War, Defense, Hamas & Others

David R. Kotok
Sun Oct 22, 2023

We're re-sending today's email to correct errata. We couldn't let these things slide when we devoted so much of today's space to combating disinformation:

  1. Robin Brooks is the Managing Director and Chief Economist at The Institute of International Finance, not the Chief Economist at The International Monetary Fund, He was previously in his career a Senior Economist at The International Monetary Fund. Learn more about Robin here: https://www.iif.com/Administration/Staff-and-Authors/uid/43/RobinBrooks
  2. The International Monetary Fund's Chief Economist is Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas. You can learn more about him here: https://www.imf.org/en/Videos/view?vid=6319360600112

This link will take a reader to an interactive Global Conflict Tracker provided by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker. I invite readers to take a few minutes and look around the world. The CFR website has ongoing analysis and commentary about global issues and has a section about the war in the Middle East.
After your look around the globe, follow this link to the CIA’s World Factbook on “Terrorist Organizations”: https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/about/archives/2021/references/terrorist-organizations/. The listing includes the 65-plus groups designated by the US State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). There are details on the players including Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)/Qods Force. 
The CIA list is updated through 2021. As we know from recent events which are ongoing, the situation with terrorism hasn’t changed for the better, and this list is identifying organizations that are very deadly and ruthless.
Let’s ask a couple of rhetorical question for readers to contemplate. 
Is the world safer when America’s government is dysfunctional to the point where the House of Representatives cannot find a common-ground solution to governance and funding the government? Byron Callan, Managing Partner at Capital Alpha Partners (https://www.capalphadc.com/), recently summed up the situation succinctly: “Congressional dysfunction remains on a collision course with a complex and deteriorating global security picture.” He's backed this up with superb research notes.
Have radical House Members jeopardized the safety and security of the United States by putting the defense budget of the United States into the political culture war category? Was this unwise move exacerbated by using shutdown-fear politics?
What can the citizens do to stop this risk to our safety as individuals, as a nation, and as an ally of countries that are under attack?
I admit that the questions are rhetorical. They are phrased by me to suggest what, I believe, are the monumental issues facing our national security right now.
Here’s a quote from Robin Brooks, Chief Economist at The Institute of International Finance & former Senior Economist at The International Monetary Fund, about a recent meeting in Marrakesh. He tweeted (October 15) “IMF/WB meetings in Marrakesh 1. Deep gloom beneath the surface. At best, the US is seen as divided and distracted. At worst, it's seen as weak. Wars in Ukraine and Israel are symptoms of this. Many think the US will get tested more and more, so geopolitical risk will keep rising.” (https://twitter.com/robinbrooksiif/status/1713434866400788691?s=12&t=LFKFffCQXRqJrDrqt0OO9Q
The US aerospace-defense sector ETF (XAR) is a continuing overweight position in our US Equity ETF portfolio. Its relative price weakness due to the budget impasse has been mostly corrected in the last few days as the war in the Middle East evolves.

Here is a defense-related reading list.

Kotok final notes –
Readers are advised to fact-check anything they may see from sources with which they are not familiar and confident. The disinformationistas’ operations on many sides are sophisticated and very dangerous. There are fundraising efforts that are scams, whether it may be for a charity that is supposedly going to Israeli reservists without equipment or is an appeal to support of humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The nature of this threat is heightened. Here is a link to an Oct. 11 Associated Press factcheck: “BBC did not report that Ukraine is sending arms to Hamas, a video was fabricated,” https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-israel-hamas-ukraine-russia-weapons-265852026856USA Today is another fact-check source. A good example of disinformation is the sophisticated denial of Hamas’ targeting women and children in bomb shelters. Fact: Hamas did it. Fact: They tortured and killed. Fact: The evidence is overwhelming and compelling. Fact: the photos of body parts were authenticated by multiple reliable sources.
Also, fact: The disinformation used by evil sources to advance and support the Hamas actions are distorted and prevaricated. They are arranged for and delivered through systems that are well organized in both multiple delivery methods and purposefully diverse content. We are in a new world. I would characterize what is going on as the modern version of Nazi Goebbels’ propaganda method of repeating and repeating and repeating until people begin to believe the message.  But in today’s world the method now uses technology like AI. Any researching into these issues must involve carefully scrutiny of sources and messages. Search engines of all types can be manipulated so that the user is duped. A person may see message content delivered 50 different ways and be led to believe it is a widely held view, while the originating source is one or two perpetrators.

An October 18 story at Reuters, "Disinformation surge threatens to fuel Israel-Hamas conflict", underscores our position and has the following summary points (read full article at link):

  • Fake or misleading posts proliferate after Hamas attack
  • Cyber distortions deepen enmity in region and beyond
  • Acrimony online can have real world consequences

A widely available tool we've had some good experience with combating disinformation with is Google's "Fact Check Explorer" which you can try out here: https://toolbox.google.com/factcheck/explorer

Finally, we'll leave you with links to a few Ryan McBeth videos. He's an Army Vet and Open Source Intelligence Analyst who spends a fair amount of his time fighting disinformation online. He also does an excellent job introducing himself in the second video below and he introduces to the viewer some of the tools he uses to counter disinformation.

In the first video, "Be careful when analyzing Twitter Video", he appropriately warns the public to be wary of videos on X, AKA, Twitter. Their compression method may squeeze out crucial details from the reduced-size frame shown in the app and online vs. the original video source. One could be led to believe something "blew up" by other means when a missile or aircraft is missing from the sequence, just out of sight. Watch Ryan's quick explanation here: https://youtu.be/L-1Pp9SItP0?si=e22Lv6ujbshcBWRg

The second video, "F-35 Conspiracy: From Crash to Disinformation", details the USMC F-35 that crashed on September 17th. Its wreckage wasn't found until September 18th. "The space between the two events created a conspiracy that managed to trick multiple political commentators into repeating a lie about Cuba, China and the F-35," summarizes Ryan McBeth in the video description. There is a great deal to learn from this event and you can watch the piece here: https://youtu.be/4USKSCeiA4U?si=fYJpvHAfQXIPOwtB

Let's work together to reduce the noise where we can. It won't be easy. Have a pleasant rest of your Sunday.


David R. Kotok
Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio



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