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Don Tow's Website http://www.dontow.com Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:15:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 A Paradigm Shifting World-History Investigation http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/a-paradigm-shifting-world-history-investigation/ http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/a-paradigm-shifting-world-history-investigation/#comments Sat, 23 Mar 2019 07:00:54 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5589 Based on more than 10 years of research investigation of many classic world maps and other historical documents, Dr. Siu-Leung Lee (李兆良, of Columbus, Ohio and Hong Kong)  has concluded that the contents of a very important world map, known as Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿万国全图) dated 1602, attributed to Matteo Ricci, is not translated into Chinese from European maps.  Furthermore, this important world map was based on the surveys by Chinese before 1430, some 60 years before Columbus’ exploration

This article provides a short summary of his reasoning and the vast implications for world history. [1]

Who Was Matteo Ricci? Matteo Ricci (Chinese name 利玛窦, 1552-1610) was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. He learned classical Chinese by working and living for more than 20 years in China.  Because of his scientific expertise, he became an advisor to the imperial court of the Emperor Wanli (万历皇帝).  Together with his Chinese collaborators [technical translator Li Zhizao (李之藻) and copier Zhang Wentao (张文焘)], he prepared maps and atlases for Emperor Wanli. [2]  The most famous and most important was the 1602 world map Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿万国全图).

What Was Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿万国全图)? In Chinese, this name means “Complete Geographical Map of all the Kingdoms of the World.”  For brevity, we will refer to it as the “1602 Chinese World Map.”  It was a very large woodcut map, 5 ft high and 12 ft  wide, and labeled entirely in Chinese.

File:Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿萬國全圖).jpg

It contains 1,114 place names, and was the most detailed and accurate world map of its time.  Several prints of the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu were made in 1602. Most of the original maps are now lost. Only six original copies of the map are known to exist, and only two are in good condition.

This is a map that was long thought of as based on a map by Ortelius (1570) brought to China by Ricci.  In particular, it was long thought of as the first time that the Chinese were introduced to the knowledge of the American continents.

Dr. Siu-Leung Lee’s first conclusion is about the authorship:  There are many clues showing that the “1602 Chinese World Map” was not derived from European maps of Ricci’s time.  Lee provided several reasons [3]:

  1. The Papal States Tuscany and Florence are absent, and the names of Hibernia, Lutetia are outdated Roman names for Ireland and Paris, respectively.
  2. 50% of the place names including those of the Americas have no equivalent on European drawn maps.
  3. If the information on the map of European places came directly from European sources, then the names of these places can be obtained directly from the original European sources, instead of being translated from Chinese into Italian/Latin later by the 20th century Jesuit priest Pasquale M. d’Elia (1890-1963).
  4. “The 1602 Chinese World Map” accurately labeled the oceans by the cardinal direction centered on China while the nomenclature in European maps at that time was confusing and erroneous.
  5. European maps at that time set the prime meridian inconsistently at either Canary Islands or Cape Verde Islands, whereas the “1602 Chinese World Map” set the prime meridian at near Dakar, Senegal, which as the westernmost region of Africa is a much more logical prime meridian as the beginning of the Asia-Europe-Africa land mass.
  6. The “1602 Chinese World Map” contained many names on the west coast of North America, including the state of Washington, western Canada and Alaska, but there was no prior record of any European exploration of these places until mid 1800s.  As a matter of fact, these names were not available on European maps such as Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570) and Mercator’s Nova et aucta orbis terrae descriptio ad usum navigantium em (1569), which were thought to be among the blue-prints of the “1602 Chinese World Map.”
  7. The 1595 Arctic Circle map of Mercator placed California in the Arctic Circle, but the “1602 Chinese World Map” placed California at the right location. Even if Ricci had access to Mercator’s 1595 Arctic map, he could not have corrected the geography he had never seen.
  8. Hudson Bay and the Mackenzie River of Canada are shown incorrectly in the European maps, but correctly in the “1602 Chinese World Map.” In addition, these places were visited by European explorers after Ricci died in 1610.

Dr. Lee’s second conclusion is about timing:  Dr. Lee’s second conclusion is that the “1602 Chinese World Map” actually resulted from Chinese surveys completed before 1430 for the following reasons:

  1. There was a major addition in the 1594 Plancius map as compared to the 1570 Ortelius map, i.e., in the listing of cities in China, Shuntienfu (顺天府), which was the administrative area of Beijing as named by Emperor Yongle in 1403, was included.  The absence of Shuntienfu in the 1570 Ortelius map and appearance in the 1594 Plancius map shows that information of Emperor Yongle’s China was acquired by European cartographers after Ricci was in China.
  2. Comparison of the depictions of the westernmost point of South America of the 1570 Ortelius map, the 1594 Plancius map, and the “1602 Chinese World Map” clearly shows that the depiction in the latter map is much more accurate than the depiction in the first two maps. [4]  This again indicates that the “1602 Chinese World Map” did not get its geographic information from European maps on far-flung places like South America.
  3. China’s ability to map open ocean prior to European contact is supported by Martino Martini’s atlas “Novus Atlas Sinensis. Martino Martini visited China 1643-1651 and published “Novus Atlas Sinensis” in 1655 that included a very accurate map of China and Japan.  Since it was impossible for Martini to do such an accurate survey of that vast area of China (about 6,000,000 square kilometers) and Japan, not counting the open ocean between China and Japan.  That survey had to be done by the work of numerous Chinese surveys over hundreds of years.  This again indicates that European cartographers learned geographic information from China, instead of the other way around.
  4. On the “1602 Chinese World Map,” a text above Spain indicates that the map is drawn “some 70 years after the first diplomatic relationship with Europe.”  “Diplomatic relationship” here refers to Giovanni de’ Marignolli leading a Papal legation to China and staying from 1342 to 1347.  Exchange of credentials signifies the first diplomatic relationship between China and Europe.  Seventy some years later would fall in the time period several years after 1412-1417, within the great Chinese oceanic explorer Zheng He’s seven major sea explorations between 1405 and 1433 (the last exploration began in 1430 and ended in 1433).  Therefore the above mentioned text offers the most definitive dating of the map, i.e., it was prepared in the late 1420s after many of Zheng He’s expeditions, probably in preparation for his last expedition that began in 1430 (which ended in 1433).
  5. Furthermore, the inclusion in the China section of the “1602 Chinese World Map” of places only relevant to Emperor Yongle (1403-1424), such as places along his route of campaigns against residual Mongolian resistance.  The inclusion of the spot where Emperor Yongle died (in 1424) has no political or economic value in the Wanli era (1572-1620) provides another indication that this map was drawn shortly after Emperor Yongle’s death in 1424.
  6. There are more texts on the map dating the map to the period before 1430, such as the history of Japan, African kingdoms, and Vietnam.
  7. Matteo Ricci did add some names from European exploration/colonization in America and Asia, creating a delusion that the map was drawn by Europeans. However, Ricci could not have added names that were not found in European maps, nor could he know the geography not yet explored by Europeans.

That is why Dr. Lee came to his second major conclusion that the “1602 Chinese World Map” resulted from Chinese surveys that were completed before 1430. The ramification of this conclusion is that Chinese explorers had already reached and surveyed the American continents at least 60 years before Columbus’ discovery of the “new world” in 1492.

Summary: The “1602 Chinese World Map” was made in 1602 in China, the most detailed map of the world at that ime, has been wrongly attributed to Matteo Ricci and European explorers for over 400 years. The geography of the American continents has been thought as knowledge that Europeans brought to China.  However, after more than 10 years of research investigation, Dr. Siu-Leung Lee has revealed the true authorship of the map by scientific reasoning.  Ricci actually learned many of these new cartographic findings about many parts of the world, including the American continents, from cartographic information discovered and compiled by Chinese explorers over many prior years.  In particular, these new cartographic information were the result of the seven world voyages  led by the legendary Chinese explorer Zheng He between 1405 and 1433.

Unless new verifiable information about European exploration is available to explain the discrepancy revealed by the “1602 Chinese world map,” it is irrefutable that Chinese led the first global exploration and cultural exchanges, overturning 600 years of  misinterpreted history!

Before ending this article, there are two important questions that we want to address:

  1. Relation of Dr. Lee’s work and Gavin Menzies’ work as described in Menzies’ 2002 book 1421:  The Year Chinese Discovered America.  Besides that the conclusion is similar, there is  essentially no similarity between the two works in terms of materials, scientific methodology, and thoroughness.  Menzies, a retired British submarine lieutenant commander, did not provide credible scientific analysis and support to his claims, but Lee did.  Menzies does not know the Chinese language, but Lee does and did a lot of investigation and research on many related historical Chinese sources.  Menzies’ work has been considered by experts to lack sophistication and definitive proofs. Lee’s work with a meticulous scientific approach has been assessed uncontested by cartographic and history experts around the world. His first presentation of this research was at the International Zheng He Conference in Melaka, 2010 (Proceedings published in 2012). He has also presented to University of South Florida, University of West Florida, Ohio State University, Otterbein University, Academica Sinica (Taipei), Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping (Beijing), University of Foreign Affairs (Beijing), Tsinghua University, Peking  University, Renmin University, Nanjing University, and six universities in Hong Kong. Because of the sensitivity and potential explosive ramifications of his findings, it might take time for people to digest and recognize the facts.
  2. The second question is what happened to the historical findings of Zheng He’s expeditions, why the Chinese did not continue such naval expeditions, and why the Chinese did not publicize such great discoveries.  This is an extremely good and important question.  We probably will never know the real answer, but there are probably several reasons.  One is that during the latter part of Emperor Yongle’s reign (1403-1424), China was involved in a land war with the residual Mongolian forces.  More money was probably needed to fund the army.  The army commanders might have won the internal battle in this conflict of interest and power struggle, resulting in halting the maritime explorations. The rising power of rich merchants from the maritime trade posted a threat to the emperor’s families. Because of these and possibly other reasons, Emperor Hongxi, the successor to Emperor Yongle, discontinued any more naval expedition and in order to keep expeditions like Zheng He’s from being repeated, destroyed their ships. [5] Most important of all was probably the destructions and lootings of the imperial archives near the downfall of the Ming dynasty around 1644 and also later during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

The maps, original documents and cultural relics have interwoven into an irrefutable network of evidence overturning the myth of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. European explorers might have taken much much longer to reach the western hemisphere had the Chinese world geographic information not leaked to the West. Ming Chinese should be credited as the pioneers of globalization of cultural exchange and trade. This has tremendous implications and impacts in current international affairs.   We strongly urge the world’s cartographic experts and history experts to reassess history based on Dr. Lee’s paradigm shifting research investigations. [6]

Acknowledgment:  I would like to thank Dr. Siu-Leung Lee for valuable discussions on his research investigation.


[1] Dr. Lee’s research findings are available in three Chinese books:

  • 《坤舆万国全图解密——明代测绘世界》台北:联经出版社,2012.
  • 《宣德金牌启示录——明代开拓美洲》台北:联经出版社,2013.
  • 《坤舆万国全图解密——明代中国与世界》上海:上海交通大学出版社,2017.

The third book is a simplified-font version of the first book. The second book deals with hundreds of pieces of evidence in cultural relics linking Native American culture and Chinese in Ming dynasty and more ancient time.

A series of books are in preparation for the English readers. During the past few years, Dr. Lee has published many research papers in both English and Chinese. A summary English article is  “Chinese Mapped America Before 1430” presented at the 28th International Cartographic Conference (ICC) in Washington, D.C., July 2-7, 2017.  In this paper, Chinese and European maps are compared quantitatively revealing the advance technologies of Chinese survey and cartography of the world.

Another English article “Zheng He’s Voyages revealed by Matteo Ricci’s World Map” can be found in the Proceedings of the First International Zheng He Conference held in Melaka, Malayia, 2010.  A similar article can also be found at https://www.academia.edu/7875807/Zheng_Hes_Voyages_Revealed_by_Matteo_Riccis_World_Map.

[2] Ricci was given free access to the Forbidden City but never met the reclusive Emperor Wanli, although the Emperor granted him patronage and financial support for his work.

[3] More information can be found in Ref. 1.

[4] You can see copies of these maps in Ref. 1.

[5] Zheng He’s naval fleet was huge by the standard of its time.  E.g., Columbus’ Santa Maria was only 18 meters in length, whereas some of Zheng He’s ships were as long as 140 meters.  Columbus’ fleet consisted of three ships, and Zheng He’s fleet 200-300.

[6] Here is a little more information about Dr. Lee’s biography.  He is a biochemist by training, with a B.S. in Biology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Purdue University.   He has academic and industrial experience in his career at Yale University, Texas A&M university, Corning Inc., and Battelle Memorial Institute before becoming the Associate Director of the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology and General Manager of HKIB-Syntex Inc.  In 1993 he founded Asiawind.com.  He has been involved in the research investigation of cultural links between China and America since 2006.  He is the President of the Zheng He Society of the Americas, Washington, D.C.   Versatile in classical Chinese literature, music and other areas.  Dr. Lee is a noted calligrapher, and was commissioned in 2005 to write the calligraphy “Taihang Baquanxia, Eight-Spring Gorge” (太行八泉峽) for the main entrance gate to the Taihangshan National Forest Park in Shanxi Province in China.

For further information, please contact Dr. Siu-Leung Lee at sllee19@gmail.com.

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Effect of Taiji Versus Aerobic Exercise for Fibromyalgia http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/effect-of-taiji-versus-aerobic-exercise-for-fibromyalgia/ http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/effect-of-taiji-versus-aerobic-exercise-for-fibromyalgia/#comments Sat, 23 Mar 2019 06:00:57 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5656 A recently published research investigation compares Taiji exercise with aerobic exercise for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. This research concluded that participants of either exercise routine show improvements after practicing twice a week for 24 weeks, and participants of the Taiji exercise routine show more improvements than participants of the aerobic exercise routine.

What Is Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia [1] is a condition that causes pain all over the body. The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are

  • Pain and stiffness all over the body.
  • Fatigue and tiredness.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Problems with thinking, memory, and concentration.
  • Headaches, including migraines.

It affects about 4 million adults in the U.S., or about 2% of the U.S. population, with women twice more likely than men.

Fibromyalgia should be treated by a doctor or team of healthcare professionals who specialize in the treatment of fibromyalgia and other types of arthritis, called rheumatologists.

Fibromyalgia is usually treated with medication (pain relievers and anti-depression medicines), aerobic exercises, and often with addition of stress management techniques (such as meditation, yoga, massage, and better sleeping habits), and behavior therapy to treat any underlying depression.

Why The Need for This Study? Since use of pain relievers and anti-depression medicines could have serious side effects, such as addiction and adverse mood changes, some people prefer to rely on treatment with only aerobic exercise. This leads to the importance of this research, whether doing Taiji exercise can be an alternative to aerobic exercise.

Description of Recent Research Investigation: A recent research investigation was published in the March 21, 2018 issue of the medical journal BMJ [2]. This involves a randomized, 52 week, single blind comparative effectiveness trial involving 226 adults with fibromyalgia (as defined by the American College of Rheumatology 1990 and 2010 criteria). The trial was performed at the Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The 226 participants were randomly assigned, with 115 being assigned to one of four Taiji groups (12 or 24 weeks, once or twice weekly) and 75 to an aerobic exercise group (twice weekly for 24 weeks). The average pain duration of the participants was 9 years. Roughly about 2/3 of the participants were also taking pain relievers to treat their fibromyalgia. The trial did not change or recommend changes in medical therapy. The mean age of the participants was 52, and 92% were females, and 61% were of the white race. Participants were evaluated at the end of 12 weeks, 24 weeks, and 52 weeks.

The aerobic exercise consisted of several components of an active warm-up including low intensity movements and dynamic stretching, choreographed aerobic training, progressing gradually from low to moderate intensity, and cool down exercises. The Taiji exercise consisted of warm-up and stretching exercises, meditative movements, breathing techniques, various relaxation methods, and doing Taiji forms [3]. There were three Taiji instructors.

The participants were assessed via the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR) [4], as well as other assessment tools, such as the patient’s global assessment and the hospital anxiety and depression scale [5]. The FIQR is a series of questions about the degree of difficulty of doing various daily tasks.

Results of Research Investigation: The FIQR scores improved for all five groups: (1) Taiji group meeting twice per week for 24 weeks, (2) Taiji group meeting once per week for 24 weeks, (3) Taiji group meeting twice per week for only 12 weeks, (4) Taiji group meeting once per week for only 12 weeks, and (5) aerobic exercise group meeting twice per week for 24 weeks.

There were 4 major results:

  1. The improvements for the Taiji group that met twice weekly for 24 weeks (Group 1) and the Taiji group that met once per week for 24 weeks (Group 2) were statistically significantly more than the aerobic group (Group 5). An improvement by 8.1 points in the FIQR score (0-100) is statistically significant. This research study shows that Groups 1/2 showed an improvement of 16.2 points as compared to Group 5.
  2. The Taiji groups who met for 24 weeks (Groups 1 and 2) show greater improvement than the Taiji groups who met for only 12 weeks (Groups 3 and 4).
  3. There was no significant difference between the improvements between the Taiji group meeting twice per week for 24 weeks (Group 1) and once per week for 24 weeks (Group 2), or between the Taiji group meeting twice per week for 12 weeks (Group 3) and once per week for 12 weeks (Group 4).
  4. The results for the Taiji participants did not depend on the Taiji instructor.

Result 3 that concludes that meeting twice per week did not show more improvement than meeting once per week may seem puzzling. However, we need to keep in mind that the participants were told by the instructors to practice daily. So this means that most likely the participants in various Taiji groups during the trial were already practicing several times per week independent of whether they had formal practices twice per week or only once per week.

The reason that there was a significant difference between Groups 1/2 and Groups 3/4 is because the participants in Groups 3/4 are less likely to continue practicing Taiji when their official lessons were finished after 12 weeks.

Result 4 means that the positive results of the Taiji groups were due to Taiji, and not to the specific Taiji instructor.

Implication and Significance: Traditionally medication and aerobic exercise are often combined as the main treatment method for people inflicted with fibromyalgia. However, since medicines such as pain relievers and anti-depression medicines may have potential serious side effects such as addiction and adverse mood changes, often aerobic exercise may be the major treatment for many fibromyalgia patients. Since some people may not be able or may not want to do some of the aerobic exercise, having Taiji exercise as an alternative treatment option, especially when it may even be a better treatment option than aerobic exercise, is a significant medical finding.

The trial also showed that the Taiji participants as a whole attended 62% of possible classes, whlle the aerobic exercise participants as a whole attended only 40% of possible classes. This suggests that a Taiji program may be able to retain more of the fibromyalgia patients than a aerobic exercise program.



[1] Fibromyalgia, Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm.

[2] C. Wang, et. al., “Effects of tai chi versus aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia: comparative effectiveness randomized controlled trial,” March 21, 2018, BMJ journal: https://doi.org/101136/bmj.k851. BMJ used to stand for British Medical Journal, but now only the acronym is used. The pdf file for this article can be downloaded at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323938961_Effect_of_tai_chi_versus_aerobic_exercise_for_fibromyalgia_Comparative_effectiveness_randomized_controlled_trial

[3] The paper did not identify the specific Taiji forms that were performed. My guess is that they were simple Yang-style forms.

[4] The Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR) can be found at: https://fiqrinfo.ipage.com/FIQR%20FORM.pdf.

[5] See reference 2 for a description of other assessment tools and other findings at 52 weeks.

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An Important New Book on the 1945 Battle for Manila http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/an-important-new-book-on-the-1945-battle-for-manila/ http://www.dontow.com/2019/03/an-important-new-book-on-the-1945-battle-for-manila/#respond Sat, 23 Mar 2019 05:00:38 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5629

A new book Rampage:  MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila was recently published (October 30, 2018, W. W. Norton) by James M. Scott.  It tells about the retaking of the Philippines in 1945 by the American troops and the horrific atrocities committed by the Japanese troops.  The author was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor (2015, W. W. Norton). [1]

This article provides excerpts from the book review posted on November 4, 2018 in the Los Angeles Times by Bob Drogin, who was the Los Angeles Times’ bureau chief in Manila from 1989 to 1993.  All quotes below are from Drogin’s book review.

Retelling this part of history is long overdue.  “It is hard to imagine that a major monthlong battle from WWII – one that devastated a large city, caused more than 100,000 civilian deaths and led to both a historic war crimes trial and a Supreme Court decision – should have escaped scrutiny until now.”  This new book by James M. Scott has removed that gap.

The book begins in March 1942 by describing how “General Douglas MacArthur, the egotistical military commander of the U.S. colony in the Philippines, was caught woefully unprepared when the war began. Japanese bombers destroyed his planes on the ground and American and Philippine forces were soon overwhelmed.  MacArthur famously vowed to return as he was evacuated to Australia.

Three years later, the tide of the war changed, and the U.S. and her allies were winning the war.  “Most commanders saw ‘no need to risk American lives on a costly invasion of the Philippines’ when the fall of Japan appeared imminent.” 

“But MacArthur insisted, and by early 1945 his troops were closing on Manila. … Convinced the Japanese would abandon Manila, just as he had, MacArthur ordered up a massive victory parade to welcome himself home.”

“On Feb. 6, 1945, MacArthur preemptively announced the city’s liberation, claiming credit in grandiose terms.  Congratulations poured in from Washington, London, and elsewhere.  But the 29-day battle had only just begun.” 

What followed was a month-long battle, which resulted in the death of over 100,000 Filipino civilians, the complete destruction of the beautiful city of Manila, the worst urban fighting in the Pacific theatre, and the deaths of over 1,000 and the wounded of over 5,500 American soldiers.

The Japanese commander, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, was ordered “to bog MacArthur’s forces down in the Philippines and give Japan time to prepare for the expected U.S. invasion (of Japan mainland).  He ordered subordinates to destroy Manila’s bridges and port and then to follow him to the mountains.  Once Yamashita withdrew, however, Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi instead ordered his marines to fight to the last man.  They methodically dynamited Manila’s business, government and religious landmarks, obliterating the city’s cultural heritage, and torched thousands of wooden homes, sparking deadly firestorm  Worse, they cruelly tortured and killed thousands of men, women and children.”

Scott’s book was based on his research using “war crimes records, after-action military reports and other primary sources for the agonizing testimony of Philippine survivors and witnesses of more than two dozen major Japanese atrocities.” 

“The frenzy of Japanese massacres defies imagination.  Countless women were raped and tortured, their babies tossed in the air and bayoneted.  Patients and doctors were stabbed at hospitals, nuns and priests hanged at churches, children tossed into pits with grenades.  Marauding Japanese troops burned people alive in convents, schools and prisons.  They simply buried others alive.”

“Military orders later found by investigators stated that ‘all people on the battlefield… will be put to death.’ The battlefield was the entire city.”

“Against them was a U.S. force unprepared for urban warfare.  They fired 155-millimeter howitzers at point-blank range to dislodge the enemy and used tanks, flamethrowers and bazookas to kill the rest.  They fought block by block, house by house, room by room, leveling hundreds of city blocks.” 

“It was hard to tell who had done more damage – the Japanese defenders or the American liberators.”

After the war in the fall of 1945, General Yamashita was tried in an American military tribunal in Manila for war crimes committed by troops under his command during the Japanese defense of the occupied Philippines. In a controversial decision, Yamashita was found guilty of his troops’ atrocities, although there was no evidence that he approved or even knew of them, and furthermore, many of the atrocities were committed by troops not actually under his command. 

This decision – holding the commander responsible for his or her subordinates’ war crimes as long as the commander did not attempt to discover and stop them from occurring – came to be known as the Yamashita standard.   Yamashita’s American legal defense team appealed the decision to the Philippines Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both courts declined to review the verdict.  The legitimacy of the hasty trial was questioned at the time, including by the American Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, who protested various procedural issues, the inclusion of hearsay evidence, and the general lack of professional conduct by the prosecuting officers. Evidence that Yamashita did not have ultimate command responsibility over all military units in the Philippines was not admitted in court.

Yamashita was sentenced to death and executed by hanging in 1946.  The Yamashita standard was added to the Geneva Conventions and was applied to dozens of trials in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  It has also been adopted by the International Criminal Court established in 2002.

There is now finally a scholarly book on this important part of neglected history.

——————————————–

[1] I want to thank the person who several months ago sent me this book review article. However, I do not remember who sent me the article.

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Implications of Trump’s Presidency for the U.S. and the World: Part I http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/implications-of-trumps-presidency-for-the-u-s-and-the-world/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/implications-of-trumps-presidency-for-the-u-s-and-the-world/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:00:06 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5345

Donald Trump has been the President of the U.S. for only less than two years, but the consequences of his presidency for our country and the world could be profound and scary.  From the perspective of the environment, harmony with others, economy, American competitiveness, tax cuts and budget deficit/national debt, world stability/democracy/rule of law, his impacts have been grave and significant.

This article is in two parts.  Both parts are posted in this same December 2018 release.  Part I is posted in the “Political/Social Commentary” page.  Part II is  posted in the “Other” page.

The article has six sections:

I.   Environment

II.  Harmony with Others

III. Economy

IV. American Competitiveness

V.  Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and National Debt

VI. Summary – World Stability/Democracy/Rule of Law

Sections I-III are in Part I, and Sections IV-VI are in Part II.


I.  Environment:  One of the most urgent problems that will adversely affect the livelihood of our children and grandchildren is global warming.  In spite of what the Trump administration claims that it is not a problem and the problem is not due to human activities, the worldwide scientific community for more than 30 years has agreed that global warming is a real problem [1] and it is man-made. [2]  That was why the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015 adopted by consensus (by close to 200 countries) the Paris Climate Agreement to keep the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (the current temperature is about 1°C above pre-industrial levels) in order to avoid problems such as ricing sea level, less ice and snow, droughts, heat waves, and extreme weather incidents.  The temperature in 2017 was approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels), and increasing at 0.2°C per decade, giving us to approximately 2067 to reach the 2°C.

However, a major report “Global Warming of 1.5°C” was just released on October 8, 2018 by the UN’s “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) based on inputs from 6,000 scientific references and the contributions of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide. [3]  This massive study concludes that significant global adverse impacts will already be occurring by 2040 when the temperature reaches 1.5°C.  These impacts include a world of worsening food shortages, wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs (important because coral reefs protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms. and provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms), resulting in damages at a cost of $54 billion.  The adverse impacts of global warming apparently are occurring faster than what people thought as recently as just a few years ago, as exemplified by the following quote from Bill Hare, an author of previous IPCC reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization:  “The report is quite a shock and quite concerning … We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” [4]

The report pointed out that although the required rapid technical changes to avoid such disasters could be doable, but unfortunately it may be politically unlikely.  President Trump in June 2017 already announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement at its earliest allowed date of November 2020.  Just like in other areas, Trump is just ignoring the truth and following the wishes of his oil and coal industry supporters.  This is just another example of Trump’s priority, which is to himself, his family, his financial empire, and his financial supporters. What is important to the people of the U.S., the people of the world, or the health of the whole planet is really not important to him.

II. Harmony With Others:  Not only that Trump is ignoring the truths, he is criticizing any criticism of him no matter how much evidence that exists to support the criticism, and labeling that evidence as fake news.  He then creates his own fake news and expects his staff and congressional leaders to push his fake news.  Although Hilary Clinton should not have used her non-secured private email server during her presidential campaign, her deeds were far less unlawful (and damaging) than the numerous illegal acts that Trump committed during his presidential campaign with respect to collusion with Russia, payments to hush publicity about extramarital affairs, dealings leading to potential personal financial gains, numerous lies, etc.  Yet, he continues and constantly yells out slogans like “lock her up.”

He has lied literally thousands of times, even when there is obvious evidence that he is lying.  [5]  Trump’s handling of the whole special prosecutor investigation provides plenty of additional information on his trying to cover up the truths. Another thing to consider is the large number of people in Trump’s staff who have either resigned from their positions or have been released of their positions, often due to conflict of opinions on how to do their job lawfully and to the best of their ability, instead of just blindly following Trump’s directives.  A generation or two ago, just a subset of deeds similar to Trump’s if performed by a presidential candidate or by the President of the U.S. would have caused him/her to drop out of the presidential race or landed him/her in impeachment proceedings.  One of Trump’s legacies is how far we have lowered the moral and legal standard in assessing our presidential candidates or our President.

Domestically, Trump has polarized the American people and the American congress into two opposing camps so that the two sides seldom discuss and try to reach any compromises.  Trump’s positions, public comments, and actions toward sexual harassment and racial inequalities have also negated progress that have been made in the last generation and more.

Internationally, Trump has alienated our allies, including allies such as Canada, Great Britain, France, and Germany.  Whatever trusts that have been built in more than half a century have greatly evaporated.  Because of his flip-flop on many issues, international allies can no longer trust Trump on any important issue, and other international leaders can not trust Trump in negotiations.  This creates divisions with our allies and makes it difficult in negotiations with other world leaders.  The end result is heightened tension both domestically and internationally, and increased conflicts and probability of wars, in times that the world can no longer afford more conflicts and wars.

Trump’s ambiguous position on the recent Jamal Khashoggi murder has raised serious question on his moral integrity and honesty, when he is ignoring the findings of his own intelligence organizations that there is solid evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in ordering the murder and dismembering of Khashoggi.  Instead, he looks at the large weapon sales contract by Saudi Arabia and his own financial gains from Mohammed bin Salman.  It proves once again that money is the dominant factor in Trump’s thinking.

How hard does Trump work?  He has spent more vacation days than any previous president.  For example, when Trump was at 437 days in office, he had spent 140 days at Trump properties, and 105 days at golf properties, and during his first seven months in office to the end of August 2017, he had spent 53 days on vacation and played 33 rounds of golf, as compared to 15 days of vacation and 17 rounds of golf for Obama. [6]  When he is on vacation, he often spends it at his own properties, such as in Florida, Washington, D.C., or New Jersey, incurring for his accompanying staff and secret service agents large expenses paid for by tax payers and resulting in income for Trump.  Although it is difficult to calculate the cost of these vacations away from the White House, it is most likely of the order of tens of millions. [7]  When a lot of Americans are trying hard to meet their needs, the president is spending extravagantly with the people’s money.

III. Economy:  Trump has often pointed to the economic boom in the last two years to support his own boasting and political agenda.  Let’s analyze more carefully various economic indicators, and discuss whether the economic improvements during the Trump presidency is a continuation of the progress made during the Obama presidency, since during Obama’s eight years of presidency, the economic situation improved significantly from the serious recession of 2008.  We also need to address the question of short-term gains versus potential long-term losses.

For the economic indicators and the comparison of the Obama period versus the Trump period, we use the statistics and analysis in a recent article in The Washington Post [8].

A.  Jobs:    Trump claims that a lot of jobs were created after Trump became president.  True, but the economy added more jobs in every year of Obama’s second term than it did in Trump’s first year as indicated in the table below.

Year (Feb.-Jan.) Average Monthly Job Growth
2013 189,000
2014 254,000
2015 217,000
2016 208,000
2017 175,000

As a matter of fact, the average monthly job growth in 2014 was about 45% more than the average monthly job growth in 2017!  This really raises doubts on the claim that the increased job growth was due mostly to Trump.  However, Trump’s supporters would claim that the economy performed during Trump’s presidency better than what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had projected at the start of 2017.  Since the country was already near full employment at the end of 2016, CBO projected that the economy would slow down in 2017 and 2018, so their projections for the monthly job growth would be around 140,000 for 2017 and only 94,000 for the first six months of 2018, but the actual monthly job growth was 175,000 for 2017 and 218,000 for the first six months of 2018.   So the growth during Trump’s second year in office was significantly better than the CBO’s projection.  We will discuss more on this later in Section V “Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and National Debt.”

B.  Unemployment Rate:  Trump claims that the unemployment rate is the best it has been in a decade.  In February 2017 shortly after Trump took office, the unemployment rate was 4.7%, and it has held steady at 3.9% since August 2018.  However, one should note that the unemployment rate reached a peak of 10% in October 2009 nine months after Obama took office, and in the next 5-6 years it dropped by more than 5% to a range of 4.6-5.0% starting in August 2015.  Therefore, Obama should get a lot of credit for reducing the unemployment rate.  It is true that the unemployment rate has dropped during the Trump period faster than what the CBO had predicted at the beginning of Trump’s term.  In Section V “Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and National Debt,” we will also revisit this issue.

With the low unemployment, one might expect that the average wage has gone up.  But that is not the case at all.  The real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago, and whatever wage gains that exist, it is mostly for the highest-paid workers. [9]  This implies that the companies doing the hiring may not have faith in the longer-term economy; otherwise, the average wage should be going up.

C.  Stock Market: Trump always points to the performance of the stock market as proof that his policy is good for the country.  Let’s examine more carefully the performance of the U.S. stock market during the last 10 years. Below is a table showing the performance of the S&P 500 for the last 15 years. [10]  The left column shows the year-end date, and the right column shows the S&P 500 index at closing on that date.  We have put in bold four lines:  2009 corresponding to first year of Obama’s first term, 2013 corresponding to the first year of Obama’s second term, 2017 and 2018 corresponding to the first two years of Trump’s presidency.

Data for this Date Range S&P 500 Index
Dec. 31, 2018 -6.2%
Dec. 31, 2017 21.83%
Dec. 31, 2016 11.96%
Dec. 31, 2015 1.38%
Dec. 31, 2014 13.69%
Dec. 31, 2013 32.39%
Dec. 31, 2012 16.00%
Dec. 31, 2011 2.11%
Dec. 31, 2010 15.06%
Dec. 31, 2009 26.46%
Dec. 31, 2008 -37.00%
Dec. 31, 2007 5.49%
Dec. 31, 2006 15.79%
Dec. 31, 2005 4.91%
Dec. 31, 2004 10.88%
Dec. 31, 2003 28.68%

It is true that the stock market did very well in 2017, first year of Trump’s presidency, with a gain of 21.83%.  But the stock market did even better in 2013, first year of Obama’s second term, with a gain of 32.39%, and in 2009, first year of Obama’s first term, with a gain of 26.46%.  After the great recession around 2008, the stock market has been rising for the last 10 years.  Based on the year-end data on December 31, 2018, the S&P 500 was down by 6.2% for 2018, making it the biggest annual loss since 2008. [11]  The data clearly show that the good performance of the stock market in 2017 was not sustained at all in 2018, indicating that the longer-term economy may not be as rosy as what 2017 suggested.  Later in Section 5 “Tax Cuts, Federal Deficit and National Debt,” we will discuss more the future implications of Trump’s economic policy.

Continued in Part II for Sections IV – VI.

—————————–——-

[1] “Environmental Problems:  Global Disasters Waiting to Happen

[2] “Is Global Warming Due Mostly to Human Activities?

[3] The IPCC Special Report “Global Warming of 1.5°C”:  https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

[4] “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040” by Coral Davenport, New York Times, October 7, 2018:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate

[5] Chris Cillizza, “President Trump lied more than 3,000 times in 466 days,” CNN, 5/9/2018.

[6] Kelsey Goeres, “Which President Takes More Vacation Days: Barack Obama or Donald Trump?” CheatSheet, April 23, 2018.

[7] Eric Schaal, “Trump’s $56 Million in Golf Trips, Cost by Extravagant Cost,” CheatSheet, April 23, 2018.

[8] Meg Kelly, “The ‘Trump economy’ vs. the ‘Obama economy’,” The Washington Post, September 18, 2018.

[9] Drew DeSilver, “For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades,” Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018.

[10] S&P 500 Annual Total Return Historical Data.

[11] “US stocks post worst year in a decade as the S&P 500 falls more than 6% in 2018,” CNBC, December 31, 2018.

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A Set of Simple Time-Tested Health Exercises: The Eight Silk Brocade (八段錦) http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/a-set-of-simple-time-tested-health-exercises-the-eight-silk-brocade-%e5%85%ab%e6%ae%b5%e9%8c%a6/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/a-set-of-simple-time-tested-health-exercises-the-eight-silk-brocade-%e5%85%ab%e6%ae%b5%e9%8c%a6/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2018 07:00:00 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5444 There is a simple set of eight exercises that is good for health and can be performed by most people.  This set of exercises has been around for a long time, about 1,000 years; so it has been well time-tested.  It is called Eight Silk Brocade or 八段錦 in Chinese.  It belongs to the category of Qigong exercises, which are stretching, breathing, and meditation exercises.  It is often used as part of the warm-up exercises in a Taiji class.  The exercises can relax you, stretch different parts of your body, and strengthen your muscles.  It is relatively simple, takes only a few minutes to do the set (the length of time of course depends on the number of repetitions for each form).  If you have not tried it, I highly recommend that you give it a try.


The part of the name “silk brocade” may come from the fact that the exercises involve a lot of soft continuous motions, partially resembling the motion when pulling a thread of silk from a silkworm cocoon to make a silk fabric or brocade.  To pull a thread of silk from a silk cocoon, on the one hand one needs to pull the thread with a continuous and soft force, otherwise the thread will not come out.  On the other hand the force cannot be too strong or jerky; otherwise the thread will break.  The word “eight” in the name comes from eight exercises in the set.

Because Eight Silk Brocade has been practiced for so long by so many people, there are many variations of the exercises, as you can see by doing a search on the web.  In this article, I describe a set that I personally like, and which I use as part of the warm-up exercises in my Taiji classes.  Each exercise should be done slowly and in a relaxed manner, while breathing slowly and deeply.  The mind should be free of extraneous thoughts and should focus on the exercise that you are performing.  I now briefly explain each of the eight exercises.  A detailed description of each of the eight exercises can be found by clicking on Eight Silk Brocade-2018-12-18.xls.  Ideally, there should be a video of each of the eight exercises for one to learn the exercise.  Unfortunately, for the set that I like and have chosen as described in the above link, I haven’t been able to find a readily available video in the public web, although there are videos for other sets of the Eight Silk Brocade.  In the future, I will make a video of this particular set and make it available to my students.

I.  Pressing Heaven with Two Hands: This is a stretching exercise that stretches your body vertically.  It also stretches your waist muscles by bending your upper body to the left and right.  This, together with Exercises III and VI, are good exercises to avoid or reduce back problems

II.  Drawing Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly:  This is a stretching exercise that stretches your arms to the left and the right, while simultaneously stretches your crotch/groin muscles during the sitting downward part of the exercise.  It also stretches your neck muscles by turning your head to the left and right.

III.  Separating Heaven and Earth:  This is an extremely good exercise for back problems, either helping you to avoid back problems or reduce your back problems.  By pushing one hand upward and the other hand downward with both hands moving in the vertical plane right in front of the center of your body, you are stretching your spinal vertebrae to allow more space above and below your discs to avoid or reduce the negative effects of herniated discs.  It is important to have your hands in the middle part of your body while pressing them up and down, because this provides maximum stretching of your spinal vertebrae.  Exercises I, III, and VI (as well as V) are all good for back problems, and in my opinion, Exercise III is the best.

IV.  Wise Owl Gazing Backward:  This is an exercise that mainly exercises your neck muscles by turning your head to the left and right while looking slightly backward.

V.  Big Bear Turning from Side to Side: This exercises your side waist muscles as well as the abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles.  These muscles are crucial in supporting and stabilizing your lower back and pelvis.

VI.  Opening the Spine:  By reaching forward while bending your back helps to stretch and strengthen your back muscles.  The beginning of this exercise is identical to the beginning of Exercise I and so also stretches your body vertically.

VII.  Punching with Tiger Eyes:  This exercise is performed in a position like sitting on a stool; so it strengthens your leg muscles, as well as your waist and pelvis muscles.  The punching motion also strengthens your arm muscles.

VIII.  Bouncing on the Heels:  This exercise massages, stretches, and strengthens your feet and ankles.  It also serves as a cool-down exercise to end this set of eight exercises.

The Eight Silk Brocade is a simple set of exercises that has been time tested to provide health benefits to all kinds of people, men and women, old and young, and even people with minor physical or mental disabilities.  It should be doable by most people.  If you are new to the exercise and you are not fit to begin with, you may experience some soreness when you first begin.  That is ok.  However, if you experience pain, not just soreness, while doing any particular exercise or a particular part of an exercise, then you should just skip that exercise or that part of the exercise.

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Implications of Trump’s Presidency for the U.S. and the World: Part II http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/implications-of-trumps-presidency-for-the-u-s-and-world-part-ii/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/implications-of-trumps-presidency-for-the-u-s-and-world-part-ii/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2018 06:00:43 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5486 Donald Trump has been the President of the U.S. for only less than two years, but the consequences of his presidency for our country and the world could be profound and scary.  From the perspective of the environment, harmony with others, economy, American competitiveness, tax cuts and budget deficit/national debt, world stability/democracy/rule of law, his impacts have been grave and significant.

This article is in two parts.  Both parts are posted in this same December 2018 release.  Part I is posted in the “Political/Social Commentary” page.  Part II is this article posted in the “Other” page.

The article has six sections:

I.   Environment

II.  Harmony with Others

III. Economy

IV. American Competitiveness

V.  Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and National Debt

VI. Summary – World Stability/Democracy/Rule of Law

Sections I-III are in Part I, and Sections IV-VI are in Part II.

 

IV. American Competitiveness:  American competitiveness relative to the rest of the world is really the crux of the matter.  To be the world’s economic leader, a country needs to be at the top in terms of several important categories, such as:

  • New ideas and new products
  • Efficient production/manufacturing/distribution processes
  • Educated work force to generate new ideas and produce the products
  • Government leaders who can provide a vision and the ability to implement that vision

Starting with the beginning of the 20th century and continue for several decades after the end of WWII, our country has been the world’s economic leader because we were able to lead, or at least share in the lead, in the above categories.

Our country has been the most innovative in terms of technological inventions, such as airplane, automobile, telecommunications, transistors, computers, search engines, etc.  We have also been among the leaders in developing efficient production/manufacturing/distribution processes, such as the assembly line [12], transportation infrastructure like the national network of highways, and online shopping [13].  Since the end of WWII, the U.S. greatly expanded its higher education system by establishing many good state colleges and universities in addition to the many well-known established private universities, as well as community colleges, producing a large number of educated work force.  It also attracted the top foreign students for colleges or graduate schools, thus infusing the best young talents from the world to our country.  This massive education system has produced the large number of scientists, engineers, business professionals, doctors, teachers, as well as many other professions that staff the backbone of our economy.  This was a key reason for the U.S. becoming the leading economic power in the world in the second half of the 20th century.  Complementing that, we also had competent and dedicated government leaders to provide a vision and the ability to implement that vision on projects such as the Manhattan project, the national transportation infrastructure of highways, airlines, and ports, the space program, and the massive expansion of higher educational systems.

However, perhaps with success, we have been complacent.  Not only that a lot of our manufacturing is now done overseas, the talent that leads to innovations is slowing down significantly.  For example, according to a 2011 Population Reference Bureau (PRB) report [14], in 1994 there were 6.2 U.S.-born workers for every foreign-born worker in science and engineering occupations.  By 2006 only 12 years later, the ratio was 3.1.  Furthermore, this report says that more than 60 percent of foreign-born scientists and engineers in the U.S. in 2009 were from Asia, and nearly one-fourth were from India, with another one-fifth from China, the Philippines, and Taiwan.  This shift to dependency on foreign-born talent is so obviously reflected in the percentage of Americans as compared to foreign students who are in our graduate school engineering and science programs.  As a matter of fact, the statistics are downright frightening.  Here are the data from a 2017 Inside Higher Ed report [15]:

Field of Study Percent International Number of Full-Time International Graduate Students in 2015 Number of Full-Time U.S. Graduate Students in 2015
Electrical Engineering 81% 32,736 7,783
Petroleum Engineering 81% 1,258 302
Computer Science 79% 45,790 12,539
Industrial Engineering 75% 7,676 2,539
Statistics 69% 4,321 1,966
Economics 63% 7,770 4,492
Mechanical Engineering 62% 12,676 7,644
Civil Engineering 59% 9,159 6,284
Chemical Engineering 57% 5,001 3,834
Pharmaceutical Sciences 56% 1,931 1,502
Metallurgical/Materials Engineering 55% 3,723 3,103
Agricultural Engineering 53% 726 654
Agricultural Economics 53% 881 796

For example, the percentages of international graduate students in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2015 are respectively 81% and 79%!  If we don’t do anything to change this, it will not be long before the U.S. becomes a second-tier player in innovations leading to new ideas and new products.

We also need to keep in mind that the living standard and cost of living in the U.S. are significantly higher than other countries outside of Europe.  This means that the U.S. needs to constantly move up in the product “food chain” because we cannot compete based on labor cost.  That is why the statistics just presented are so frightening because it means that we are moving down the product “food chain.”

We agree that more products should be made in the U.S. and more U.S. workers should be hired to produce these products, and the U.S. should be exporting more of our own products and import less of the foreign-made products.  However, we also live in a competitive world.  We cannot just dictate this to other countries of the world.  We have to make it so that it makes economic sense for the other countries, as well as for the U.S., for that to happen.  In order to achieve that objective, we have to reverse the trend and produce more of our own innovators, a highly educated work force, more efficient and cost-competitive production, manufacturing, and distribution processes, and government leaders who can provide a vision and the ability to implement that vision.  Trump is not providing that vision and leadership, but just issuing orders both domestically and internationally with wishful thinking that things will change for the better.  As a matter of fact, Trump has not shown any signs that he even understands the problem.

V. Tax Cuts, Budget Deficit and National Debt:  One of Trump’s signature acts as president was the tax cut act that was passed on December 22, 2017.  It generally reduces personal income taxes, at least until 2025, but the reduction will be significantly more for higher income than for lower income.  For example, a household earning $1 million or more would get an average tax reduction of $69,660, equivalent to 3.3% income increase, while a household earning $50,000 To $75,000 would get a tax reduction of $870, equivalent to 1.6% income increase. [16]  For corporations, the maximum corporate tax rate is reduced from 35% to 21%, the lowest since 1939.  Furthermore, some of the individual tax reductions are only temporary and will be removed after 2015, but the corporate tax reductions are permanent.  It is clear that the Trump tax cut was aimed to benefit the rich and especially the corporations.

What are the implications of this December 2017 tax cut?  The most obvious and most important consequence is that the federal deficit will increase, and it has.  The federal deficits from the year of the last great recession, i.e., fiscal year 2008 (a fiscal year is from the previous October 1 to the year’s September 30) to fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018) are shown in the chart below. [17]

Deficits in billions
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
$458 $1,413 $1,294 $1,295 $1,087 $679 $485 $438 $585 $665 $779

The federal deficit for the just completed fiscal year 2018 was $779 billion, or 3.9% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which is $114 billion more than 2017.  To understand the significance of this, it is important to note that the federal deficit was $458 billion for 2008.  Because of the great recession around 2008, the federal deficit increased drastically to $1,413 billion in 2009.  Then during most of Obama’s presidency, it dropped significantly during the next six years, to $438 billion for 2015 before increasing to $585 billion for 2016.  Our government cannot keep on spending more than it receives; we must reduce the federal deficit.  However, the federal deficit has increased during Trump’s presidency for 2017 (although he is responsible for only eight months of fiscal year 2017) and for 2018.  The federal deficit for fiscal year 2019 is estimated to be $984 billion, an increase of over $200 billion over 2018!

In Sections III.A and III.B we mentioned that in 2018,  job growth was significantly better than what the Congressional Budget Office had projected and the unemployment rate dropped below 4%.  These results could be due to more people having more money to spend and corporations having more money to invest as a result of Trump’s tax cuts.  However, these positive results most likely will be only temporary because the tax cuts also led to significantly higher budget deficit and dangerous rapidly climbing national debt.  The fact that the stock market has cooled down significantly, and ending 2018 with a 6.2% loss, making it the worst year in a decade (as discussed in Section III.C) may already be an indication that people and corporations may not be that optimistic about the longer-term health of our economy.

Besides the federal deficit, we should also look at the cumulative consequence of federal deficits, i.e., the national debt.  The national debts over the last 19 years are shown in the table below [18]

Date National Debt ($)
09/30/2018 21,516,058,183,180.23
09/30/2017 20,244,900,016,053.51
09/30/2016 19,573,444,713,936.79
09/30/2015 18,150,617,666,484.33
09/30/2014 17,824,071,380,733.82
09/30/2013 16,738,183,526,697.32
09/30/2012 16,066,241,407,385.89
09/30/2011 14,790,340,328,557.15
09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79
09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75
09/30/2008 10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006 8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005 7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004 7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003 6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001 5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000 5,674,178,209,886.86

Note that it has continued to increase during these 19 years, with higher increases shortly after the great recession around 2008.  To understand the significance of these national debt numbers, it is useful to look at the ratio of the national debt over GDP (Gross Domestic Product, i.e., the total value of everything produced in the country).  This ratio was 55% in 2000, 68% in 2008.  It jumped to 83% in 2009 and 90% in 2010 during the great recession around 2008, and continued to increase to 103% in 2017 and 104% in 2018.  This means that the amount of money we owe now is more than what the country can produce in a whole year!  Politicians like to promise to reduce the budget deficit or the national debt.  But Trump went completely over the cliff when in a March 31, 2016 interview with The Washington Post, he promised that he will eliminate our country’s national debt (not just the budget deficit) of $19 trillion in eight years! [19]  Of course no one believed him, including Trump himself.  This is just another example that Trump’s promises are often completely meaningless, and many times he really doesn’t know what he is talking about.

There are several reasons that it is extremely important to eliminate or reduce the budget deficit, and especially to reduce the national debt. [20]   One is that “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare benefits will be at risk if the national debt continues to rise. [21]  This is because entitlement programs now already comprise about 14% of the federal spending.  Another reason is that other countries will stop buying our debt and the stock and bond markets will lose confidence in our fiscal policy causing prices to plunge.  Spending money now and asking our children and grandchildren to pay for it is just wrong and not workable because if we cannot solve the problem now, it will be even less likely for them to solve the problem since the problem will become bigger and bigger as we continue to accumulate debt.  We should also keep in mind that they will have to pay for rebuilding many of our outdated national infrastructures and many of them will also have to pay off their large college loans.

Therefore, we should address this problem as soon as possible.  Both parties must be willing to compromise to address this most critical problem.  We don’t want to run into an impasse as mentioned partially jokingly by the author of the referenced Forbes article [20] “Republicans haven’t met a defense budget they couldn’t increase and Democrats insist on comparable increases in domestic spending.”  It will be impossible to reduce the national debt if the defense budget and entitlement programs are allowed to continue to grow.  It is critical that the two sides must be willing to listen to each other and compromise for the long-term good of our country.  This is where we must have courageous leaders with a vision and ability to implement that vision.

VI.. Summary – World Stability/Democracy/Rule of Law:  The world has been changing with many formerly colonized or under-developed countries emerging to become competent competitors to the U.S. and other Western powers.  If the U.S, wants to remain to be the world’s economic leader, it also must change.  It must lead the world in innovations with new ideas, new products, and new processes.  This requires a highly educated workforce to create, produce, distribute, and market.  It also requires experienced, dedicated, and hard working government leaders who have vision, the ability to mobilize the nation to implement that vision, and the heart for the welfare of the people.

Unfortunately, as far as a highly educated workforce, as we discussed in Section IV “American Competitiveness,” we are actually moving backwards.  This is especially important because our cost of living is higher than almost all of our competitors, so we must move up the product “food chain.”  Our national debt has skyrocketed so high that just paying off the interest owed on our national debt will take a significant bite out of our national income.  Furthermore, what we now have in power are President Trump and his team who look at the world with their own make-up “facts,” govern by dictates and strong arms, do not understand the issues (and often do not even try to understand the issues), and cannot work with others whose opinions are not the same as theirs.  Our country is so polarized; there is so much mistrust on both sides that it is almost impossible to compromise and move forward in a positive way.  In addition, President Trump has alienated long-time allies, and created mistrusts with other world leaders because of his “my-way-or-the-highway” tactics and his ever-changing positions.

If we don’t change course quickly, there will be more instability in the world, more tensions, and the probability of war will increase.  The world cannot afford more wars, especially a war involving nuclear powers.  There is no winner in a nuclear war.  Our country prides ourselves as a democracy and a country ruled by law.  However, our president acts as though he is above the law, and there is not enough wisdom and courage to take him to task on this critical and fundamental issue that no one is above the law.  We should take to heart the conclusion reached by Christopher R. Browning, one of the world’s authorities on the history of the Holocaust and the author of the books The Origins of the Final Solution:  The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (2004) and Ordinary Men:  Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (2017).  In this latter book, he discussed how ordinary men were transformed psychologically into active participants in the most monstrous crime in human history.  With Trump’s intolerance, his high evaluation of himself, and his belief that he is above the law, our country could also be transformed into a dictatorship.

Since the large majority of evangelical Christians are strong supporters of Trump, and it was this strong support that sent Trump to the White House, it is important that evangelical Christians seriously reassess whether Trump’s behaviors and his policies are consistent with Christian teaching, and if not, then they should not only stop supporting Trump, but should work hard to get him out of office.  The future of our country, especially the future of our children and grandchildren, is in the balance.

—————————–

[12] Contrary to common belief, the automobile assembly line was not invented by Henry Ford, but the originator was another American Ransom Eli Olds, originator of the Oldsmobile, who invented the automobile assembly line in 1901, two years before Henry Ford.

[13] Although online shopping was invented by Michael Aldrick in United Kingdom in 1979. its boom is normally associated with Amazon.com, founded by the American Jeff Bezos in 1994.

[14] Mary Kent, “More U.S. Scientists and Engineers Are Foreign-Born,” Population Reference Bureau (PRB), January 11, 2011.

[15] Elizabeth Redden, “Foreign Students and Graduate STEM Enrollment“, Inside Higher Ed, October 11, 2017.

[16] Danielle Kurtzleben, “CHARTS:  See How Much of GOP Tax Cuts Will Go to the Middle Class,” NPR report, December 19, 2017.

[17] U.S. federal deficit chart.

[18] U.S. national debt.

[19] See, e.g., Manuela Tobias, PolitiFact, October 20, 2017, or Paul Brandus, MarketWatch, February 9, 2018.

[20] David Davenport, “Five Reasons Why You Should Worry About the National Debt,” Forbes, February 28, 2018.

[21] One may object to referring to Social Security as an entitlement program because the employee and the employer contribute to Social Security.  So it is not a handout from the federal government.

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History and Tales of Alhambra (Granada, Spain) http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/history-and-tales-of-alhambra-granada-spain/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/history-and-tales-of-alhambra-granada-spain/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 08:00:52 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5217 During July 25-27, 2018, I participated at the 13th International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at the University of Granada in Granada, Spain.  The theme of the conference was “Autonomy in Times of Turmoil:  What to Make of the Social?”  I presented a talk titled “10,000 Cries for Justice” (to see the Powerpoint presentation, click here).  The day before the conference I joined a tour of Alhambra, the famous palace and fortress whose history spanned about a thousand years involving Arab Muslims, Christians, Spanish, French, and Roman kingdoms, and it is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

Palace-Fortress of Alhambra (by Jebulon). Click on picture to get a larger photo.

This article provides a short description of some of the history and tales of Alhambra.  Its popularity was partially due to the writing of Washington Irving (1783-1859), one of the first American writers getting acclaim in Europe, and is best known for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” (1819) and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820), and his historical books on Christopher Columbus (1828), [1] Mahomet (or Muhammad) (1850), and George Washington (5 volumes, 1855-1859).  He was also the American ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846, and he lived inside the Alhambra palace/fortress for several months in 1829, and published the book Tales of the Alhambra (1832).

Historical Highlights of Alhambra:  Alhambra is situated in Granada in the Andalusia region in the southern coast of Spain, with Seville as the capital, and Gibraltar and Malaga as other important cities of that region.  It was under Moorish rule from the 8th-15th centuries.  The Moors were the Arab Muslims who originally came from northwest Africa (e.g., Morocco, Algeria, Libra, etc.) and the Iberian Peninsula in the southwest corner of Europe (mostly Portugal and Spain).  The Nasrid dynasty was the last Arab Muslim dynasty in Iberia, ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1491.

  • Originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 built on the remains of Roman fortifications.
  • Then neglected and fallen into ruins during the next 400 years.
  • Renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. [2]
  • In 1333, it was converted into a royal palace by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.
  • After almost 800 years of Muslim rule and after many battles, Spain including the Andalusia region finally fell to Christian rule with the Christian Reconquista in 1491. [3]  When the troops of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain laid siege to Granada in 1492, Boabdil, the then and last Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada, decided to surrender.  Speculation is that part of the reason he gave up without a fight was to avoid the destruction of his precious Alhambra.
  • Then Alhambra became the Royal Court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and it was here where Christopher Columbus received their royal endorsement for his expedition. [1]  The palace’s architecture was partially altered in the Renaissance style.
  • In 1526 when Spain, Italy, as well as many parts of Europe were under the rule of the Roman Emperor Charles V, he commissioned a new Renaissance palace at Alhambra befitting the Holy Roman Emperor.  However, the new palace was never completed due to various rebellions in Granada.
  • Then Alhambra fell into disrepair for centuries, and the buildings were occupied by squatters.
  • When Napoleon’s troops conquered Granada in 1808, he intended to blow up the palace.  The story is that his plans were hampered by a wounded soldier who had been left behind in the palace, who then succeeded single-handedly in diffusing the intended explosion, and thus saved the beautiful palace for posterity.
  • Alhambra was rediscovered by British and other European travelers.  Here one can find Spain’s most significant and well-known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden additions. [4]  Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra helped to popularize it and Alhambra has become one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

Courtyard of the Palace of Charles V (by Ra-smit)

 

Court of the Lions (by comakut)

Court of the Lions (by comakut)

 

Honeycomb in the Hall (by jvwpe)

 

Pools in the Palacio de Generalife (by Berthold Werner)

 

Panoroma of the Alhambra (by Slaunger)

 

Night View of Alhambra (by Anjad Sheikh)

 

Interesting Facts and Tales of Alhambra:  Besides offering beautiful architectural buildings and gardens, Alhambra also has many interesting facts and tales.  Here we describe a few.

  • To provide drinking water for the people, including the rulers and their families, living inside the palace, an aqueduct was constructed from outside of the palace to lead to inside the palace.  In order to assure that the water is safe to drink, they placed turtles in the aqueduct inside the palace.  If the turtles were alive, then the water was safe to drink.  To provide added assurance, they asked the soldiers inside the palace to drink the water first.
  • Granada means pomegranate in Spanish.  So Granada was named after the fruit pomegranate.
  • There are 613 seeds in the pomegranate, and there are 613 Mosaic laws in the Old Testament.
  • There are a lot of orange trees inside the gardens of Alhambra.  They are called mandarin because they were thought to be native and imported trees from China.
  • The general theme of a traditional Islamic garden is water and shade, not surprisingly since Islam usually came from a hot and arid climate. Unlike English gardens, which are often designed for walking, Islamic gardens are intended for rest and contemplation. For this reason, Islamic gardens usually include places for sitting, and is quieter for contemplation.
  • There are two types of water fountains in the gardens in Alhambra:  A quieter type that typifies a Muslim garden, and a louder type with water pump that typifies an English garden.
  • There is a story that Catholics take a bath only once a year, because they believe that the body’s dirt helps to prevent infection.
  • This is one of the tales told by Washington Irving in his book Tales of the Alhambra.  The story revolves around a poor mason and a rich priest.  The priest wanted to build a safe deep inside his house to keep his bags of gold in a secret place.  So he hired this poor mason and blindfolded him to take him to his house, and didn’t remove the blindfold from the mason until they were inside the house in a room with a fountain.  Then the priest asked the mason to build a burial vault, and asked him to help carry the bags of gold and put inside the vault.   Then the priest blindfolded the mason again and took him home.  Later the priest died, but didn’t leave any money with anyone.  The person who was taken care of the old decaying house of the priest asked the mason if he was willing to take the job with little pay to fix up the house so he can rent it out.  When the mason was shown the house and saw the room with the fountain, he immediately agreed to do the job and only asked as his compensation to live free in the house while he was doing the repair.  Since he asked for such small compensation, he immediately got the job.  So the mason took apart the burial vault and took away the gold.  The poor mason became very rich.  People frequently heard the sound of clinking of gold coins coming from the pockets of the mason, whereas in the old days of the priest they often heard the sound of clinking of gold coins from inside the house of the priest.

Other tales of Alhambra can be found in Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra.  If you are ever in this part of Spain, I highly recommend that you visit and take a tour of Alhambra.


[1] Washington Irving actually contributed to the fictional story which is still widely believed even today that medieval Europeans (including scientists and church leaders) believed that the earth was flat, which was not true, because the predominant belief for many centuries before and during the Middle Ages (5th century-15th century) of historians, scientists, and church leaders was that the earth was round.  Irving’s writing A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus is romanticized biography and is a mixture of history and fiction.  He gave a largely fictional account of the meetings of a commission established by the Spanish sovereigns to examine Columbus’s proposals. One of his fictional stories was that the ignorant and bigoted members on the commission meeting in Granada had raised scriptural objections to Columbus’s assertions that the Earth was spherical.

[2] The Nasrid dynasty was the last Arab Muslim dynasty in Iberia, ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1491. The word “emir” means a Muslim ruler or a Muslim military commander of a region of land known as his emirate.  But an emir is usually lower rank than a sultan.  A sultan is like the king of a region of land, and an emir is like a military commander of that region of land or a ruler of a part of the sultan’s territory.

[3] The Christian Reconquista refers to the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between 711 when Muslims first ruled all of Iberia and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1491.

[4] Many more beautiful photos of Alhambra can be found in the book “Reading The Alhambra:  A visual guide to the Alhambra through its inscriptions.

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More Introduction to Taiji Push Hands http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/more-introduction-to-taiji-push-hands/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/more-introduction-to-taiji-push-hands/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 07:00:44 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5292 The article “Taiji Push Hands:  An Introduction” in the previous release describes Push Hands which is the practice with a partner applying many of the techniques and forms in Taiji form practice for martial applications, i.e., for one-to-one combat.  It describes the basic components of Push Hands:

  • Ting (the ability to “listen” to your opponent’s intention and respond by deflecting attacking force)
  • Yielding (not opposing, but supplements attacking force with a small force along similar direction)
  • Fa Jing (quickly generate power when it is time to counterattack)

This second article provides more details about these basic components of Push Hands.

“Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself”:  Is the well known axiom of combat by Sun Tzu in his classic book The Art of War.  The full quote [1] means that if you know your enemy and the enemy doesn’t know you, then you will win the battle.  This is the significance of “Ting.”

In Taiji, you learn about your opponent through touch, i.e., the contact point between you and your opponent.  You learn about the location, direction, strength, speed, etc. of your opponent’s intended attack.  By relaxing yourself, you increase the sensitivity of your body at the point of contact.  Furthermore, by relaxing yourself, your opponent will not be able to learn about you.  So what the opponent feels is like touching cotton, soft and without much resistance.  The end result is you know your enemy and your enemy doesn’t know you.

This is why Taiji always emphasizes relaxation and soft movements [2].  Relaxation, then, contributes to both the health aspect and the martial aspect of Taiji.  As a matter of fact, these double benefits apply almost universally to many aspects of Taiji, that is, what is good for health is also good for martial art, and what is good for martial art is also good for health.

When your opponent carries out his attack, you immediately need to do two things.  One is to turn you body so that the attacking force doesn’t end up on your body, at least not fully on your body.  Another is to deflect the attacking force.  Let’s denote the direction of the attacking force as x, then a small force along the perpendicular direction y will be able to deflect that attacking force, because the attacking force has no force component along the y-direction.

This is the fundamental basis of another classic Chinese saying “four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds.”  The word “deflect” means that you apply a force with a component along y, the perpendicular direction of the attacking force.  Since the thousand pound attacking force has no component along the y-direction, a small force in the y-direction will be able to deflect. [3]

Note that the classic Chinese saying doesn’t say that “four ounces can oppose a thousand pounds.”  To oppose successfully against that thousand pound attacking force, you will need a force that is larger than thousand pounds.  Then the person who wins the battle will be the bigger and stronger person.  The classic Chinese saying only says that “four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds.”  In Taiji, a smaller and weaker person can defeat a bigger and stronger opponent.

Supplement Your Opponent’s Attacking Force:  Instead of opposing your opponent’s attacking force head-on, supplement the opponent’s attacking force with a small force along the same direction (direction-x), i.e, yielding.  Then the opponent may over-extend himself, and lose balance.  That is, you just change the victim of this combat from yourself to your opponent.  When we combine this yielding x-force with the previous deflecting y-force, your total response to the opponent’s attack along the x-direction will be a force somewhere between the x-direction and the y-direction.

When the opponent senses that he may be losing balance by over extending himself in the x-direction, he may try to retrieve his attacking arm and change direction and move in the negative x-direction.  Then you also change direction and move in the negative x-direction, and change your defensive motion to an offensive motion by moving your arm forward toward your opponent.  This is precisely what is practiced in the second form “Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane” of the Simplified Yang Style 24 Form.  From yielding as a defensive move to a counter attack as an offensive move is so typical of Taiji that it is reflected in the Taiji symbol

Image result for Taiji symbol

The white fish-like part in the Taiji symbol can be thought of as a defensive move, and the black fish-like part can be thought of as an offensive move.  The small black dot inside the white fish-like part can be thought of as the potential for an offensive move while executing a defensive move.  Similarly, the small white dot inside the black fish-like part can be thought of as the potential for a defensive move while executing an offensive move.  When the Taiji symbol is rotated, the white fish changes into the black fish, and the black fish changes into a white fish, signifying that in Taiji one is in constant motion, changing from a defensive mode to an offensive mode, and changing from an offensive mode to a defensive mode.

If we understand the concept explained in the previous paragraph, we understand the fundamental basis of Taiji, the constant motion and change between defense and offense, which is so eloquently captured in the Taiji symbol.  This fundamental basis of Taiji is already exhibited very early, in the second form of the Simplified Yang Style 24 Form.

Circular Motion and Silk Cocoon Reeling:  The above discusses the importance of yielding and deflection, and then changing from defense to offense, and offense to defense.  This is why Taiji involves a lot of circular motion, in particular, in a technique known as “silk cocoon reeling (缠丝功).”  Silk cocoon reeling refers to the technique of pulling a silk string from a silk worm’s cocoon to provide the ingredient to make silk clothing.  To pull the silk out of the cocoon, one must apply a force.  However, that force must be steady to continue pulling the string, but can not be too large, because the silk string will break easily if the force is too large.  Since the silk is wrapped in a cocoon, the motion of pulling out the silk has to be circular.  This means that the pulling force has to be firm but not too strong and moves in a circular motion, like screwing or unscrewing a screw.  To provide that constant pulling motion without getting tired quickly and without breaking the silk string, the arm must be relaxed and the movement must be soft.

Let’s now discuss how is this related to Taiji push hands.  As discussed previously, the Taiji push hands practitioner must be relaxed to “ting” or to learn about the opponent and not to allow the opponent to learn about you.  He also must yield and deflect, i.e., apply a force that is somewhere between the x-direction and the y-direction if the opponent’s attacking force is along the x-direction.  He also must constantly change from a defensive motion to an offensive motion, and vice versa.  If you visualize a circular motion of your right hand (to be more specific, visualize your right hand doing a clockwise circular motion) while simultaneously moving your right hand slightly backward, you are deflecting and yielding to the opponent’s attacking force.  Furthermore, after you have successfully deflected your opponent’s attack, you launch a counter attack by pushing forward with your hand.  That is precisely what you are doing after your right hand has completed part of the circular motion, and then instead of continuing to move your right hand slightly backward, you now move your right hand forward, i.e., you just changed from defense to offense.

Generate Power Quickly:  When we counter attack against an opponent, for the attack to be effective, there must be sufficient force to the attack.   Since the transition from defense to offense occurs quickly, we must be able to generate power quickly, i.e., “fa-jing.”  The silk cocoon reeling movement is temporarily interrupted with “fa-jing.”  The importance to be able to generate power quickly becomes even more important when as discussed earlier, the transition between defense and offense may be repeating itself constantly.

Brief Summary:  In practicing Taiji Push Hands with a partner, we are utilizing the forms that we learn in practicing the various Taiji form sets in a one-to-one combat situation.  We make use of the basic techniques of Taiji:  relaxation, soft steady movement, “ting,” “yielding,” “fa-jing,” and circular motion as in silk cocoon reeling.  We execute the movements as reflected in the Taiji symbol.  As mentioned in the previous article, PushHands is practiced via initially a series of choreographed-exercises for the two participants (e.g., one-hand, two-hand, stationary, and moving choreographed-exercises), and later to non-choreographed free-style push hands exercises. [4]


[1] “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

[2] Soft movement until the time for you to counter attack.  Then you “fa jing,” i.e., generate power quickly.

[3] Of course, the amount of time it takes to deflect depends on the strength of the deflecting force.  If that deflecting force is very small, it will take a long time.  Therefore, in actual combat, that deflecting force cannot be too small.  What is important for the current discussion is to understand the concept:  that a small force in the perpendicular direction of the attacking force can deflect a large attacking force.

[4] There are many books on Taiji Push Hands.  One good reference is the book 太极推手技击传真, 2005 by 王凤鳴 (in Chinese.  My English translation of the title is Treatise on Skills of Taiji Push Hands, 2005 by Wang Feng-Ming).

 

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Is Global Warming Due Mostly to Human Activities? http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/is-global-warming-due-mostly-to-human-activities/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/09/is-global-warming-due-mostly-to-human-activities/#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2018 06:00:58 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5242 An article “Environmental Problems: Global Disasters Waiting to Happen” in the June 2018 release of this website discusses evidence that global warming (or climate change) is definitely occurring. The increase in the world’s average temperature will have tremendous impacts on the livelihood of essentially all localities across the globe.  If we don’t take appropriate actions now, these problems are serious and could become insurmountable 50, 100 years from now. These insurmountable problems will be faced by our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren due to the actions or in-actions that our leaders adopt today. impacts such as:

  • More drought and flooding across the whole globe
  • Less ice and snow resulting in insufficient water for areas that depend on melting ice and snow from mountains
  • More extreme weather incidents resulting in more deadly heat waves, violent rainfalls, and severe storms
  • Rising sea level, resulting in massive flooding along every coast.

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is a symbol of hope that the leaders of the world are wise enough to recognize the problem and start to initiate actions to address the problem. [1]  Unfortunately, our current president of the U.S., Donald Trump, has already announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

The next critical question is whether global warming is due mostly to human activities.  In other words, if global warming is due mostly to natural phenomena or is a historical trend of our planetary system, then there may not be much we as humans can do about it.  This article discusses evidence from scientific analysis that global warming during the last 100+ years is primarily due to human activities.

What is global warming?  The sun radiates a lot of sunlight (in the visible wavelength) toward earth.  Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, and part of the sunlight is absorbed by the atmosphere, and part of the sunlight passes through the atmosphere unchanged (i.e., transparently). When the sunlight hits the surface of the earth, it interacts with the surface of the earth, part of that energy is transferred to the molecules of the surface of the earth by increasing their molecular motion.  The earth’s surface then re-rediates that energy as heat (in the infrared wavelength) to the atmosphere.  Some of that heat energy is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, and the rest is radiated back to space.  The amount of the heat energy absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere depends on the types and amounts of material in the atmosphere.  That energy trapped by the atmosphere can warm up the atmosphere and the surface of the earth.  If we increase the amount of certain matter in the atmosphere, then the amount of energy absorbed by the atmosphere increases, thus increasing the temperature in the atmosphere and around the surface of the earth, including the water in the ocean.

This is like sunlight entering a greenhouse, and part of the reflected sunlight gets trapped by the glass of the greenhouse and increases the temperature in the greenhouse.  That is why global warming is also known as the greenhouse effect. because part of the energy re-radiated by the earth is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere resulting in an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere and the surface of the earth.

History and Current Status of Global Warming Research:  Actually global warming research is not new.  It goes back to 1859 when the Irish physicist John Tyndall found that carbon dioxide absorbed heat and so variation in the composition of the atmosphere could create changes in climate. Using Tyndall’s findings, the Swedish chemist and future Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius pointed out in 1896 that the combustion of coal and petroleum could raise global temperatures.  Numerous scientific research in the last 100 years have confirmed that the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from burning coal, gas, and petroleum does contribute to global warming.  Scientists can correlate the increase of carbon dioxide and therefore its contribution to global warming in the last 150 years.  Besides carbon dioxide, our atmosphere contains other gases, such as water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons.  Similarly, scientists can estimate the contribution to global warming (or sometime global cooling) from other influencers in the last 150 years.  Such research has repeatedly shown that over this extended period the contribution from carbon dioxide matches nicely with the increase in the earth’s surface temperature over the last 150 years.

There are other natural (i.e., not man-made) influencers that may contribute to global warming.  Here are the two most common examples of natural influencers:

  • Do changes to solar radiation contribute to global warming?  It is true that over long periods (millions of years), changes in solar radiation has contributed to earth’s climate change, e.g., ice ages.  However, all the research studies have shown that changes in the rate of solar heating over the last century cannot account for the magnitude of the rise in global mean temperature over this extended period.
  • Are volcano eruptions causing global warming?  Just the opposite, volcano eruptions inject sulphate aerosols high into the stratosphere, where they can remain aloft for a few years, but the sulphate aerosols will reflect incoming sunlight back into space, thus cooling the earth’s surface.  Furthermore, once the sulphates drift back down to the surface of the earth, the cooling effect of volcanoes goes away.  Both of these results are inconsistent with the observed data.

As a matter of fact, the contribution to global warming from carbon dioxide alone would have increased the earth’s temperature even more than the observed curve.  After taking into account that certain influencers actually decrease the earth’s temperature, such as volcano eruptions or man-made aerosol released into the atmosphere by various aerosol cans (e.g., for mosquito repellents), then the total contribution to global warming matches nicely with the observed increased in temperature over the last 150 years. [2]

Political History and Implications:  Actually fairly early top scientists and leaders of the U.S. government already realized the seriousness of the global warming problem.  For example, in 1974, the CIA already issued a classified report that climate change had begun around 1960 due to the carbon dioxide problem, and had “already caused major economic problems throughout the world.”  In 1978, Jason, the federal government’s premiere team of the most intelligent American scientists already issued a report that when the amount of carbon dioxide doubles in about 50+ years, disastrous climate changes would result, including rapid melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet.  In 1979, Dr. Jule Charney, the father of modern meteorology and a team of the nation’s top oceanographers, atmospheric scientists and climate modelers issued a report validating the seriousness of the global warming problem.  This study was commissioned by Dr. Frank Press, Scientific Advisor to President Carter.  In other words, almost 40 years ago, the scientific results were already fairly extensive and definitive that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe strongly that global warming is both a fact and is caused by human activities.

However, for various political reasons and the lobbying strength of the coal, gas, and oil industry. the necessary actions that can address and slow down the global warming problem were never implemented during the last almost 40 years.  We know that if we don’t act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the problem may escalate to a point of no return.  The problem will be worse for our children, and become more worse for their children, and their children’s children.  It seems that based on our inactions, their lives don’t seem to mean anything to us.  We hope that at some point, the fears of our young people, will overcome the fears of the old, and a future generation will gather enough wisdom and power to act. [3]


[1]  The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is a voluntary agreement, and almost all the countries of the world are not doing nearly as much as what were projected.  Nevertheless, its very existence is a recognition by the international community of the importance of this issue and the need to address it.

[2] See, e.g., the article “Analysis: Why scientists think 100% of global warming is due to humans“:  https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-why-scientists-think-100-of-global-warming-is-due-to-humans.

[3] The whole 60-page August 5, 2018 issue of the New York Times Magazine was about the global warming problem.

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Trump Legacy: Changing Standard for Assessing a Political Leader http://www.dontow.com/2018/06/trump-legacy-changing-standard-for-assessing-a-political-leader/ http://www.dontow.com/2018/06/trump-legacy-changing-standard-for-assessing-a-political-leader/#comments Sat, 23 Jun 2018 07:00:07 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=5131 Donald Trump has been the President of the U.S. for less than 18 months, but his behavior and public statements already have an adverse impact on one important aspact of the American government and society.  His frequent outright lies, on almost every subject under the sun, have desensitized people, other government leaders, and the media so that such outright lies are no longer that important as an assessment of whether a political leader should be criticized, or should even remain in office.  It is as though they have been vaccinated against being affected by these lies.  This article discusses some examples and implications.

Essentially on a daily basis on every topic, ranging from personal to national to international issues, Trump has repeatedly lied, even on purely factual issues not subject to any interpretation.  Furthermore, his lies have often been immediately pointed out by various fact checkers.  Yet, negative consequences for him have been drastically less than comparable actions for other political leaders in the past.

Samples of Trump’s Lies:  Trump’s lies are too numerous to be listed in this article.  Here are two references:

  1. “Trump’s Lies” by David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson, NY Times, 12/14/2017.  This article listed a couple hundreds of Trump’s lies up to 11/11/2017.
  2. “President Trump lied more than 3,000 times in 466 days” by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large, 5/9/2018.  This article keeps a finer and more detailed check of Trump’s lies from 1/20/2017 to end of April 2018.

We illustrate with some examples:

  • 1/21/2017:  Referring to the Times magazine, Trump said “I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times.  I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”  In reality Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.
  • 1/25/2017:  Referring to the inauguration ceremony, Trump said “the audience was the biggest ever.  But this crowd was massive.  Look how far back it goes.  This crowd was massive.” But official aerial photos show Obama’s 2009 inauguration was much more heavily attended.
  • 2/6/17:  “I have already saved more than $700 million when I got involved in the negotiation on the F-35.”  But much of the price drop was projected before Trump took office.
  • 2/16/17:  Referring to the Electoral College voting, Trump said “We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes.  I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.”  But George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won bigger margins in the Electoral College.
  • 2/16/17:  “Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives.”  But the jobs are a result of its investment plans announced in Oct. 2016.
  • 2/24/17:  “Obamacare covers very few people”  But Obamacare increased coverage by a net of about 20 million.
  • 3/4/17:  “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  But there is no evidence of a wiretap.
  • 3/31/17:  “We have a lot of plants going up now in Michigan that were never going to be there if I — if I didn’t win this election, those plants would never even think about going back. They were gone.”  But these investments were already planned.
  • 4/11/17:  “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve.”  But he knew Steve Bannon since 2011.
  • 4/28/17:  “The trade deficit with Mexico is close to $70 billion, even with Canada it’s $17 billion trade deficit with Canada.” But the U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus, not deficit, with Canada in 2016.
  • 7/17/17:  “We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever.”  But Clinton, Carter, Truman, and F.D.R. had signed more at the same point.
  • 7/19/17:  “But the F.B.I.. person really reports directly to the president of the U.S.”  But he reports directly to the attorney general.
  • 7/25/17:  “We have the highest taxes anywhere in the world, and this will really bring them down to one of the lowest.”  But tax rates in the U.S. are below average, overall and for an industrialized country.
  • 7/28/17:  “The previous administration enacted an open-door policy to illegal migrants from Central America. “Welcome in. Come in, please, please.”  But Obamad deported millions
  • 7/28/17:  “We have trade deficits with almost every country because we had a lot of really bad negotiators making deals with other countries.”  But the U.S. has a trade surplus with more than 100 countries.
  • 7/31/17:  “And even the President of Mexico called me – they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”  But Mexico’s president says he didn’t call Trump.
  • 8/3/17:  “The Russia story is a total fabrication.”  But it is not.
  • 8/22/17:  “I mean truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories. They have no sources in many cases. They say ‘a source says’ – there is no such thing.”  But the media in these cases did not make up sources.
  • 8/22/17:  “We have become an energy exporter for the first time ever just recently.”  But the U.S. isn’t projected to become a net energy exporter until 2026.
  • 9/6/17:  “The taxes are crazy – the highest-taxed nation in the world.”  But we’re not. 
  • 9/27/17:  “No, I don’t benefit. I don’t benefit. In fact, very very strongly, as you see, I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.”  But the tax plan would personally benefit Trump and other wealthy individuals. 
  • 10/6/17:  “They also just said that there has been absolutely no collusion. They just said that. Yesterday. Two days ago. Senate. There has been no collusion.”  But the Senate didn’t say that.
  • 10/16/17:  Referring to Trump’s remarks and actions toward women, Trump said “All I can say is it’s totally fake news, just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.”  But Trump himself has bragged about groping women. 
  • 11/11/17:  “I’d rather have him – you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about whether or not – because that whole thing was set up by the Democrats.”  But there is no evidence that Democrats “set up” Russian interference in the election.
  • 3/27/18:  On numerous occasions in 2017 and 2018 (and even as early as 2016 and 2015), Trump had said that the U.S. will build a wall on the border of the U.S. and Mexico and that he will get Mexico to pay for the wall.  But he is no longer saying that any more.  Instead, since 3/27/18, he has voiced the possibility of getting the U.S. military to pay for the wall.
  • 5/3/18:  On many occasions in 2017 and 2018, Trump had denied that he knew anything about the $130,000 hush money he, through his personal attorney Michael Cohen, paid off to the porn actress Stormy Daniels for an alleged affair in 2006.  But in a 5/3/18 tweet, he admitted that he had paid back Mr. Cohen for this hush money.
  • 6/5/18:  Referring to the 2018 Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, Trump said “I had uninvited the Birds from the traditional post-Super Bowl victory visit. Why? In part because only a small number of players decide to come, and in part because some of their players had been kneeling or standing in the locker room during the national anthem.”  But no Eagles player kneeled during the national anthem in 2017, and the Eagles was one of just seven NFL teams with a perfect non-kneeling record for 2017, and they didn’t wait in the locker room either.

Assessment and Implications:  Trump has lied publicly probably more than the sum of lies of all the previous 45 presidents.  Furthermore, on many lies, he kept repeating the same lies on several subsequent occasions even though various fact checkers had already pointed out his lies.  And many of his lies are on pure facts, and not subject to any interpretation.  So it seems that speaking the truth is of no importance to Trump.  He lies to try to cover his own bad behaviors, including potentially illegal behaviors, to gain a financial advantage or a political advantage, to try to change history, especially the part of history related to him.  He has exhibited complete contempt for civil behavior or the rule of law.  He is not concerned about the welfare of other people, except himself, his family, and his empire.

Normally, such behavior would lose the respects of others, and the political support for a politician.  However, unfortunately, there are still a very large number of people in the U.S., especially Republicans and Evangelical Christians, who continue to voice strong support for him.  This raises the serious concern about the type of country and society that the U.S. has become.

Take for example, infidelity.  More than half a century ago, we had many presidents who had extra-marital affairs, including Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.  The morality in those times was to accept those deeds and let those deeds lied buried.  However, starting in the late 1960s and 1970s with the Vietnam War movement, Watergate, and women’s liberation movement that led to the first resignation of a sitting president, an awakening of morality, and feminism, our society was no longer so forgiven for a politician engaging in extra-marital affairs.  This became clear in 1987 with the downfall of Gary Hart, who was way ahead in the polls within both the Democratic Party and in competition with the Republican Party.  He was projected to win easily the Democratic presidential primary over Walter Mondale and other nominees, and to win easily the presidential election over the Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush.  But that was before his affair with Donna Rice on the yacht Monkey Business became public. [1]  In 1987, the public was no longer so forgiven for a man running for the office of the president of the U.S. to engage in an open extra-marital affair.

During the last 30 years, that kind of mentality has remained dominant in the American conscience and in the American political arena.  That is why so many political candidates have dropped to the wayside once frequent lyings and infidelity became public.  Unfortunately, that may be changing with Donald Trump.  He has lied so frequently and behaved so badly that the American public has become desensitized, so that such behavior doesn’t seem to turn people away from supporting him.  In other words, the American standard for assessing political leaders has changed for the worst.  This may be the most important and dangerous legacy of Donald Trump.


[1] For a good article about Gary Hart, see “How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics,” New York Times Magazine, September 18, 2014.

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