TIME magazine recently put out a cover story claiming that each American owes a $42,998.12 slice of our $13.9 trillion national debt. What is old is new again, apparently. Ross Perot must be sighing in forgotten silence, somewhere. The author, James Grant, puts out Grant’s Interest Rate Review twice a month, and has done so since 1983. On top of that, he’s written some books–most of them about money and finance, and a couple about pet political topics.
Here’s another mixed bag, if ever there was one. The Internet has changed the nature of our politics, in ways large and small. I’m here to examine some of them. Our politics didn’t transform all at once, but gradually, over time. The Internet had little effect on the 2000 election, for instance–its potential for political organization had not yet been realized, although political discussion between citizens has been happening online since at least the Usenet days.
Time for the other side of the coin. I promise that this isn’t a complete retraction or reconsideration of yesterday’s sentiments. I fully intended to follow up with the opposite view today. Let’s get on with it! As I mentioned, the Internet really has become a central part of most of our lives. In 1996, only 20 million Americans–not even 10%–had Internet access. Today, almost 90% of Americans are online. This kind of rapid progression is downright transformative.
Time to tackle another construct: the different ways men and women communicate with one another. As is typical when I write about issues of social constructs that involve power disparities, privilege, and oppression, my words are aimed primarily at guys like myself: straight white men. I would not presume to explain these issues to women–they are already well aware. Getting right to the point: there is a major difference in how men and women communicate and conduct themselves in mixed-gender venues, almost regardless of context.
Sometimes I wonder if I stray too far from the core purpose of this blog which is, after all, examining the “resilient constructs” we encounter in our lives. But this is a topic that, I think, drives at the heart of what this blog is about. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. There are a number of reasons for this, but the simple explanation is that, as a culture, we have a more punitive view of human behavior.
Tax evasion: what was once a mark of shame has endured so long it’s become boring. Commonplace. Business as usual. The Panama Papers have opened the latest chapter in this story. Detailing the dealings of Panamanian financial services firm Mossack Fonseca, the Papers don’t describe anything particularly unusual or novel, and that’s the real tragedy. This is normal. It’s normal for people with massive amounts of wealth to hide it in tiny little countries around the world just so they can avoid giving up a slice of it that they wouldn’t even miss.
As of this writing, there are over 75,000 Muslims in Scotland, representing 1.4% of the population. They are a small but very visible minority, especially in the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. In fact, I’ve spent the past week staying next door to the Edinburgh Central Mosque, which is a lovely building in its own right, and obviously Muslims are a common sight all around it. Islam has been in the news this week for a particularly sad occasion: the murder of one Muslim by another, over religious differences.
In 2014, Scotland held a referendum on whether to remain within the United Kingdom–the alternative was to become an independent state. It failed by almost an 11-point margin. But with Britain considering exiting the European Union, Scottish independence is a hot topic again. The UK leaving the European Union–neologistically termed “Brexit”–is a curious debacle. There are few advantages to doing so, and even though Prime Minister David Cameron is against a Brexit, his own party is split on the matter.
I took a lot of pictures of cats today. There doesn’t seem much point in writing about that. Free speech is another matter! The “moral panic over moral panics” lives in the UK (and mainland Europe) just as well as it does in the United States, it seems. Here we have an article decrying UK universities and their student unions for stifling free speech and debate: Launched by online magazine [_spiked_](http://www.
I haven’t done anything particularly touristy yet, nor have I thought of anything else interesting I could post about. But that’s OK. Now’s a good time to talk about the marvel (and some would say, I suppose, disaster) of the UK welfare state: the National Health Service! Even as public healthcare systems go, the NHS is perhaps more socialized than most: the government directly employs doctors, for instance, and it is free at the point-of-use.