Friday, February 15, 2008

Police Brutality

You've no doubt by now caught wind of the firestorm of outrage sweeping the nation over the story out of Florida of an unbelievable act of police brutality and racism. Apparently a white male police officer grabbed the wheelchair of a black female quadriplegic, dumped her out of the chair onto the floor, and then frisked her while she lay helpless on the lineoleum. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are reportedly enroute to Florida to lead massive protest demonstrations against the insidious racism underlying this atrocity and others like it.

You haven't heard about any of this, you say? Well, here's the video:

Oops. I got the races and genders mixed up. I guess maybe that's why you haven't heard anything from Jesse and Al.


How to Destroy America

Several years ago former Colorado governor Richard Lamm gave a speech on his plan to destroy America. It's worth revisiting today. He begins this way:

I have a secret plan to destroy America. If you believe, as many do, that America is too smug, too white bread, too self-satisfied, too rich, let's destroy America. It is not that hard to do. History shows that nations are more fragile than their citizens think. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and they all fall, and that "an autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide." Here is my plan:

1. We must first make America a bilingual-bicultural country. History shows, in my opinion, that no nation can survive the tension, conflict and antagonism of two competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. One scholar, Seymour Martin Lipset, put it this way: "The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with its Basques, Bretons and Corsicans."

2. I would then invent "multiculturalism" and encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal: that there are no cultural differences that are important. I would declare it an article of faith that the black and Hispanic dropout rate is only due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out-of-bounds.

There are eight points altogether. You can read the rest of them at Michelle's.


The Conscious Mind

David Chalmers, one of the foremost researchers on the nature of consciousness, writes in his book, The Conscious Mind, that:

"Consciousness is a surprising feature of our universe. Our grounds for belief in consciousness derive solely from our experience of it. Even if we know every last detail about the physics of the universe-the configuration, causation, and evolution among all the fields and particles in the spatial temporal manifold-that information would not lead us to postulate the existence of conscious experience. My knowledge of consciousness in the first instance comes from my own case, not from any external observation. It is my first-person experience of consciousness that forces the problem on me." (pp. 101,102)

What Chalmers is saying is that the materialist view that everything that exists can be reduced to matter and energy still leaves consciousness unexplained. No matter how far we reduce the processes of the brain to their constituent chemicals and reactions we can find nothing that accounts for self-awareness or sensations like greenness. Nor can we begin to explain how a feeling like guilt, or a belief, or an intention could be described in terms of chemical processes occuring in neurons.

Consciousness seems to be sui generis, unique. There's nothing else like it in the universe, and what it is and how it could have evolved are complete mysteries.


The Other War

For those readers interested in how progress in Afghanistan stands at the moment an essay in The New York Post by Ann Marlowe provides an excellent overview.

The short version is that things are much better than many media reports would have us believe, but that should come as no surprise.