Less Open Debates for a More Open Democracy

Interview

The last few years of this bizarre decade have witnessed the resurgence of hate groups. Some of these hate groups are just nicer sounding Nazis and that’s a really bad thing. Since this site is dedicated to good news let’s take a look at how to deal with these ignoramuses. It’s often argued that we should debate people who espouse hatred because we can reason away their stupidity; however, that usually daren’t work. Instead hate groups gain legitimacy by being allowed to be a part of civil debates. The solution is to not to just ignore them but to shut them right out.

Curating debate participants is itself a political choice, because the terms of a debate inform public opinion as much as its content. I’ve lost count of the number of evenings I’ve spent in the role of “shouty leftist” juxtaposed with a set of Tory talking points in a suit, with ten or fifteen minutes (if we’re lucky, a whole hour) to decide whether poor children should be allowed to eat during school holidays or whether migrants deserve human rights. What matters is not who wins on the merits. What matters are the terms: who gets to speak, and who must be silent.

The far right are not themselves committed to the principle of free speech. Far from it. In my encounters with neo-nationalists and professional alt-right trolls I have found them remarkably litigious — more than willing to use money and legal threats to silence their more serious critics. I’ve been legally prohibited from describing racists as racists. That’s why you’ll see so many news outlets use phrases like “alleged white supremacist” or “the deportation policy, which critics have described as xenophobic.” It’s not because there’s serious doubt over where these people stand, it’s because journalists are silenced by threats from speech “defenders” who have the money and spite to shut down their critics. I will not be bullied by bad-faith actors trying to rules-lawyer my own principles against me into treating neo-Nazis with respect they don’t deserve.

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One Spanish City Banned Cars and Found Success

a couple, bicycles

Cars in cities just cause traffic and block other modes of transportation so one Spanish city decided to do something about and banned car traffic in its downtown. The results are a thriving downtown with local businesses performing better than before the ban. Locals prefer the lack of smog and the ability to just be able to get out and walk without risking their lives. Let’s hope more cities plan for a carless future!

The benefits are numerous. On the same streets where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, only three died in the subsequent 10 years, and none since 2009. CO2 emissions are down 70%, nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle, and, while other towns in the region are shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants. Also, withholding planning permission for big shopping centres has meant that small businesses – which elsewhere have been unable to withstand Spain’s prolonged economic crisis – have managed to stay afloat.

Raquel García says: “I’ve lived in Madrid and many other places and for me this is paradise. Even if it’s raining, I walk everywhere. And the same shopkeepers who complain are the ones who have survived in spite of the crisis. It’s also a great place to have kids.”

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Providing Bike Lanes is Better than Providing Parking

In North America riding a bicycle in the cities built for cars can be stressful. Because these cities are designed for cars it’s hard to get anywhere quickly and New York witnessed this first hand. Instead of adding more vehicle lanes and continuing the problem they decided to remove parking and add bike lanes. As a result they saw fewer crashes on their streets while increasing economic activity. Plus, in New York the bike lanes allowed car traffic to floe better because the streets also permitted safer turning.

Here’s the description of the video above:

When Janette Sadik-Khan was hired as chief transportation official for New York City in 2007, she took a page out of Denmark’s playbook and created America’s first parking-protected bike lane, right in the middle of downtown Manhattan.

A parking protected bike lane created a buffer between the traffic of cars, trucks and buses and cyclists. But it also eliminated parking spots.

The protected lanes didn’t just make the streets safer for those on bikes; they also improved traffic flow for vehicles and spurred increased retail sales for businesses nearby.

We Shouldn’t Wait Until Kids are Teenagers to Teach Them Health

kids

Teaching children how their bodies function is a controversial idea to some people who think children should remain ignorant until their late teens. Waiting until their bodies are fully developed is too late to teach people about issues like puberty and pregnancy according to experts. Those experts are backed by tons of research and statistics about health around the world. So why don’t we teach children about bodily functions? Because some parents think health education is only about teaching children about sexual activity. It’s time to change that.

While parents, not schools, should be in charge of teaching values, said Schroeder, kids should be learning the facts from content experts, just like they do in other subjects. “It’s gotta be a partnership. I don’t think it’s appropriate for teachers to be inculcating values, that’s the parents’ job. It’s like ‘Dragnet’: Just the facts, ma’am,” she said.

That has led Deardorff to argue that it might be better to find a new name for these early stages of sex ed, the parts that aren’t directly about sex. “The number one thing that I would suggest is that we start pubertal education earlier. And that we don’t call it sex ed, because that raises all kinds of red flags,” said Deardorff.

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Mindful People Experience Less Pain Than Others

happiness

Mindfulness is all the rage right now and for good reason, the benefits of being able to be aware of yourself and your impact on others are great. Mindfulness has a lot in common with metacognition insofar that it provokes self-awareness and the more you practice it the better you get at it. If you haven’t tried mindful thinking then maybe this newest research will motivate you. It turns out that mindful people experience less pain than people who don’t practice mindfulness.

Whole brain analyses revealed that higher dispositional mindfulness during painful heat was associated with greater deactivation of a brain region called the posterior cingulate cortex, a central neural node of the default mode network. Further, in those that reported higher pain, there was greater activation of this critically important brain region.

The study provided novel neurobiological information that showed people with higher mindfulness ratings had less activation in the central nodes (posterior cingulate cortex) of the default network and experienced less pain. Those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain, Zeidan said.

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