Not only are we in a sense defined by our DNA, but new research shows our behavior may also be affected by that of our ancestors. So observe the authors of a paper published in Science Advances recently. Thomas Talhelm from the University of Chicago has an interest in the cultural differences between northern and southern China. Northerners are considered more individualistic, brash and aggressive, while southerners are conflict averse and more deferential.
The first part of the study observed 8964 people sitting in a cafe in six cities across China and found that northerners were more likely to be sitting alone. The second part was more proactive. The researchers moved chairs in Starbucks across the country to partially block an aisle. True to type, people in the north, as from Beijing and Shenyang, were more than twice as likely to move the chair out of the way than people in Hong Kong or Shanghai, the latter being most averse.
The authors note that herding is an individualistic activity, constant moving making for transitory relationships (the US?), whereas farming is a settled occupation with stable, long-term ties. Now they have taken farming a step further: Rice farming in the south requires complex irrigation systems for the paddies forcing cooperation and coordination among multiple families. In contrast, farming dry-land crops like wheat and millet requiring less cooperation is more individualistic. The authors contend that over time, the tightly coordinated rice farming pushed southerners towards “a more interdependent culture”.
In the last couple of years we have seen a cooperative Europe facing a quintessential maverick, as in Donald Trump, a man who lives in his own world. So why is Trump, Trump? As in the study, clues to his behavior ought to lie in his ancestors.
The town of Kallstadt, Germany, given the character of its people, is sick and tired of being asked about Mr. Trump, his forbears, his grandfather’s house called Trump Haus, and other assorted questions in similar vein.
Mr. Trump’s grandfather Fredrich was born in Kallstadt, a village inundated with wineries, where seats for wine-tasting during the season outnumber the population. It produces predominately Riesling. Vintners, individualist in the extreme, guard their secrets and promote their brand, the ultimate bottle price a reflection of perceived value as even experts can disagree on quality.
Grandfather Fredrich left at the age of 16 to make his fortune in the U.S. He and his wife returned to Kallstadt to retire but there were problems as he had failed to complete his obligatory military service, and the couple were forced to go back to America.
If there are overtones in Donald the grandson, then, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He recalls a childhood trip to Kallstadt with his father Fred, “It was wine country, it was serious Germany,” adding “I have a warm spot in my heart for Germany,” On his mother’s side, he is Scottish: Mary Anne MacLeod emigrated from the Outer Hebrides, Scotland and was a domestic worker before she married his father. Yet in “The Art of the Deal” published in 1987, he claims Swedish ancestry, as did his father. Living in a different world, it’s always Trump the salesman with a convenient truth. He may have had inviting ideas for those fed up with our wars but they are difficult to pursue alone.
If rice farmers are the most cooperative and wheat growers more individualistic, then wine-makers are off the scale, even though in grape production small growers might band together for economy.
To this add the bullying and bluster encouraged by his father who taught him to play tough and we having a personality ripe for the worst errors in decision making.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky pioneered the field of behavioral economics, demonstrating human tendencies to bias, rules of thumb, representativeness through observed frequencies, even more subtle influences we may not realize. A few are shown below and we are all susceptible.
Thus hindsight bias or looking at past decisions, particularly bad ones and finding reasons (excuses) why one was right in one’s decision. Similarly, placing severe blame on subordinates because you believe you could have done better. It is why Trump berates subordinates as portrayed so vividly in Bob Woodward’s book on Trump’s White House. Thus the Attorney General is “mentally retarded” and the Commerce Secretary is past his prime.
‘Confirmation and social bias’: The first involves viewing facts selectively to confirm what we believe to be true, the second a desire to conform with our social group. Thus Trump claims not to believe in climate change, just like his supporters, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary collected over decades. He knows they love him for it, for showing the snoot scientists where to get off.
Worse is his changed stance on U.S. belligerence abroad. As a candidate, he promised to pull us out of foreign misadventures, bring our troops home, and work for a real peace with Russia. It’s a 180-degree turnaround now to a policy barely different from Obama? We are still everywhere he stuck us. The staff around Trump in the White House, the State Department, the military advisors, have almost all been in the game a while with firmly implanted views: American exceptionalism, America as the supreme and lone superpower, America that can’t be messed around with and so on. And Congress is a docile if not lobbyist-captured willing participant. Trump has simply failed to challenge them. Hence the old southern expression, ‘you have to go along to git along’.
There we have it. We have Trump pegged. Like any businessman, he understands survival, and his origins make him uniquely boastful. By the way, the Germans have a word, brulljesmacher, for the natives of Trump’s hometown based on their centuries old reputation. It means ‘braggart’.
Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World
The president of the United States, who came to power in 2016 with the slogan of “Reviving Washington’s Power”, has become the messenger of failure and defeat of his country in the West Asian region and in the international system. The U.S. numerous military and political defeats in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were so outstanding that there’s no way Trump can brag about his achievements in the region.
On the other hand, many Democrats in the United States, and even the traditional Republicans, have been criticizing the President’s costly and barren foreign policy in West Asia. In such a situation, Trump attempts to attribute this failure to the country’s previous administrations and condemn them over what is happening in today’s world, especially in the West Asian region, and he blames Obama for Washington’s constant and extensive failures in this area.
Besides, Trump’s other projections about the hard conditions of the U.S. in West Asia are noteworthy. In his recent remarks, Donald Trump said that if he wasn’t at top of the U.S. political and executive equations, Iran would capture the Middle East (West Asia)! This is while Islamic Republic of Iran created stability in the West Asian region, and besides, has stood against the long-term, medium-term, and short-term and destructive goals of the United States and its allies in the region.
Trump’s strategic weakness in the West Asia is an important issue which can’t be easily overlooked. Of course this strategic weakness did exist during Obama’s presidency, but the truth is that it reached its peak during Trump’s presidency. And in the future, this weakness will bring severe blows to the United States.
The fact is that the strategic calculations of the United States in the West Asia region have all failed. And many of the pre-assumptions that Washington called them “strategic propositions”, have never turned into reality for some reasons, including the vigilance of the Resistance movement in the region. This is the reason why America is so confused in confronting the equations of West Asia.
Under such circumstances, the only way before the President of the United States is to leave the region and confess to his defeat; an issue that many American analysts and strategists have noted. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in spite of his campaign slogans for stopping the military intervention in the region, the current president of the United States has intensified conflicts and created constant security crises in West Asia.
The direct, perfect, and comprehensive support of Donald Trump for takfiri terrorists reflects this fact. Trump started his support for ISIL since the beginning of his presence at the White House in early 2017, and he stood for the terrorists until the fall of ISIL in Syria. Even now, Trump is attempting to revive terrorist and takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.
Despite passing half of his presidency, Trump has claimed that the defeat in Yemen, Syria and Iraq was Obama’s legacy. There is no doubt that Obama and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, played a major role in creating terrorist and takfiri groups (especially ISIL), and committed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.
There is also little ambiguity in the strategic, operational and even tactical defeat of the Obama administration in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. However, Trump can’t deny his share in this defeat, and pretend as if he’s the messenger of the victory of the United States in these scenes! The fact is that Trump completed the military and political defeats of the United States in the West Asia region. Today, the United States is defeated in the battlefield, and can well see that its pieces had failed in these wars.
On the other hand, the White House has lost the political arena of the region. The failure of the United States in the Lebanese and Iraqi elections, on the one hand, and the popular support for the resistance groups in Yemen and Syria, has left Trump and his companions disappointed in the region. In such a situation, attributing the recent and ongoing defeats of the United States to the Obama administration is completely expectable, and at the same time, unacceptable!
Finally, we can see that just like Obama, George W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter, Trump is stuck in this strategic miscalculation in the West Asian region. Undoubtedly, in his last days in power, Trump will also understand that there’s no way he can overcome this strategic weakness through Saudi and Emirati petrodollars.
However, it seems that the scope of Trump’s defeat in West Asia would be wider than the previous presidents of the United States. Undoubtedly, in the near future, Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley will become the symbols of failure in the US foreign policy, especially in the West Asia. In other words, the president of the United States and his companions at the White House will have to admit to defeat in the West Asian region at a great expense, and this is exactly what frightens the American authorities.
first published in our partner Tehran Times
Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom
Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle. The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake. Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path. It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier. We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.
In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight. Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police. Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.
Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.
Thins are certainly warming up in the White House. Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president. A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector. So said the announcement. An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration. Some tout her as a future presidential candidate. Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.
The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office. A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance. He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican. Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero. And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.
A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th. Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon. A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting. Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home. Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced. Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.
The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’. It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Always fair, aboveboard elections? Not bloody likely, as the British would say. Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.
The hot November for Trump is arriving
Political turmoil in the United States has become extremely unpredictable. The turn of events became worse with an op-ed at the New York Times on September 5. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon described it as a coup against Donald Trump.
The reality is that the president faces domestic problems in his second year in office. This has rarely happened in the US political history. The issue is of great importance with regard to the approaching mid-term congressional elections in November. Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but they feel the risk of losing the majority in both houses due to Trump’s record.
Indeed, a feeling has emerged among some American politicians that their country is heading in the wrong direction because of Trump’s policies. Even former President Barack Obama has joined the election campaigns by breaking his promise not to get involved in political affairs.
The situation is not also good for Trump internationally. Disagreement with the European Union – a traditional ally of the United States – over trade and political issues, trade war with China, increasing tension with Russia, exit from international treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement Iran, have all made Trump to look dangerous in the eyes of the world. All these issues have made the situation unfavorable for Trump and his government at home and abroad.
But what is the answer of the president of the United States to these criticisms? The answer to this question is one word: economy. However, Trump is proud of his economic record.
According to statistics, the Labor Department published on September 8, US employment growth in August has beat market expectations, the non-farm payrolls increased by 201,000 from the previous month. Analysts were expecting growth of about 195,000.
The unemployment rate for August remained low at 3.9 percent. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent from the year before. That’s the highest level since June 2009. The latest figures are increasing speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate this month. The US economy expanded 4.2 percent in the April-to-June quarter, and is expected to grow more than 3 percent in this quarter.
But the economy cannot keep the president of the United States from the edge of criticism. Trump is in a difficult situation and worried about the result of the election and possible control of Congress by Democrats.
Issues such as the confessions of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on bribing women for having affairs with Trump and Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 presidential election could possibly lead to his impeachment and his dismissal from power.
The US constitution says that the impeachment of the president should be endorsed by representatives from both chambers of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats now have 49 seats in the 100-member Senate, and if they get 51 seats in the November election, they will still need at least 15 Republican senators to impeach Trump.
Still, if Democrats win the November election, even if this victory does not lead to Trump’s impeachment, it can put further pressure on him and cripple his government. According to a CNN poll, decrease in Trump’s popularity even among his supporters shows that the days following the November election will be hard times for Trump and his government.
First published in our partner MNA
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