Can someone please teach Michael Avenatti how government works?

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On August 10, Michael Avenatti, lawyer to "Stormy Daniels" of porn industry fame, delivered a speech calling on Democrats to be a party that "fights fire with fire." Avenatti's message was obviously at odds with that offered by former first lady Michelle Obama in 2016, when she told Democrats to "go high" in response to insults. Two years later, Avenatti declared to thunderous applause, "When they go low, I say hit back harder."

This speech comes after Avenatti's announcement that he is strongly considering a run for president in 2020, but only serves to expose the reality that he is not fit for elected office. Despite an enthusiastic reception from the Democrats in attendance at his speech, Avenatti's strategy demonstrates both the blatant hypocrisy of the Left and a fundamental misunderstanding of governance in a republic.

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The recent outpouring of support for Avenatti among Democrats as a potential candidate represents an embrace of the very strategies left-leaning thinkers were so quick to condemn when used by Donald Trump. Everyone from Senator Elizabeth Warren to a pro-Clinton Super PAC called Trump a "bully" throughout the 2016 election. As president, Trump has been called a "grave and existential threat" to the press, with press freedom becoming a rallying point for Democrats. Even the attention bestowed on Trump by the press is incredibly contentious, with journalists like CNN's Fareed Zakaria arguing that Trump treats the presidency like a TV show.

Enter Avenatti, a new democratic champion who refers to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a "pig," and Trump attorney Michael Cohen as a "moron." Avenatti has appeared on programs ranging from CNN to Stephen Colbert's late show, a near constant face on television screens across the country, in each appearance raging against the president. Yet the potential candidate's similarities to Trump do not stop at gratuitous insults and media manipulation, either. When The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet, published a story on Avenatti's "questionable" past, including lawsuits, unpaid debts, and bankruptcy filings, he responded by attempting to stifle honest criticism with threats of defamation lawsuits.

Support on the Left for an Avenatti campaign would represent a hypocritical embrace of everything Democrats were so quick to loathe during the 2016 election cycle.

Support on the Left for an Avenatti campaign would represent a hypocritical embrace of everything Democrats were so quick to loathe during the 2016 election cycle. Accepting him as a legitimate candidate would make a powerful statement that both sides find personal attacks acceptable, as long as they are against the right people. It would also imply that media manipulation is fine, as long as it is twisted in your side's favor. Most dangerously, support for Avenatti would send a message that it is okay to use unfounded claims of defamation to attempt to silence media criticism, so long as you do it covertly, and against conservative media.

Regardless of whether Democrats choose to support Avenatti's presidential run in 2020, his tendency toward striking back against political opponents conveys a crucial misunderstanding of how republican governments are meant to function.

Republics necessitate coalition building in order to promote effective governance. By dividing the country by way of an us-versus-them mentality, political figures like Avenatti prioritize personal gain at the expense of the American people, especially as voters demonstrate an increasing sense of disconnect with the two-party system. Pew Research reported in 2017 that 37 percent of registered voters identify as political independents, a figure that outnumbers voters who identify as Democrats (33 percent) and Republicans (26 percent). While the majority of these voters lean in one direction, the refusal to officially declare loyalty to a party represents a clear desire to overcome partisanship.

Candidates like Avenatti (and Trump) benefit from creating ingroup biases within their chosen party. By channelling negative attention on an outgroup, like an opposing political party, candidates strengthen the bonds between partisans while increasing animosities between parties.

But what does this mean when it comes time to govern? Campaigns may end, but the fighting mentality endorsed by Avenatti and others lingers. How can candidates be expected to work across the aisle and promise positive reform for all people once elected, when people like Mark Brown, the spokesman for Senate candidate Phil Bresden, refer to Trump as a "f---stik" and says "f--k 'reaching out' to Trump voters. The idiots aren't listening?" Is this the "fire" Avenatti wants to see emerging from the Democratic Party?

Politics for the people should not be about going low, and it certainly ought not to be about going lower in response.

Republics are founded on the basis of compromise, but mudslinging campaign strategies have made genuine compromise a rarity. Building rifts and capitalizing on political divides does not benefit American citizens, and Avenatti's clear endorsement of such a strategy represents a failure to understand what it means to work on behalf of all people, instead of only those with which you agree. While insult-hurling may make work well for a courtroom lawyer or television personality, it simply does not suit the Oval Office.

Avenatti, Trump, and all candidates who employ similar strategies must recognize that once the campaigning is over and the votes have been counted, elected officials have to actually govern. Burning bridges and building walls between people of different political mindsets during campaign season makes this nearly impossible. Politics for the people should not be about going low, and it certainly ought not to be about going lower in response. Though it makes for great entertainment, governance is not a game—and it is time to stop endorsing candidates who treat it like one.

Alexis Mealey is a writer for Young Voices and a BA candidate in Philosophy and Government at Harvard University. You can follow her on Twitter here.

As the nation soaks in the victory of the recent passing of the historic First Step Act, there are Congressmen who haven't stopped working to solve additional problems with the criminal justice system. Because while the Act was impactful, leading to the well-deserved early release of many incarcerated individuals, it didn't go far enough. That's why four Congressmen have joined forces to reintroduce the Justice Safety Valve Act—legislation that would grant judges judicial discretion when determining appropriate sentencing.

There's a real need for this legislation since it's no secret that lawmakers don't always get it right. They may pass laws with good intentions, but unintended consequences often prevail. For example, there was a time when the nation believed the best way to penalize lawbreakers was to be tough on crime, leading to sweeping mandatory minimum sentencing laws implemented both nationally and statewide.

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Only in recent years have governments learned that these sentences aren't good policy for the defendant or even the public. Mandatory minimum sentences are often overly harsh, don't act as a public deterrent for crime, and are extremely costly to taxpayers. These laws tie judges' hands, preventing them from using their knowledge and understanding of the law to make case relevant decisions.

Because legislation surrounding criminal law is often very touchy and difficult to change (especially on the federal level, where bills can take multiple years to pass) mandatory minimum sentences are far from being done away with—despite the data-driven discoveries of their downfalls. But in order to solve the problems inherent within all of the different laws imposing sentencing lengths, Congress needs to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act now. Ensuring its passing would allow judges to use discretion while sentencing, rather than forcing them to continue issuing indiscriminate sentences no matter the unique facts of the case.

Rather than take years to go back and try to fix every single mandatory minimum law that has been federally passed, moving this single piece of legislation forward is the best way to ensure judges can apply their judgment in every appropriate case.

When someone is facing numerous charges from a single incident, mandatory minimum sentencing laws stack atop one another, resulting in an extremely lengthy sentence that may not be just. Such high sentences may even be violations of an individual's eighth amendment rights, what with the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. It's exactly what happened with Weldon Angelos.

In Salt Lake City in 2002, Weldon sold half a pound of marijuana to federal agents on two separate occasions. Unbeknownst to Weldon, the police had targeted him because they suspected he was a part of a gang and trafficking operation. They were oh-so-wrong. Weldon had never sold marijuana before and only did this time because he was pressured by the agents to find marijuana for them. He figured a couple lowkey sales could help out his family's financial situation. But Weldon was caught and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. This massive sentence is clearly unjust for a first time, non-violent crime, and even the Judge, Paul Cassell, agreed. Judge Cassell did everything he could to reduce the sentence, but, due to federal law, it wasn't much.

The nation is facing an over-criminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties.

In cases like Weldon's, a safety valve for discretionary power is much needed. Judges need the ability to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums, depending on mitigating factors such as mental health, provocation, or physical illness. That's what this new bill would allow for. Critics may argue that this gives judges too much power, but under the bill, judges must first make a finding on why it's necessary to sentence below the mandatory minimum. Then, they must write a clear statement explaining their decision.

Judges are unlikely to risk their careers to allow dangerous criminals an early release. If something happens after an offender is released early, the political pressure is back on the judge who issued the shorter sentence—and no one wants that kind of negative attention. In order to avoid risky situations like this, they'd use their discretion very cautiously, upholding the oath they took to promote justice in every case.

The nation is facing an overcriminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated this problem, and it's time for that to stop. Congresswomen and men have the opportunity to help solve this looming problem by passing the Justice Safety Valve Act to untie the hands of judges and restore justice in individual sentences.

Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. She's a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill,, and The Washington Examiner.

New gadget for couples in 'the mood' lets a button do the talking

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a new romantic gadget for couples that is sure to make sparks fly. For those with their minds in the gutter, I'm not talking about those kinds of gadgets. I'm talking about a brilliant new device for the home called "LoveSync."

This is real — it's a simple pair of buttons for busy, modern couples who have plenty of time for social media and Netflix, but can't quite squeeze in time to talk about their... uh... special relationship.

Here's how it works. Each partner has their own individual LoveSync button. Whenever the mood strikes one partner, all they have to do is press their own button. That sets their button aglow for a certain period of time. If, during that time window, their partner also presses their own button, then both buttons light up in a swirling green pattern to signal that love has "synced"...and it's go time.

According to the makers of LoveSync, this device will "Take the Luck out of Getting Lucky." It brings a whole new meaning to "pushing each other's buttons." It's an ideal gift to tell your significant other "I care," without actually having to care, or talk about icky things like feelings.

If you find your significant other is already on the couch binge-watching The Bachelor, no problem! You can conveniently slink back to your button and hold it in for four seconds to cancel the desire. No harm, no foul! Live to fight another day.

Have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children.

No word yet on whether LoveSync can also order wine, light candles or play Barry White. Maybe that's in the works for LoveSync 2.0.

Of course, LoveSync does have some pitfalls. Cats and toddlers love a good button. That'll be a fun conversation — "Honey, who keeps canceling my mood submissions?" And have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children. "Yeah, kids, that button just controls the lawn sprinklers. No big deal."

If you've been dialing it in for years on Valentine's Day with flowers and those crappy boxes of chocolate, now you can literally dial it in. With a button.

Good luck with that.

The social power of 'Reddit' is helping teens of anti-vaxxers get vaccinated

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Reddit certainly earns its motto as "the front page of the internet," with roughly 540 million visitors monthly, the third most-visited website in the U.S., sixth worldwide. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Reddit is a largely anonymous platform. People's faces are masked, their names are disguised. Which makes their hidden humanity all the more impactful.

On Reddit, both news and serious information are threaded in among gifs of cats and posts about Call of Duty, but that doesn't make it any less important. For many people, Reddit signifies the town hall where news is passed along or stomped into obscurity.

It gives you a healthy read of our society as a whole.

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A recent Pew Poll found that Reddit leans left politically at a rate higher than the general public. Most users are young men, whose extensive internet use gives them a gatekeeping authority over what information should be considered important. From there, it spreads through the rest of the internet and helps shape public opinion.

So, it makes a lot of sense that Reddit has become a sort of makeshift safe place for children who grew up with parents who refused to give them vaccinations. Of course, Reddit also vehemently mocks the anti-vaccination folks, for better or for worse, often the latter, but that's a subject for another day.

The Daily Dot recently published an article on this strange intersection of ideology and nerd culture. "Desperate teens of anti-vaxxers are turning to Reddit for vaccination advice."

The article follows Ethan, whose parents are staunchly against vaccinations:

But Ethan is not his parents. When he turned 18, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He wasn't sure where else to begin, so he turned to Reddit.

Where do I go to get vaccinated? Can I get vaccinated at my age?" Ethan asked his fellow redditors in December. Ethan's post flooded with over 1,000 comments from users offering their encouragement and support, along with practical advice. "Good on you for getting your vaccinations," one user responded. "It's never too late and you're not only protecting yourself but those around you who truly can't get vaccinated.

Ethan told the Daily Dot that some redditors even offered to give him money via GoFundMe or PayPal if insurance didn't cover the shots. "People were really supportive, and that was really cool," he said. "I had the blessing of Reddit. They were supporting me on a decision my mom freaked out about." Ethan is not alone. "More and more teens are turning to places like Reddit to seek out information on where and how to get vaccinated, and if it's too late."

Whatever your opinion on vaccinations, there's a positive message to all of this. A human message. Hopeful. Proof that, in an increasingly caustic world, people can turn to one another in times of need.

Whatever your opinion on vaccinations, there's a positive message to all of this. A human message. Hopeful.

Now more than ever, that is crucial.

Given the social power of Reddit, it is often characterized as a tool for politicians or political movements. Throughout the forum, various political ideologies gather and organize like factions in some ideological war. A political thread on Reddit is like a Facebook comment section at its most hostile, arrogant or confident, but with no identities attached to the attacks, rants or opinions. When you find yourself riled into a debate, it's easy to wonder who's behind the replies, especially the more vicious ones.

People often characterize it as a hive-mind message board full of circlejerk memes and jokes about SpongeBob. This description isn't entirely wrong, but it is shallow and incomplete. At its core, Reddit is humane. Its users, for the most part, are compassionate. If it were an experiment on human nature, the results would be gratifying.