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A new approach to the TAT, weekly roundup
Today’s TAT is something I’ve wanted to try for a while now. It’s a combination of media articles and/ or reports that I post on LinkedIn/ LI, and use to explain my perspective to other readers, on selected topics. I have the humbling honor of having a few thousand followers there, many former colleagues, military members, friends with expertise and some would class experts. It’s also proven a valuable collaboration platform, to talk with other national security experts about topical issues and which help other readers better understand those issues.
When I post on LinkedIn, I generally introduce the article with a short introduction about the topics and my perspective. That is what I will post here today, plus the original article… as an experiment. Let’s see if TAT readers will find this of interest.
What you will see below is: 1. number with an intro sentence followed by 2. the title that contains an embedded link to the article. Next is a 3. photo followed by 4. my LI, introductory comments and finally, 5. the text of the article itself.
Today will be four such recent, LI posts today.
First is this article from REUTERS, about Israel’s new far-right government and their fight with their Ministry of Justice. This looks and smells a great deal like Trump’s assault on the US Justice System and Bolsonaro’s similar assault in Brazil.
My introductory comments:
It would seem, that Bibi and his far-right government in Israel is a slow learner. Like Trump here, Bolsonaro in Brazil and others, the right-wing, oppressive/ extremists' governments globally are either dead or dying.
Well, to be fair, they may be on the decline but some, like Modi's Hindutva violent extremism, Putin, Orban', Meloni's radical, dishonest populism, are still well positioned to inflict more pain and suffering during their downward spirals.
The sooner that the world puts an end to peak control by such, and their elite-wealth supporters, the sooner the world stops its decline.
We have experienced these trends prior, and with remarkable similarities. The runup to WW II looked little different than the currently waning cycle of violent, radicalized populism/ nationalism.
Here in the US, the turn of the century from the 19th to the 20th did not look very different than the trump era. Out of control monopolies from elite businessmen, budding mass weaponized industrialism, massive arms buildups, and let's not forget, the disgraceful corruption in the offices of elite, political powerbrokers.
We've seen this movie before. We know how it ends if not addressed decisively. It will not end differently unless we bury these immoral trends, back under the dank, dark rocks, it crawled out from under.
The answer is, rebuilding our nation and our collective support to the world in a manner that reflects the true human values ensconced in our founding documents, not the fake values represented by the radical and violent populists.
Israel's public broadcaster Kan published a poll on Sunday which showed 28% of Israelis support the judicial overhaul as it is and 50% oppose it.
On Sunday evening, in a rare intervention, President Isaac Herzog made a televised plea for consensus, saying that the bitterness had left Israel on the brink of "constitutional and social collapse" and calling for all sides to come together.
The standoff comes at a time of heightened anxiety over security in Israel after two deadly attacks by Palestinians in recent weeks that killed 10 people and piled pressure on Netanyahu's hardline government allies to react.
Netanyahu's Likud party and its allies have denounced opponents of the proposals as embittered leftists who refuse to accept the results of last year's election that brought one of the most right-wing governments in Israel's history to power.
But as well as the parliamentary opposition, warnings have come from Israel's banks and tech sector that the changes risked undermining the civil institutions that underpin Israel's economic prosperity.
U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Netanyahu to build consensus before pushing through far-reaching changes, saying in comments published by the New York Times on Sunday that an independent judiciary was one of the foundations of U.S. and Israeli democracy.
Rothman, one of the driving forces behind the proposals, said he welcomed Herzog's calls but the opposition had to compromise.
"I urge, again, everyone who wants to negotiate with good faith to come to the president and do it," he told Reuters.
Additional reporting by Hannah Confino; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Ed Osmond
This next post comes from the BBC News, a favorite source for accurate, least biased reporting. It’s about how Russian women are leaving in droves to have what we call, “anchor babies” in Argentina. Previously, they
did this in Florida as a primary destination.
By Laura Gozzi
My introductory comments:
This article from the BBC News is another visible datapoint that shows just how little faith, Russians with means, have in Russia's future under the current government.
This issue is also a trend that is a hot-button topic here in the States. The US was previous a highly desirable destination, for Russians during the last administration. https://lnkd.in/grMdYiap 100%
Finally, this issue highlights just how miserable the US Congress has been in legislating, comprehensive immigration reform. Anyone still adhering to the idea that everything about immigration is about stacking a bunch of rusty shipping containers on the border, or that a "wall" is the answer to our problems, simply is ignorant about the actual problem.
We are long overdue to address the actual problem, not what a bunch of dishonest politicians prefer to NOT address, so that they can use it as a false narrative to support their campaigns.
Here in TX, the dishonesty coming out of our leadership in Austin should all be named "Grimm," as in "Grimm's Fairy Tales."
More than 5,000 pregnant Russian women have entered Argentina in recent months, including 33 on a single flight on Thursday, officials say.
The latest arrivals were all in the final weeks of pregnancy, according to the national migration agency.
It is believed the women want to make sure their babies are born in Argentina to obtain Argentine citizenship.
The number of arrivals has increased recently, which local media suggests is a result of the war in Ukraine.
Of the 33 women who arrived in the Argentine capital on one flight on Thursday, three were detained because of "problems with their documentation", joining three more who arrived the previous day, migration agency head Florencia Carignano told La Nacion.
The Russian women had initially claimed they were visiting Argentina as tourists, she said.
"In these cases it was detected that they did not come here to engage in tourism activities. They acknowledged it themselves."
She said the Russian women wanted their children to have Argentine citizenship because it gave more freedom than a Russian passport.
"The problem is that they come to Argentina, sign up their children as Argentinean and leave. Our passport is very secure across the world. It allows [passport-holders] to enter 171 countries visa-free," Ms Carignano said.
Having an Argentine child also speeds up the citizenship process for parents. As it stands, Russians can travel visa-free to only 87 countries.
Travel to many Western countries has become more difficult for Russians since their country invaded Ukraine last February.
Last September, the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia was suspended, resulting in the need for additional documentation, increased processing times and more restrictive rules for the issuing of visas.
A number of countries have also suspended tourist visas for Russians, including all EU member states that border Russia.
A lawyer for the three women who were detained on Thursday said that they are being "falsely imprisoned", as they are being held on suspicion of being "false tourists". This is a term "which does not exist in our legislation," Christian Rubilar said.
"These women who didn't commit a crime, who didn't break any migratory law, are being illegally deprived of their freedom," he added.
The women have since been released.
La Nacion attributed the dramatic uptick in arrivals of Russian citizens to the war in Ukraine, saying that "besides fleeing war and their country's health service, [Russian women] are attracted by their [right of] visa-free entry to Argentina, as well as by the high-quality medicine and variety of hospitals".
"Birth tourism" by Russian citizens to Argentina appears to be a lucrative and well-established practice.
A Russian-language website seen by the BBC offers various packages for expecting mothers who wish to give birth in Argentina. The website advertises services such as personalised birth plans, airport pick-ups, Spanish lessons and discounts on the cost of stays in "the best hospitals in the Argentinian capital".
The packages range from "economy class", starting at $5,000 (£4,144), to "first class", starting at $15,000 (£12,433).
The website says its founder has been facilitating birth tourism and offering migration support since 2015, and the company says it is "100% Argentinian".
On Saturday, La Nacion reported that Argentine police had been carrying out raids as part of an investigation into a "million-dollar business and illicit network" that allegedly provided pregnant Russian women and their partners with fake documents issued in record time to allow them to settle in Argentina.
Police said the gang charged up to $35,000 (£29,011) for the service.
No arrests were made, but police were said to have seized laptops and tablets, as well as immigration papers and significant quantities of cash.
The next is an article in Homeland Security Today Magazine from friend, colleague and founder of our Think/ Do tank, Narrative Strategies, Dr. Ajit Maan, regarding how to address the crisis of mis/ disinformation that threatens our democracy.
Dr. Ajit Maan
My introductory comments:
This brilliant article from Ajit Maan, Ph.D. is the key to arming the US and other friendly nations against the wide array of adversarial use of miss and disinformation attacks.
There are a lot of dedicated professionals and tools at our disposal within the US national security community that can be employed successfully... if they understand the problem.
The problem, in my professional opinion is:
Professional influencers continually bombard our citizens with conspiracy theories, miss and disinformation or generically, propaganda. They use influence tactics because influence is a core human issue... exclusively.
The only way to protect humans is to understand how they make meaning of their lives or in other words, narrative. At Narrative Strategies, we solve for NI or Narrative Identity in order to understand our adversaries and to solve for the solutions to inoculate audiences and to analyze the identity of our adversaries, in order to find their vulnerabilities.
Then and only then can the other tools, tactics and related efforts be brought to bear in a sustained, evolving and successful campaign. Solving for identity with whatever terminology is used, is not the ole' TAA, target audience analysis. TAA tells data point about audiences. It does not tell us what is key; to understand how an audience derives meaning from those datapoints.
Influence is a system that is useless, unless that system is built on understanding audiences and ourselves, with as much clarity as possible.
The bottom line: learn the priceless lessons that Dr. Maan teaches. She's the cutting edge of this field for the purpose of operating successfully in the world we now live in and that's saturated with malign influence.
The “facts-based approach” to domestic extremism proposed by the Biden administration suggests an awareness, shared by many, that disinformation has played a role in radicalization of the variety we saw on display at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. But disinformation is not the start point of radicalization.
Disinformation does not “work” on everyone. And yet the same factors that make an audience vulnerable to recruitment by ISIS make an audience vulnerable to recruitment by the Proud Boys. We ought to focus on understanding the factors that create an audience ripe for recruitment. Why are some people vulnerable to radicalization and others not? Why do some people believe and trust information that is demonstrably not based in fact?
The reason we are having trouble getting on top of disinformation is because we are mislabeling and therefor misunderstanding the phenomena. We are not dealing with simply wrong information. We are dealing with weaponized information in story form. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be dangerous.
There is nothing inherently seductive about information, whether true or false. That is why we use storytelling. Stories play a special role in human cognition. Our brains are receptive to stories, especially stories about ourselves, or stories that we see ourselves in, or project ourselves into. And we are particularly receptive to stories that speak to our preferred identities especially when we feel our identity is under threat and the story gives us a way out – a way to respond to the threat.
The root cause of vulnerability to disinformation goes much deeper than amount or degree of exposure to false information. Narrative identity is what is at play.
Truth cannot effectively counter disinformation because raw data is not inherently influential. But if raw data (whether true or false) is storified, mythologized, narrated, then it can have influence. That is because stories tell us what we crave – they tell us meaning. Whether the information is true or false – stories tell us the meaning of the information.
This is not new phenomena. Humans have a long history of finding or creating meaning in the absence of facts. The Illiad, by Homer, for example, has had profound influence in western cultures even though it is not history. It is a myth. Nonetheless, the story of the heroic quest of the rugged individual gives people a way to frame their own challenges. It gives people a way to view their own battles with obstacles and hurdles in a heroic light. That frame of reference has been repeated for centuries and can be seen in modern popular culture in movies, novels, and in the way we understand our daily lives. The lack of truth value of the narrative is irrelevant to the meaning it imparts to our own experiences. Just because it is not true doesn’t make it less meaningful.
And when disinformation is well received, that is because the disinformation held deeper meaning for the audience than the truth.
An affective narrator speaks to two essential things:
The meaning of the information, and
The identity of the audience
Then meaning and identity are tied together to produce a story that tells what the information means to the audience. A story designed to influence will tell an audience what to make of the information, how to understand it, and how they fit in.
Just as the power of stories, myths, narratives, does not rely on truth, facts, or accuracy of information for its effect, so too if disinformation is storified, mythologized, narrated, it will give people a way to understand their own experiences in a way that is, in fact, impervious to the truth.
That is the problem we face. The problem is more profound than disinformation. We are dealing with weaponized narrative and a “facts-based approach” will prove impotent against it.
Finally, is a post from REUTERS, about the right-wing extremists in Michigan imposing their extremism on the Republican Party and by extension, all of us.
By Nathan Layne
My introductory comments:
If someone went to a doctor and was fully committed to living exclusively in an alternate reality, denying all else, they run the risk of being institutionalized for their own and other's safety.
This story may be about Michigan Republicans, but it encompasses the entire nation and dominates the current version of the Republican Party and worse, Kevin McCarthy's side of the aisle, in control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
None of the GOP House members will take a stand for reality, therefore leading others who are addicted to party, rather than country, to continue immersing themselves in the alternate reality of the Michigan GOP in this article. This is a national Security threat of the highest order.
We are long overdue, especially within media to stop calling the current GOP, "conservatives." They are NOT. Principled conservatives in theory, would have the guts to stand up against their evil twin, the current party. They refuse to even acknowledge the lunacy.
Any 12-step, recovery program begins with acknowledging the problem before trying to work towards solutions. This acknowledgement is entirely absent in the GOP these days.
Our nation was founded on passionate, well-informed debate. This core value of our democracy is now unavailable because there can be no such debate between well-informed passion and conspiracy theories.
In order for our republic to survive, we must have debate. Right now, the GOP is denying us all this core value by refusing to acknowledge reality.
Here in TX, it's not just groups but our entire state is run by the same type of insanity that is on national display in this excellent reporting from Reuters. A read of the GOP 2022, midterm platform is not significantly different than today's reporting and, in most ways, is far worse and just as unconstitutional.
HILLSDALE, Mich, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Jon Smith, a local leader in rural Michigan of America First, a far-right Republican faction that denies the results of the 2020 election, wants to shift the entire party to the right - even if it means short-term losses at the ballot box. "We need to redefine what it means to be a Republican," he said in an interview.
In pursuit of that aim, Smith and other hardliners deployed armed guards to bar moderate delegates from a county meeting last August, threatening to bring criminal trespassing charges against them, according to an email to the moderates seen by Reuters.
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Smith, who is running for party chair in his congressional district, also helped persuade state party officials to exclude moderates from his county from a vote on Saturday to choose the leaders who will steer Michigan Republicans into the 2024 elections.
Far-right Republican groups are making inroads across the state, according to Reuters' interviews with two dozen party leaders, grassroots members and political experts, sidelining moderate voices, risking relationships with major donors and complicating the state party's efforts to rebuild after their worst election results since 1984.
America First Republicans now control local party leadership in more than half of Michigan's 83 counties, a senior party official estimated, paving the way for an important victory on Saturday when an election denier is expected to be elected to state party chair.
Critics say the Republican Party's continued lurch to the right after midterm losses of candidates backed by former President Donald Trump could imperil its chances in a state that will likely prove critical to control of the White House and Congress in 2024, with one of Michigan's Senate seats in play.
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The local skirmishes mirror Republican infighting in other swing states and in Congress, where Kevin McCarthy made important concessions to hardline lawmakers to win election as speaker of the House of Representatives last month.
"What's going on in Michigan is a microcosm of what is going on with the Republican Party nationally," said Michael Traugott, a professor at the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan.
'LIKE A COUP'
In Smith's Hillsdale County, allegiance to Trump's false claims that the 2020 election were stolen runs deep. Trump won more than 70% of the vote in 2020. In January 2021 local congressman Tim Walberg voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory.
Last July, the far-right faction adopted a resolution to "protect the party from a hostile takeover of actors with intent to dilute or destroy the values of the party," voting to expel 70 moderates. The resolution, which Reuters has seen, claimed the party had been "infiltrated" in the 1970s by members who practice socialism.
"To me, this is like a coup of the Republican Party," said Penny Swan, who joined the moderates after seeing the armed guards at the August meeting. "It's like the radical right is trying take over."
For Smith, 44, who sells commercial restaurant and industrial equipment online, party leaders should adhere strictly to conservative principles of limited government, low taxes, and expansive gun rights. They should shun compromise with Democrats, he said.
In 2021, Smith helped charter buses to bring Hillsdale residents to Washington to take part in the Jan. 6 protests on the Mall, though he said he did not enter the Capitol.
He said he still questions the integrity of the 2020 election and wants an audit of the state's results.
While moderate Republicans in Hillsdale share the hardliners' support for low taxes and limited government, they describe the far-right members as absolutists and accuse them of improperly seizing control.
In October, Hillsdale moderates sued to be recognized as the rightful leaders of the local party, and this month asked the judge to prevent the far-right faction from sending their slate of delegates to Saturday's convention.
The judge declined to intervene, leaving it up to Michigan Republican Party officials to set the rules on delegate selection. The moderates continue to pursue the case in court
Saturday's meeting is expected to cement Michigan Republicans' shift to the right.
The top two candidates for state party chair have both promoted conspiracy theories in support of Trump's false claims about voter fraud. Nine other candidates are running, including Scott Greenlee, a political consultant favored by moderates who is seen as having an outside chance.
Trump has endorsed Matthew DePerno, who lost his election for state attorney general in November and is under investigation for an alleged conspiracy to gain access to voting equipment, according to state authorities.
DePerno, who has denied wrongdoing and called the investigation politically motivated, declined to be interviewed for this story.
His main challenger Kristina Karamo lost her election for secretary of state last November.
The selection of an election denier could discourage top donors from supporting the party directly, especially if the next chair backs extreme candidates, three major fundraisers said in interviews.
"If they continue to use that rhetoric to inspire the base rather than focusing on the future it will make it very difficult to raise funds from major donors," said Robert Schostak, founder of the Templar Baker Group consulting firm and a former Republican state party chair.
Karamo said some traditional donors only wanted "minions" and that the party could find new donors among grassroots members and wealthy individuals who had never given before.
Smith, who will attend the state meeting as a delegate, believes such tensions are natural as the party changes direction.
"There's some people that are thinking this is the end of the Republican Party," he said. "I think there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Suzanne Goldenberg