Monday, January 31, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#436)

  • Brookings announces new partnership with NAACP.
  • Research published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a counter-extremism think tank, has found that several major gaming platforms play host to extremist activity.
  • Breitbart: 33 members of Congress sit on advisory board of Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI), an organization that is partnered with a CCP-affiliated think tank.
  • There seems to have been little effort so far at think build and contemplate the dire scenarios that have become increasingly plausible.
  • Think tanks can be a frontline defense against pandemic setbacks.
  • Do Washington think tanks run on unpaid interns?
  • Founder of Zuckerberg-financed election group took China-funded fellowship at Harvard think tank.
  • Twitter suspended pro-family think tank director after tweet opposing chemical castration of children.
  • At 95, Newt Minow, former chair of RAND's board of trustees, has no time for retirement.
  • Pic: When think tankers ogle.

Friday, January 28, 2022

JINSA Chided for Non-Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest

Here is more from Eli Clifton, a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and Investigative-Journalist-at-Large at Responsible Statecraft:

Last week, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, the ultra-hawkish think tank that promotes U.S.-Israel military relations, released its report on the 2020 Abraham Accords. 

The launch event featured laudatory remarks by the ambassadors to the United States of the three initial signatories – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel – all of which have shared an interest in shifting the regional balance of power against Iran.  

But another interest group was omnipresent in the report’s creation, albeit never publicly disclosed by JINSA.

Seven of the report’s eight authors enjoy close and presumably lucrative ties with the U.S. arms companies. Unsurprisingly, weapons sales were praised throughout the report and heralded as the linchpin of the Accords’ success.

Neither the authors nor JINSA disclosed what may be a serious conflict of interest underlying the report’s policy prescriptions: all but one of the report’s authors are in the weapons business.


JINSA, formerly named the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Washington, DC.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

CAP Working to Influence USG on Potential Russian Invasion

 Here is more from Politico:

The Center for American Progress, a think tank close to the Biden administration, just published a report titled “How the United States Should Respond if Russia Invades Ukraine.”

Written by MAX BERGMANN, a senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank and former State Department official, the report lays out eight separate steps that could make Russia feel the pain and deter other nations from trying similar invasions. [Examples include:]

— “Target and uproot oligarch wealth and influence”

— “Put in place strict export controls that stop U.S.-based technology from going to Russia”

— “Wage a continuous economic sanctions campaign against Russia”

“This is a report that CAP plans to circulate with members of the administration and Congress,” said SAM HANANEL, a CAP spokesperson. The report, we’re told separately, does reflect the outcomes of conversations that have taken place between CAP, administration officials and lawmakers since the Ukraine crisis began.


A number of think tanks have been active with lobbying on the Russia/Ukraine issue both in the US and overseas, including the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and the Atlantic Council.

Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation continues to say that Russia remains a formidable threat to the US.

Years ago, the Washington Post noted that the Heritage Foundation had several officials working on then President Donald Trump's transition team who had broken with him regarding views on Russia, saying that the threat Moscow posed had increased.

It has been noted that Republican elected officials and the think tanks that advise them are staunchly pro-Ukraine.

Here is a Politico piece which asks 13 Putin watchers, including think tankers, to weigh in over a possible war over Ukraine.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Amazon Threatened to Quit Think Tanks Over Climate Change

Here is more from Politico: Inc. threatened to quit trade groups and think tanks that don’t see eye to eye with the company on climate change.

In a document posted to the company’s investor relations website, Amazon touted its initiatives in support of the Paris Climate Agreement, a United Nations-brokered accord that aims to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The retail and web services giant said it has procedures to evaluate “potential misalignment between positions Amazon supports, including the Paris Agreement goals, and the positions that such an organization advocates.”

When the company becomes aware of a misalignment, Amazon will end its relationship with the group or continue funding it and “communicate to the organization that we do not support positions it takes that are not aligned with the Paris Agreement goals.”


Think tanks that Amazon donates to include American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Atlantic Council, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), Brookings Institution, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Center for American Progress (CAP), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Mercatus Center, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), and R Street Institute (RSI).

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#435)

  • Biden taps Lisa Cook, a former research assistant at Brookings for Alice Rivlin, for the Fed.
  • China's olive branch to sanctioned German think tank "poorly timed."
  • CSIS's Victor Cha now serving on the Defense Policy Board for the Biden Administration.
  • New CAP report doesn't disclose authors' foreign ties. 
  • Pic: A Taiwanese think tank posts its take on a popular meme to show what a headache it is living next to China.
  • WaPo's Jeff Stein on the pain of getting scooped by a think tank.
  • Brookings scholar: "You know you've arrived when your book has become a doorstop at the Brookings bookstore."
  • Pic: Think tanks in China seem way more interesting.
  • Jakub Janda: Why I brought a Czech think tank to Taiwan.
  • Hunter Marsten: "What's the German word for the feeling you get when a think tank puts out a report that copies a bunch of your recommendations from a different think tank report you wrote on the same subject two years previously but doesn't cite your report."

Monday, January 24, 2022

Tiny Pentagon Contract to Think Tank Sparking ICBM Feud

Here is more from Bloomberg:

A tiny Pentagon contract for an influential Washington think tank to study the nation’s nuclear arsenal is sparking outsized congressional scrutiny, in a prelude to a bigger fight over whether to spend billions of dollars buying new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The $75,000 contract awarded in December to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will result in a five- to seven-page unclassified paper later this month examining “the relative risks and benefits of various options regarding the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.”

At the heart of the dispute is America’s continuing reliance on Minuteman III ICBMs, and the billions of dollars required to develop Northrop Grumman Corp.'s new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program that’s intended to replace the decades-old weaponry.


A recent report from the Center for International Policy (CIP) notes that funders of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace include Northrop Grumman as well as Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems, and United Technologies.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

US a Backsliding Democracy for 1st Time, Says Think Tank

Here is more from the Washington Post:

The United States for the first time was added to a list of “backsliding democracies” in a report released Monday by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” the International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy 2021 report said.

 The study, which analyzed trends from 2020 to 2021, found that more than a quarter of the world’s population now lives in democratically backsliding countries, which International IDEA defines as nations seeing a gradual decline in the quality of their democracy.


The article notes that an Oct. 2020 study by the Washington, DC-based think tank Freedom House found that democracy and human rights had worsened in 80 countries since March of that year. 

Meanwhile, in her new book How Civil Wars Start, Barbara Walter draws on data compiled by the Center for Systematic Peace, as well as Freedom House, Polity V, and Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project to highlight key factors that make civil war likely.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Billionaires Play Big Role in Funding of New Think Tank Institute for Progress (IFP)

Get ready to learn another think think tank acronym: IFP.  It stands for Institute for Progress, a new Washington, DC-based think tank that has been launched by Caleb Watney and Alec Stapp.  

Its mission is to "accelerate scientific, technological, and industrial progress while safeguarding humanity's future."  The founders say they will spend most of their initial attention on three key areas: 1) Metascience, 2) Immigration, and 3) Biosecurity.

Mr. Watney, the Co-CEO, was the director for innovation policy at the think tank Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).  Before that, he worked as a technology policy fellow at the R Street Institute and as a graduate research fellow at the Mercatus Center.

Mr. Stapp, the other Co-CEO, was the director of technology policy at PPI, a research fellow at the International Center for Law and Economics, a technology policy fellow at the Niskanen Center, and a graduate research fellow at the Mercatus Center. 

Scholars at the think tank include senior biosecurity fellow Nikki Teran, who previously worked with the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Science, the Council on Strategic Risks, and the Open Philanthropy Project.  Another scholar is senior immigration fellow Jeremy Neufeld, who previously worked at the Niskanen Center.

There are currently three external board members: Tamara Winter, who formerly worked at the Charter Cities Institute and the Mercacuts Center; Dan Correa, a former Obama Administration official who was CEO of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and worked at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute as well as the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF); and Zachary Graves, a visiting fellow at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School who formerly worked at the Cato Institute and R Street Institute.

IFP, whose new website can be found here, only accepts funding from individuals and foundations.  It is currently funded with the support of Open Philanthropy, Emergent Ventures, Patrick Collison, John Collison, and Sam Bankman-Fried.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Muskowitz and wife Cari Tuna are the main funders of Open Philanthropy, an entity which supports numerous think tanks.  George Mason University's Mercatus Center houses Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program which was launched with a $1 million grant from the Thiel Foundation.  That foundation was created and funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook.

Patrick Collison and his brother John Collison are Irish billionaires who co-founded online payment processor Stripe.  Sam Bankman-Fried, another billionaire, is the founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange.

The IFP founders note that Tyler Cowen, head of the Mercatus Center, played a big role in their thinking.

IFP joins a crowded field of policy shops in Washington, which has more than 400 think tanks large and small.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#434)

  • New America's Anne-Marie Slaughter tries to get the last word on think tank debacle.
  • Caleb Watney and Alec Stapp win Emergent Ventures award to found a think tank related to progress studies.
  • CSIS becomes 1st Washington-based think tank to establish an Australia chair.
  • New satellite imagery from CSIS shows a new high-tech Chinese aircraft carrier could launch in early 2022.
  • DoD sponsored a RAND Corp. study published in September that put forward a framework for helping commanders reduce the risk of military extremism.
  • Bogle Financial Markets Research Center, a think tank created by John Bogle.
  • Cowles Commission for Research in Economics: "Arguably the most influential economic think tank in history in its heyday."
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art's Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies "will serve as a think tank for BMA staff and other curators and scholars, helping to jumpstart new exhibitions, writing and research."
  • Pew Research released a brand new typology report.
  • Richard McGregor of the Lowy Institute reads 52 books a year; tips on how to read more books.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Tweet of the Month: Think Tanks

This tweet is actually from last year and comes from Richard Morrison, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI):

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Think Tankers Doing Creative Open Source Research on China

Here is more from The Wire:

Ryan Fedasiuk  a research analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), says that he goes to great lengths to make sure that the open sources he uses do not get burned. In a recent report, Harnessed Lightning, which reviewed 66,000 government tenders to understand the Chinese military’s use of AI, Fedasiuk’s team built a web scraper that would only operate during Chinese business hours and only from Chinese IP addresses, to make it more difficult to identify.


The piece also talks about Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who has uncovered information about human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.  Here is a clip on him:

Zenz became uniquely high profile starting in 2018. Despite living 6,000 miles away and only visiting Xinjiang once — as a tourist 15 years ago — Zenz’s research is fundamental to claims that the Chinese government’s actions there amount to a form of genocide, and his findings have been cited by the U.S. government.

Mining data from Chinese sites, he has documented the repression and securitization of the region, the extent of detentions in re-education camps, Uyghur forced labor programs, and most recently, troubling birth control policies. With fluent Chinese and a personality he describes as “dogged,” Zenz has also authenticated large leaks of official documents, including the Karakax List, and analyzed Xi Jinping’s speeches in the recently published Xinjiang Papers for clues about the central government’s policies.

There are numerous other examples of think tanks using open source resources for high-profile projects, including the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) which publishes open source research analyzing elections around the world.

Hoover Institution think tanker Amy Zegart penned a new piece entitled "Meet the Nuclear Sleuths Shaking Up US Spycraft."

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Fun Think Tank Facts from "Global Political Cities"

Johns Hopkins University Professor Kent Calder has a new book called Global Political Cities which has a number of fun facts on think tanks. 

Here is an excerpt on one of the relatively smaller Washington think tanks:

Even the relatively modest Center for Global Development (CGD), with a staff of fewer than 100 and a 2018 budget of less than $20 million, has exerted broad influence on the international policy agenda and figures in the international rankings.  Five concrete recent cases in which the center has exercised concrete influence over global policy agendas outside Washington are illustrative.

  1. The Commitment to Development Index: Developed by CGD Europe and disseminated through Washington, this index has become a development performance metric for such countries as Finland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. 
  2. The Center for Global Development's universal health coverage initiative: The center's recent publication, What's In, What's Out: Designing Benefits for Universal Health Coverage, is now a resource for policymakers designing universal health coverage initiatives in India, Kenya, and South Africa. 
  3. Development impact bonds: Designed in a 2013 CGD report, this concept was implemented in 2014 in Rajasthan, India. 
  4. Pre-sponsoring forthcoming vaccines: Endorsed by the G7 finance ministers in 2009, this appraoch evolved into a $1.5 billion pilot program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implememented in five nations. 
  5. Women in UN peacekeeping: CGD's campaign in this area led Canada to announce a C$15 million fund to support the development of female peacekeepers.

Here in an excerpt on the difference between think tanks in Washington and Beijing:

Perhaps the most striking Beijing-Washington difference is the character and role of think tanks.  Washington's think tanks are large, affluent, interactive with one another, often competitive, and increasingly transnational in their scope of operations.  They have converted the capital into a global political arena.  Beijing's think tanks, by contrast, are much smaller, more heavily regulated, and stove-piped, with limited horizontal communications with one another.  Rather than market conforming or transnational, they are developmentalist and parochial in character, although there are exceptions.  The most important differences in the agenda-setting capabilities of Washington and Beijing in international affairs lie in the think-tank structure and function.  American's capital city clearly gathers and processes strategic information more efficiently and transparently, China's rapidly rising national economic influence notwithstanding.

CICIR, CASS, and CIIS constitute Beijing's "big three" think tanks, the book goes on to note.

The book, published by the Brookings Institution Press, has a number of other think tank facts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#433)

  • Aspen Institute organizes global coalition pledging to commit to zero-emission ocean shipping by 2040.
  • Kevin Rudd recently said that a Cold War between China and the US was "probable and not just possible."
  • New book "Only the Rich Can Play" documents rise of Economic Innovation Group and how it got Opportunity Zones legislation passed.
  • Council on Strategic Risks: Climate change could increase the potential for conflict between India and China.
  • Chinese state-owned think tank flags national security risks of metaverse, citing potential political and social problems.
  • Want to start a national security think tank?
  • Handbook on think tanks in public policy.
  • Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber: Why college rankings are a problem.
  • Interview with Yuang Peng, head of CICIR, suggests he is cautiously encouraged with Biden so far.
  • Institute of Creative Technologies: A Hollywood think tank that explores the potential uses of machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and video game engines.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Canadian Think Tank Chief: US Could Collapse

Here is more from CNN:

Political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon -- the executive director of the Cascade Institute, which focuses on ways to address threats to society -- penned a powerful op-ed in Canada's "Globe and Mail" warning that "by 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence."  He adds that "by 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship."


The Cascade Institute, which studies severe global stresses on the Earth such as environmental, economic, political, and technological, was founded in Jan. 2020 and is located at Royal Roads University in British Columbia. 

It is different from the similarly-named Cascade Policy Institute, a think tank based in Oregon that was founded in 1991.