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Latest Narrative Analysis News Summary

September 1-15, 2023 Threat Scan

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Current Threat Level: High Threat Level 6

Vital Signs of Democracy Scan Results September 1-15, 2023

Current Threat Level : High Threat Level 6



Our Vital Signs Threat Level went UP to High Level Threat 6 in this scan. This was primarily because of increases in threat levels in 4 news categories, Cable and Social Media, US Economy/Immigration, Gun Reform and America’s influence in the World. 3 news categories remained at the same threat level and only 2 categories, The Independence of Our Justice System and Mitigating Climate Change, had positive indicators in this scan.


The overall context for why the threat level is higher in this scan, has to do with many indicators remaining in flux as we head into the fall. This is resulting in mixed signals about which way they are going to lean going forward. Towards democracy or something darker. I will take the negative indicators first because in this scan there were more of them than positive indicators.


Negative Indicators

Of the 4 news categories showing negative indicators the most serious concerns about our democracy were in our America’s Influence in the World category. Our democracy is negatively impacted when there is increased instability in the US and the world.


For example, the first cracks in the solidarity of the Western Coalition of nations supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion appeared in this scan. The European Union lifted its ban on Ukrainian grain imports. The EU has grown less concerned about the influx of too much Ukrainian grain into their countries while exports to the rest of the world are still being limited by Russia. The split in solidarity appeared when Poland and Hungry still refused to allow Ukrainian grain into their countries. The longer the Ukraine war continues the more likely the coalition of nations supporting Ukraine against Russia could get shaky. A lengthy stalemate or a Russian victory would be a set back for democracy around the world.


This scan also saw Vladimir Putin announcing Russia will build “good neighborly relations” with North Korea on the fourth day of Kim Jong Un’s lengthy visit to the country. Trade agreements were discussed during Kim’s visit that would send North Korean weapons and ammunition to Russia for their war with Ukraine, while Russia would supply North Korea with more sophisticated missile technology. Given the hostile posture of North Korea towards its neighbors and the US, this was not good news for stability in the region.


We also saw negative indicators in the Gun Reform news category. The Governor of New Mexico issued a ban on the carrying of all weapons in public in Albuquerque, NM. This order was in response to further mass shootings involving children. The ban was immediately successfully challenged in the courts as a violation of citizens constitutional rights. Albuquerque law enforcement also refused to carry out the ban. This action points to the complexity of doing anything about gun violence. IF the courts and law enforcement refuse to support or carry out the orders of the states chief executive, this has negative implications for any kind of gun reform. Meanwhile gun violence continues.


The Cable and Social Media and the US Economy and Immigration news categories also saw challenges to democratic norms. Congress continues to struggle with regulating big tech companies concerning the protection of consumers privacy and data and also attempting to understand the impact of the emergence of artificial intelligence.


At the moment, Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung share billion dollar agreements that make Google’s search engine the default on their web properties and cell phones. This is resulting in Google controlling 90% of the search engine market. Not a good thing for competition or consumer protection considering Google’s negative record on consumer data transparency.  


During the first two weeks of September Congress also convened private sessions with Big Tech CEO’s like Elon Musk and Bill Gates concerning the regulation of artificial intelligence in the marketplace. AI driven algorithms are already impacting jobs, national security and consumer protection. To sufficiently regulate the emergence of AI, you must first understand the implications of its use. Congress is woefully behind in their understanding of the impact represented by AI. This leaves the Big Tech companies able to do what they want to do for the moment. It is not a good thing for the tech marketplace to be controlled by a few, monopolistic corporate players.


In this scan we have also begun including immigration news in our US Economy and Dark Money category. This inclusion is in response to the rise in immigration challenges in both developing and developed countries that are having direct economic and cultural impacts. Developed nations are already feeling the challenges of the surge of immigrants arriving from war torn nations and countries overwhelmed by climate change disasters. This flood of immigrants is overloading the developed nations cultural and governmental systems.


One by product of this overwhelm of immigrants is the rise of radical right politicians in democratic countries promising to get tough on the immigration problem. What our narrative analysis is telling us is that Democratic governments, including the United States, need to put effective immigration policies and processes in place. The flood of immigrants is only going to increase as Climate Change worsens. This could further fuel the rise of radical right, autocratic movements.  


Positive Indicators

The only positive indicators we saw in this scan were in the Justice System and Climate Change news categories. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but in the past two weeks we have begun to see bad actors like Trumps chief of staff, Mark Meadows and White House advisor to Trump, Peter Navarro, held accountable for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Also, the four indictment cases concerning Donald Trump continue to push forward although it is still unclear if any of these cases will come to trial before the 2024 election. For the moment, it looks like our Justice System is meeting the challenges of anti-democratic forces.


In Climate Change news the US government took some positive steps toward mitigating the impacts of climate change by announcing a billion dollar program to plant new trees to absorb more carbon dioxide and limiting the drilling for oil and gas in Artic regions. These Artic drilling operations had been approved under the Trump administration.


Hidden Story

Our hidden story in this scan has to do with some initial ideas about regulating the emergence of artificial intelligence that we thought were worth considering. It points to some early thinking on how to regulate AI and still get all the benefits it can provide. See what you think.


Other Relevant News Headlines in this Scan

  • Federal Court Rejects Latest Alabama Gerrymandered Congressional Map

  • Oprah Winfrey, and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Slammed For Asking  Working Americans To Donate To Maui Fire victims.

  • Planned Parenthood announces return of abortion services in Wisconsin after key court ruling.

  • Top Democrat says there is a ‘powerful argument’ the 14th amendment disqualifies Trump from running for President in 2024.

  • Appeals Court rules FBI and White House likely coerced social media platforms into removing posts they considered intentional disinformation or calls for violence.

Individual Narrative Analysis – September 1-15, 2023

Overall threat level is High Threat Level 6


Individual News Categories Threat Ratings

Voting, Elections and State Legislatures

High Threat Level 5


The threat level rating concerning Voting Rights, Elections and State Legislatures remained at the same at  High Threat Level 5. The primary reason for this was gerrymandered House district maps in some red states still remain in place. There was also a new report on terrorists targeting power grids in the United States. Imagine during a close election, the power went off delaying the results. All kinds of mischief could take place in the dark. 


Relevant News Articles

Who is Winning the Culture War?

High Threat Level 6


The threat rating for the Winning the Culture War factor remained the same at High Threat Level 6. This was primarily because of the continuing distractions caused by media reporting on the legal indictments of Donald Trump, instability in state legislators about how they view voting rights of people of color and rich celebrities attempting to raise money for the Maui fire victims reminding everyone that the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening. Historically, if that gap becomes to big, it doesn't turn out well for anyone. 


Relevant News Articles


A Woman’s Right to Choose

High Threat Level 5


The threat level rating for a Women's Right to Choose decreased one threat level to High Threat Level 5. This is primarily because some battle ground states like Wisconsin have decided to resume abortions based on new state court rulings. Also, the exposure of Senator Tuberville's culture war dustups concerning military personnel being funded to travel outside of red states for reproductive services as a non-issue. Very few military personal are actually using the travel grants while Tuberville blocking military promotions threatens our national security. 

Relevant News Articles


The Effectiveness of Our Justice System

Moderate Threat Level 3


The threat rating for the Effectiveness of Our Justice System decreased one threat level to Moderate Threat Level 3. This was primarily because on multiple fronts the justice system is making progress on holding those that fomented the January 6th insurrection accountable.

Relevant News Articles

The Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances

High Threat Level 5


The threat rating for the Independence of Our System of Checks and Balances remained the same at High Threat Level 5. This was primarily because the argument that the 14th amendment could be used to stop Trump running for president in 2024 gained traction, the Biden administration's intention to challenge big tech companies like Google to void their lucrative billion dollar search engine default deals with Apple, Amazon and Samsung that ensures Google owns 90% of  search engine market share.

Relevant News Articles

The Impact of Cable News, Social Media News Feeds and Technology on Democracy in America

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat rating for the Impact of Cable News and Social Media on Democracy in America increased two threat levels to Very High Threat Level 7. The primary reason for this was big tech's lack of transparency concerning the consumer data they collect and the lack of progress in Congress understanding how to regulate the use of AI in the marketplace.

Relevant News Articles


Mitigating Climate Change

High Threat Level 6


The threat level on Mitigating Climate Change stayed the same at High Threat Level 6. This was primarily because the US government announced a 1 billion dollar tree planting effort to increase the amount of carbon dioxide capture. Trump also publicly announced he would do away with EV programs if he was re-elected. This should give us some indication if MAGA Republicans are elected to the White House in 2024 what they will do (or not do) about mitigating climate change. 


Relevant News Articles


US Economy, Immigration and Dark Money in Politics 

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat level for the US Economy, Immigration and Dark Money factor increased one threat level to Very High Threat Level 7.  This was primarily a result of an increase in immigration problems arising in democracies in the EU and around the world. The flood of immigrants entering developed countries because of war and climate change disasters in their countries is resulting in a rise of radical right wing authoritarian politicians promising to do "something" about the increasing waves of migrants. Oil companies experiencing record profits are still getting substantial subsidies from the US and some state governments.  And the Writers Guild remained on strike with film studios and television networks over the lack of fair percentages of "streaming" media profits being shared with content creatives.  


Relevant News Articles


Gun Reform

Very High Threat Level 7


​The threat level rating for Gun Reform increased one threat point to Very High Threat Level 7. This was a result of the lack of support in the courts and law enforcement agencies concerning reasonable gun reform. There are signs that law enforcement agencies in some states are refusing to carry out Executive orders as it relates to gun laws. This potential breakdown of the rule of law in those states could be the first sign of a coming civil war.


Relevant News Articles


American Influence in World

Very High Threat Level 7


The threat level rating for American Influence in the World increased one threat level to Very High Level Threat 7.  This is primarily because the first cracks in the western nation coalition supporting Ukraine appeared over grain imports, Russia and North Korea also made a pack for N. Korea to give arms and ammunition to Russia for their war against the Ukraine and Russia in return giving N. Korea advanced missile technology. The US also announced additional sanctions against Iran and the US is re-routing a significant amount of military aid from Egypt to Taiwan to deal with the growing threat that China will invade Taiwan. 


Relevant Articles

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