Matus1976 Blog - Philosophy, Science, Politics, Invention

27 September



Being an amateur historian and given the current rise in media attention being paid to the Vietnam war, mainly due to analogies to the Iraq war, I would like to take a minute to review that war and people’s perception of it. The Vietnam war is one of the most well documented wars, so it is difficult to get a sordid perception of it without acknowledging some kind of overt perceptual bias is at play. That bias is what leads most Americans took look back at the Vietnam war with shame, thinking things like we shouldn’t have been there, it was none of our business, that we were interfering with a people’s right to self determination, that all we did was shoot up villagers and farmers, etc etc. The Vietnam war, as most of us know, saw 57,000 Americans killed. A few people might know that the war killed about 1.5 million people, mostly soldiers of North Vietnam. But fewer still know the horrible price the people of Indochina paid eventually. If we are going to learn lessons from our past, it is important to know the reality of the past, to have a set of facts that are empirically verifiable and accurate. America was not defeated by ‘farmers with sticks on bicycles’ as I overheard one visitor to the Vietnam war memorial last summer mention, instead the people of South Vietnam were defeated by the Soviet Union and narrow sightedness and moral relativism by the American people.

America did not lose the Vietnam war.
Any cursory examination of the Vietnam War will reveal this. The last US combat troops left Vietnam in March of 1973, (go ahead, look it up) and the numbers deployed had been continually declining before that point under Nixon’s Vietnamization program. However, Siagon fell to the communists on April 30 1975, almost two years later, and this was with no help from America at all. The real losers of the Vietnam War were the millions and millions of people who lived in South Vietnam. America’s part in that fate was depraved indifference.

The Vietnam war and the Korean War
People who despised the Vietnam War hate to think how similar these two wars war, because in the later our cause was successful and it became a clear example of what would have happened had we stuck it through with the Vietnamese people instead of abandoning them in their darkest hour. Consider that both cultures were very different to us, but in both the cultures of the North and the South were very similar. In both cases the communist aggressors were backed by a major communist power and they were invading and attempting to forcible convert their southern counterpart to communism. In both cases the west helped to defend a much more legitimate nation from a much less legitimate one. Both southern countries were ruled by crappy dictators (Sigmen Rhee in South Korea and Diem in South Vietnam) but in both cases those dictators were orders of magnitude more civil than their northern counterparts, who killed millions (Kim Il Sung in North Korea and Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam) In the Korean war, the cause of freedom, capitalism, and democracy won, and today South Korea is a progressive liberal democracy with one of the fastest growing economies in the world and with the 11th largest economy in the world. In Vietnam, our cause lost, and freedom, democracy, and capitalism lost out to communism, murder, and oppression. Vietnam is still a brutally poor country and has one of the most repressive governments in the world. North Korea is probably *the worst* country on this planet. But the outcome of the Korean War tells a chilling tale, with very little continual military support the Communist northern aggressors have been held back for 50 years. In South Vietnam, much the same could have happened, since with NO support, South Vietnam fended off the soviet backed North for two years. One can only sadly wonder how much a little bit of material aide would have gone in protecting South Vietnam from the North.

Iraq is not Vietnam
The Iraq war bears little resemblance to Vietnam if you actually know anything about either. In the sense that they are a different country that we went to and fought a battle, they are the same, but that is about where the similarities end. North Vietnam was backed by the Soviet Union, who supplied tanks, Ak47’s, anti aircraft guns, artillery, grenades, millions of land mines, etc etc. At the height of the Vietnam War records disclosed since the collapse of the Soviet Union reveal that the USSR was spending more on Vietnam than every other soviet client state combined. Estimates suggest as much as 10% of its GDP was going to support North Vietnam. By contrast, WWII saw the United States expend 6% of it’s GDP on the war effort at its height. North Vietnam was an aggressive expansionist murderous communist state, all clearly evidenced by the large numbers of people killed in the North under it’s rule, in the South after the fall of Saigon, and in its subsequent aggressions against Laos and Cambodia, where the North Vietnamese helped the most murderous leader in the history of the world, Pol Pot, come to power. None of this would have probably happened had the US continued to back Vietnam, even only with material aide. Iraq, by contrast, was ruled by an isolated murderous tyrant, it is not backed by a world super power. If there is a lesson to learn from Vietnam applicable to the current situation in Iraq, it is to clearly understand the consequences of abandonment. In Vietnam it led to the murder of 7.5 million people. In Iraq? Hopefully we will not find out.

We were not infringing on self determination
Many people assert that our involvement in South Vietnam was blocking a people’s right to self determination. However, this is far from what was going on and what happened. Since the Soviet Union provided the primary military backing to Ho Chi Minh’s communists, there was little self determination going on. The people of South Vietnam clearly demonstrated this when they had an 80% voter turnout in 1978. In fact, we were helping a people defend a country they loved. More South Vietnamese soldiers died defending South Vietnam than French soldiers died defending France in WWII. To suggest that the North, which had a larger population, and the South, which had a smaller population, engage in a vote to determine the future of the South and whether they would be communist is a disgusting corruption of the concept of voting and certainly not ‘self determination’ if you give any meaning to the word self. You can not vote away people’s rights, no matter what the majority is. Never mind the notorious 100% voter turnouts in communist elections (where, amazingly, everyone votes communist!)

After the fall of Saigon
The most important part of the story lost on the mainstream is what happened in Indochina after the fall of Saigon. The North Vietnamese instilled a brutal government on the people of the South, executing anyone who fought for the South and making it illegal to even portray them in a positive light. The brutal oppression of the people of the North continued, with the government even establishing ‘death quotas’ where 10% of the population had to be executed as ‘counter revolutionaries’ 1.5 million South Vietnamese people fled, fearing that communist onslaught. Probably over 1 million of them were lost at sea, and these ‘boat people’ were harassed and rejected on every shore they tried to land. Eventually the UN pulled their refugee status and sent many back to the murderous country they fled. While revisionists in the west were still making fun of the ‘domino theory’ the people of Laos fell to communist expansionism and then the North Vietnamese turned their Soviet armament over to Pol Pot and his ‘red Cambodians’ (The Khmere rouge) This rag tag group, now well armed and funded, overthrew the pro-western Lon Nol who had recently been abandoned by the US under congressional decree, which made it illegal to give material aide to any nation in southeast Asia. The people of Cambodia would fare much worse than those of Vietnam. Pol Pot tried to enact his communist utopia by destroying cities, killing anyone who had western influence, could speak multiple languages, had any kind of an education, or had any money. In all nearly 3 million people would be killed out of a population of 7 million. All with North Vietnamese arms, tanks, and supplies, which came from the Soviet Union. Eventually the North Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot and instilled a slightly less murderous regime in his place. In all some 7.5 million people would be killed directly or indirectly by the North Vietnamese government.

“For the South Vietnamese, our precipitate withdrawal would inevitably allow the Communists to repeat the massacres which followed their takeover in the North 15 years before; They then murdered more than 50,000 people and hundreds of thousands more died in slave labor camps. We saw a prelude of what would happen in South Vietnam when the Communists entered the city of Hue last year. During their brief rule there, there was a bloody reign of terror in which 3,000 civilians were clubbed, shot to death, and buried in mass graves. With the sudden collapse of our support, these atrocities of Hue would become the nightmare of the entire nation “ – President Richard Nixon, 1969

15:26:05 - Matus1976 - No comments

23 September

You get what you asked for

People who are hell bent on blaming George Bush or everything that went wrong with the Katrina disaster relief effort should now be quaking in their ideology obsessed close minded boots. Content with skipping the blame rightly due to everyone else, including: the people who lived there and their lackadaisical culture (it is, after all, the Big Easy, while everywhere else in contrast is the Big Difficult) the local government, including a mayor who never saw fit to plan for any kind of evacuation, a governor who couldn’t decide if she needed the help of the FED and wouldnt even talk to the President because of her idealogical blinders for two days, and proximity state and local governments who didn’t send their own national guard in to help and, worst of all, actually forcibly prevented people from trying to leave the disaster. No, it was all George W. Bush’s fault. Some sure was, but that absolutism is disgustingly niave. While the Federal govermnet is busy regulating how many lines my damn TV has it is blatently ignoring its fundamental duties, *at all levels*

Well now they have gotten what they asked for; in an attempt to fend off criticism of the lack of response by the federal government to this disaster, a lack of response caused mostly by the very fundamental notion of seperation of powers. Bush is now seeking the very thing that prevented him from acting quickly and strongly on local issues, power. Those limitations of power were required by law the president certainly should not be able to do anything he wants anywhere he wants. The Administration now seeks to change those very laws and acquire the power not granted to him, **to use the military, at his complete disposal, for law enforcement** You people hell bent on blaming your favorite enemy have as a consequence put him on a fast track to dictatorship. Speaking as a neo-libertarian objectivist atheist, MORON! Shame on all of you!

Come on people, you do not want a president, any president, to immediately be able to send the military anywhere domestically to respond to whatever he deems to be an emergency! This is NOT GOOD

Politics & Society

Military Ban on Law Enforcement Questioned

on NPR by Vicky O'Hara

Morning Edition, September 22, 2005 · Federal troops assisting local governments with disaster relief are not allowed to engage in law enforcement. This is according to the 1878 law known as the Posse Comitatus Act. But some Pentagon officials are saying it prevents the military from helping with swift disaster response. Defenders of the law say it protects civil liberties.

21:07:05 - Matus1976 - 1 comment

16 September

"You are so smart"

You are so smart.

I hate it when people say that to me. I am not smart, you are just lazy

Imagine if I walked up to a big muscle bound body builder and said “wow, lucky you being born with all those big muscles” I am simultaneously absolving him of the hard work he has put into it and absolving myself of the desire to ever do anything similar. It’s the same thing. Except I work out my mind.

I am not smart, I have no greater capacity for resolving issues that is not dependant on all the other information I have studied. I do not have a better memory, show me a random list of numbers and I will remember just as many as the next guy (unless I read about or figure out some trick later on, and work toward being able to accomplish such a task with a much greater proficiency) Give me a logic puzzle or an IQ test, and I will probably score about average (not that these things are any good anyway). But show me a 3D object and I can probably rotate it mentally much better than the average person, but that is because I have spent 10 years doing 3D design and modeling.

When I taught myself to weld, it took practice, practice and more practice. When I taught myself to cut ¼” steel plate with an oxyacetylene torch, it took more than eight overall hours hunched over a 1300 degree flame in thick welders gloves, regulating your speed, the angle of the torch, the oxygen flow, the height of the tip over the metal, etc. etc. None of these things did I pick up and dive right into and perform superlatively. However, I do find that with every new skill I acquire through hard work and effort that later skills seem to become easier and easier. When I read I slow down and think about each sentence, if I did not grasp the sentence and it’s implications, I read it over again, slower, and contemplate it more.

When people hear you talk about something you have studied in depth and thought about for hours and hours, and they respond by saying ‘you’re really smart’ what they are really doing is insulting all the hard work and effort you put into acquiring that knowledge and skill set and excusing themselves from the responsibility of living up to their own potential.

Every single moment of my life, every single moment of anyone’s life, they must choose to think or not think, to progress or to regress, to act or to stagnate. Saying ‘you are so smart’ to me trivializes the massive internal struggle I have trying to stay true to my goals and dreams and trying to always, always work toward them, working toward creating a world more in line with what I want.

Is it truly a responsibility we have to live up to our highest potential? I don’t know. Some things are nice to relax and enjoy, and my mind and body are not a set of gears on a crank, you need to take breaks. But should you always be relaxing? No, maybe after we achieve indefinite life spans, sure, then relax, enjoy life. But I think I could work even harder than I am if I could stay motivated and ambitious enough (I will be ordering some more modafinil soon). But pursuing the things you love lead to your happiness, and identifying and setting out long term goals and a salient plan to accomplish those goals will make you happier person, as will achieving those goals.

11:59:31 - Matus1976 - No comments

02 September

Unintelligent Design Theory

I propose a new theory: Unintelligent design. If Intelligent design presumes that a complex being requires a being more complex than said being to create it (ignoring the obvious logical fallacy that the more complex creator now needs an even more complex creator) then I suggest that a multitude of less intelligent beings could create a single being that is more intelligent than the originators combined. The first conscious Artificially Intelligent computer will likely claim this throne. Thus, drawn to its logical conclusion, Unintelligent Design means that an infinite number of infinitely stupid beings are required to make an infinitesimal number of infinitely intelligent beings. =)
16:15:17 - Matus1976 - No comments

01 September

More on Atheism and Happiness

Hello again Mark. Let me try to address some of your points.

If I was dying of cancer I certainly would not delude myself into thinking there is an after life just so the last few moments of my life were happy. Happiness is a state of mind brought about by furthering ones values, primarily life. Non-directed happiness is hedonism and is not happiness at all and is no different from a drug induced euphoria. My closest friend, Rosalie, is a hospice nurse in Maine. I am very close to her and love her dearly and we regularly have serious, profound and disturbing discussions about her patients, the kind of discussions that must arise from confronting a very real thing, the cessation of existence. Rosalie is an atheist as well, and was bothered by death as a nurse in training. Admiringly she chose hospice intentionally because of that, because you don’t run from the worse problems and bury your head or evade or delude. You stand and face them head on, stare straight at them in charge into them. She sees patients of all kinds, devoutly religious people and devoutly a-religious people, most maintain that state right up until their dying breath, and each are usually more convinced of their existing position the closer they are to death.

It is not my place to tell that dying mean what to believe, and Rosalie never does that sort of thing either. It is not my place to decide what kind of torture a man can withstand before giving in either, but no problem of the world has ever been solved by ignoring the problem, by pretending it does not exist. Personally I would rather that man base his beliefs on reality, as I believe all people should, with an appropriate grounding in logic and reason.

You say that to accept death for what it truly is probably lies beyond the scope of the human mind, and I agree with you. Death is the cessation of existence, no existing entity can possibly simulate a state of non-existence. You say that if I were to truly accept death in my deepest conscious self that I would go mad, and that since I am not mad I must not have accepted it. That is a strange logical assertion and I would not agree with your premise, and thus not your logical conclusion. Certainly as much as a human mind is capable of it I have understood and accepted the idea that I will die. You on one hand assert that atheists tend to be sad and angry because they know they will cease to exist yet on the other hand assert that they couldn’t possibly know they will cease to exist or they would have gone crazy. Yet what is a better example of madness than all the modern conceptions of after lives proposed by various religions?

I do not believe that technology will save me, but I hope that it will, and that it will save the people I love and care about, and eventually all people. But after a few thousand people were killed by Katrina, and four hundred thousands were killed a mere 9 months ago, I am very well aware of death and it is ever present in my mind, both my own impending death and that of everyone I care about. Because my own life is my highest value and the greatest threat to it’s existence is death from aging, I will devote my life to fighting that. I do not presume I will succeed, that is contrary to every presumption about the future I ever make. I would not presume that any more than I would presume my motorcycle company will be successful and thus engage in a pre-emptive spending spree. I am not in the habit of assuming something will turn out a particular way (technology will end death) and then changing the course of my actions on that assumption (acting as though I will not die) the exact opposite of what you suggest I am doing and not unlike you and theists, who do presume that life exists after death and thus alter their course of actions (not doing anything about dying) based on that assumption.

You may have seen many sides, but only one side is real.

And yes, thoughts do have an affect on reality but only indirectly and only through guiding actions. Thoughts alone do not have any impact on reality. But I think you should check the foundations of your statements, atheists, for instance, are statistically under-represented in prisons. Why is that? It is not merely ‘god’ or ‘afterlife’ that a strong belief in makes you live a happier life, it is a strong belief in something positive that has that effect. A strong belief in the highest possible to humans. A cynic who believes in god will still be a depressed person. An atheist who believes he is a bag of chemicals will have no self esteem, just as a theist who believes he was born into guilt will as well. I think you peg it perfectly when you say ‘how you think’ influences how you feel, and not just ‘what you think’ It’s how we think and to what extend we think these particular things that influences how we feel and consequently how it affects our outlook on life.

You confuse altering meanings of the word faith. Faith can be evidence (e.g. ‘I will land the plane’ ‘how will you do that, you don’t know how to fly!?’ ‘have faith’) and faith can be based on evidence (e.g. ‘I will land the plane’ ‘of course you will, I have seen you do it ten times, I have faith in you’ ) Certainly my goal is the same, but that does not mean I believe that my goal is destined to be true, unlike people of faith. I have a clearly defined course of action for the rest of my life which will enable me to work toward that goal. If I fail then I will die. If they fail they will still see everlasting life (according to their ‘faith’) So we are clearly not doing the same thing, they are going through the motions of the effect to try to acquire the cause I am going through the motions of the cause to try to achieve the effect.

And most people throughout history certainly were theists of some sort, but my point was that the more they deviated from faith (i.e. belief without evidence, or belief as evidence) the more progress was made. And now we face the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, death, and it will require overcoming the hardest and last remnant of theism to resolve, belief in an after life. Why try to conquer death if you do not believe you will die in the first place? The first steps of progress made by humanity were that steps that did not infringe on anyone’s faith, creating tools and harnessing fire. The next steps were the first to encroach on faith, agriculture usurped the tribal chieftans prayers for good food gathering. Irrigation usurped the witch doctors rain dances. The philosophers of ancient Greece demoted gods and mysticism to reason and experiment. The natural philosophers of the enlightenment formed medicine where before was only destiny, prayer, and suffering. They collected, labeled and identified things that were in the realm of mysticism, laying all the ground work for modern science. And every step of the way the men of faith opposed them, knowing they were trespassing in their territory. Describing and predicting the heavens, they demoted the god kings to merely oppressive rulers, and gave men a say in their own lives. Every step of the way the continuum of knowledge moved from mystical to rational, with one extreme embodied in the dark ages and the cave dwelling savages of ten’s of thousands of years ago, and the other extreme conquering the material world, creating long healthy lives with free time for art and to perfect their tools and crafts, putting men in control of their own destiny, and ultimately conquering disease, aging, and death. Our standards of living are directly proportional how much we embrace reason and reality and inversely proportional to how much we embrace mysticism. What is a greater manifestation of increased standard of living than an indefinite lifespan. A lifespan which will not be achieved as long as that last mental stumbling block remains.

20:59:15 - Matus1976 - No comments