The House of Representatives’ consideration of a TikTok ban seems to fit with the federal government’s larger push to regulate social media. Members of the House say the effort is aimed at improving the content available to Americans online. Does it represent a larger trend of policies accused of stifling free speech? As part of our 50 states series, we examine a question that’s taken on increased importance in recent years: Who can we trust to run our elections?
An election rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump became official after the two clinched the nominations for their respective parties this week. Media outlets have experience reporting on the two of them, but the stakes seem higher this time around. Will covering 2024 like a traditional election create the same pitfalls journalists have fallen for in the past? Some of the flaws the media will have to confront were on full display following Special Counsel Robert Hur’s congressional testimony. The amount of focus on Hur’s assessment of Biden’s memory overshadowed coverage of the report and its accompanying transcripts. Our panel shares the issues they saw with the hearing. New York Governor Kathy Hocul proposed several new plans for addressing public safety in New York City’s massive transit system. One proposal included sending 1,000 National Guard members and state troopers into the subway to check passengers’ bags. Hocul said the decision wasn’t based on rising crime numbers, but on the perception that the subway had become unsafe for everyday riders. Is it a smart political move to rely on perception to create a policy? And how does it highlight the hypocrisy in responses to similar proposals in 2020?
In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that Colorado did not have the power to remove Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot. Though the justices had a difference of opinion on how the ruling was decided, their overall agreement was that individual states should not have the power to decide who would be eligible to run for president. That may be the best-case scenario for the 2024 election, according to panelist Mo Elleithee.  “For anyone on the left, anyone who’s worried about Trump, [this election] has to be up to the voters. Trumpism has to be beat at the ballot box,” says Elleithee. As Trump’s candidacy moves forward, will the left shift its focus away from trying to beat Trump in the courtroom? Meanwhile, commitment to democracy across the globe remains strong, says a poll from the Pew Research Center. But a closer look reveals that satisfaction with the democratic process may be taking a hit. What’s at the root of a growing desire for stronger, singular leaders? Controversy over Google’s AI tool Gemini raises familiar questions about the trustworthiness of our institutions. Is it much ado about nothing, or a chance to deeply inspect our ideas about bias?
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell announced that he would step down from his role as Senate minority leader this November, though he’ll still be a senator through the end of his term. McConnell had been the head of the Senate’s Republican members since 2006. What motivated the leadership exit? The 82-year-old pointed to personal concerns and the changing politics of his party. What should we remember about the longtime Republican figurehead, and what could the end of his time as a Senate leader look like? Immigration is among the most important issues for American voters. News stories and political messaging about a rise in border crossings play into that concern. But finger-pointing over the failure of the border security bill won’t lead to solutions, according to panelist Mo Elleithee. How can a shift in perspective resolve voters’ desires for a solution on immigration? Louisiana is the focus of our 50 States segment. The state’s governor, Jeff Landry, chose not to opt into a new federal initiative that would extend electronic benefit transfer (EBT) funds for families into summer. Several other states with Republican governors also opted out of the program for 2024. Why might states deny more federal dollars, even if they’re aimed at more nutrition for kids?
Mourning continues after the death of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and one of Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics. Navalny, who returned to Russia in 2021 following an attempted poisoning, died in a remote prison last Friday. His widow Yulia vowed to take up his cause and urged the international community to join her as she seeks justice for her husband’s death. Will Putin tightening his hold on power in Russia motivate more direct support for Ukraine from the United States? Crime is trending back to pre-pandemic levels in most major U.S. cities, except for Washington, D.C. The district has seen troubling increases in youth offenders committing carjackings, thefts, and gun violence. For our 50 States series, we look at proposed solutions in the nation’s capital, including a controversial crime bill that could extend police powers throughout the city. The Senate is considering new legislation to regulate social media. Will the Kids Online Safety Act help protect children from the harmful impacts of being constantly online?
Donald Trump made waves with a speech at a campaign rally in South Carolina last week. The former president recalled an encounter with a leader of a NATO country, where he threatened to withhold U.S. protection from Russia if the country didn’t make adequate financial contributions to the alliance. Is it an example of the leading Republican candidate’s flair for the dramatic? Are there more serious concerns about the United States’ credibility with its allies? Special Counsel Robert Hur completed a report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents outside of the White House. The report found that Biden committed no wrongdoing, but included concerning statements on the president’s memory and mental sharpness. Democrats have pushed back on Hur’s analysis of the president’s cognition. Skepticism surrounding the age and ability of the president is nothing new. If his age isn’t the weakness critics claim it is, why is the party spending so much time defending it? For our 50 states series, we turn to Georgia, where a conservative civil rights group is suing a venture capital fund aimed at increasing women of color’s access to capital. This shifts the affirmative action debate from the classroom to the boardroom. Can we address the difficult realities of disadvantage without focusing on race?
A tumultuous week in Congress centered around the failure of a comprehensive immigration and national security bill. Democrats in the Senate compromised on demands by Republicans for tighter border measures. The hope was that it would help secure more military assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. However, the legislation failed to make it past a procedural vote after pressure from Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson faced issues in his own chamber as well, with the failure of a separate funding bill for Israel and an unsuccessful impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Can Republicans save face after a series of embarrassing losses? Michigan is home to the largest population of Arab Americans and Muslims in the United States. It’s also a state that is vital to the hopes of any presidential candidate. President Biden relied on the support of these communities in 2020, but his handling of the conflict in Gaza has upset voters and community leaders who are advocating for a permanent cease-fire. His campaign’s efforts to reach out have been met with accusations of playing politics. How can Biden maneuver the political reality of such a deeply personal issue? There were mixed feelings when country star Luke Combs covered Tracy Chapman’s hit record “Fast Car” last summer. The pair came together for a moving duet of the smash song at last week’s Grammys. Our panel reflects on the moving lessons they took away from the performance amid a polarizing debate.
A drone attack on a United States military base in Jordan killed three servicemembers. President Biden announced that a decision had been made on responding to the attack, though details weren’t shared. The White House did say Iranian-backed militias responsible for several other attacks on U.S. troops in the Middle East can expect to be targeted. Will that be enough to deter the growing threat of a wider conflict with Iran? The United States sued for the right to take down a nearly three-mile stretch of fencing and razor wire that the Texas National Guard erected last month. The Supreme Court ruled the government had the right to tear down the barriers to access the border, but as of now, the state still has the right to put more up. Will the state’s obstruction of the government at the border push Congress to agree to increased measures on immigration? Conservative media had plenty of headlines about a possible Taylor Swift endorsement for President Biden. While it’s confusing on its surface, is there an underlying strategy to stir paranoia on the right?
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Comments (138)

Jeanne Hostetler

I usually love this show but was pretty upset when Sarah flippantly discussed what happens in public schools. Yes, there are diverse learners and students with different academic, emotional, and linguistic needs. But Sarah is implying that schools do not attempt to meet each child where they are at in order to help them grow. Listeners are left feeling like her view is representative of all public schools. That's not fair to schools, teachers, or students. (Yes, I am a teacher! )

Jun 14th
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Ryan Pena

the discussions on Israel/Palestine in this episode were really disappointing. yes stop indiscriminately bombing civilians and go in with your military! that's what they're there for! ya your soldiers are going to die but fewer civilians die as a result. no we shouldn't have dropped the nukes on Japan. indiscriminate killing of civilians is never justified. also getting rid of the primary process to have party members pick the noms?? that's ridiculous and actually antidemocratic

Dec 15th
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Terri Hunt

Tough conversation for sure, but not sure brow beating the guest, Sarah, is the best approach? Love all sides of this show.

Oct 22nd
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Amy Meighan

ma'am. you're universal pipe dream is untenable...communists are doingsuch a jab!

Mar 18th
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Tom Horn

Does anybody else think that David is further to the left than Moe?

Feb 4th
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Robert James Somerville

wishcasting

Oct 7th
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Ryan Pena

when the guest said that 90% of Asylum seekers don't go to their court dates it's actually the complete opposite of what he says. it's actually closer to something like 90% go to their court dates because especially Asylum seekers they want to come in to the country legally. this is the problem I have with conservatives when they talk about immigration they just make a lot of assumptions because they hear it on right wing media despite it being completely counterfactual

Sep 23rd
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Remnants of Me

The discussion regarding Monkey Pox shows that all of these hosts need to educate themselves. Monkey Pox is NOT an STD. It is transmitted via contact with the fluids from the pustules, blood or saliva. There is a possibility of infection without direct contact with an infected person via live virus on surfaces. Are people in close physical contact more at risk? Absolutely. But the risk is present for everyone and high risk individuals includes SWs, health care workers and many others. Touting this virus as a disease that affects Gay Men is incredibly dangerous, and quite frankly, negligent. Shame on you. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox

Jul 31st
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Hector Soler

this is bullshiet propaganda you guys are the worst proud of a old man can't even talk

Jul 8th
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Remnants of Me

I did NOT need to know about the mites! Emotional Damage. I will now add this to the long list of things I need therapy for. tysm. 🤣😭

Jun 29th
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Ryan Pena

oof both guests saying essentially we shouldn't look at the Ukraine situation through Russia's eyes don't understand conflict resolution. Bernie is 100% right. if we don't even try to understand their pov that makes it harder for diplomacy to work. he's not condoning at all what Russia is doing. in fact the opposite. if you go into conflict without understanding your opponent's demands you're destined to lose

Feb 19th
Reply (1)

C muir

more like centre left left and hard left. Washington post la times and democrat operative moderated by NPR guy 🤔😂

Feb 14th
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C muir

Lincoln project right? Lil rhino peado enabers

Feb 14th
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Tom Horn

Wow this was by far the worst episode of LRC I’ve ever heard. He last half of it was the most one sided propaganda I’ve ever heard. I don’t come to LRC for stuff like that.

Oct 3rd
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Robert James Somerville

trash

Aug 21st
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Samuel Clemens

there is nothing right or center about this

Jun 15th
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Hector Soler

bullshiet this propaganda for criminals in the war department. there in this bullshiet podcast right hard right and insane right if you to listen to this shiet and thing this is left you don't know what left is

May 9th
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Hector Soler

fuck you all you people should a shame

Apr 26th
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Liz Evans

Megan McArdle is terrible. She makes me want to unsubscribe from this podcast. She's disingenuous and arrogant on the topic of guns in domestic violence crimes.

Mar 21st
Reply (2)

Alan

I like how people on the left call you racist and then say you're the one trying to divide the country.

Nov 3rd
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