Category Archives: Think Tank Reports

White paper asks and answers how our democratic institutions are holding up in the age of Trump

The Republic At Risk: American Democracy One Year Into The Trump Administration is a joint report issued by Protect Democracy and Stand Up Ideas. It marks one year into the Trump presidency and asks a simple yet critical question: how are America’s democratic institutions holding up? — Joe

Eight impeachable offenses: Legal grounds for launching House Judiciary Committee investigation

“The purpose of impeachment is not to punish for past crimes, but to remove from office a dangerous official who threatens the rule of law and the republic itself,” wrote Ron Fein, John Bonifaz, and Ben Clements in their Take Care blog post about their new white paper, The Legal Case for a Congressional Investigation on Whether to Impeach President Donald J. Trump (Free Speech for People, Dec. 6, 2017).

The paper’s purpose is to summarizes the legal grounds for Congress to pass a resolution calling on the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of President Trump. From the abstract:

President Trump’s abuse of power and corruption of the presidency are far worse than the Watergate scandal and the abuses that gave rise to the proposed articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon that were reported out of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives shortly before Nixon resigned. Abuse of power, corruption, and the threat to our republic are manifest today. They require a thorough and deliberate investigation in the House of Representatives. The factual summaries of the grounds for impeachment are based on publicly reported facts, including statements made by President Trump himself, and testimony to Congress. The legal analysis is based on the text, structure, and history of the Constitution and federal law, and legal and political precedent.

In the white paper, the authors identify eight impeachable offenses that could be grounds for a congressional investigation:

  1. Obstructing justice;
  2. Violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution;
  3. Conspiring with others to commit crimes against the United States involving the solicitation and intended receipt by his presidential campaign of things of value from a foreign government and other foreign nationals, and to conceal those violations;
  4. Advocating illegal violence, giving aid and comfort to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and undermining constitutional protections of equal protection under the law;
  5. Abusing the pardon power;
  6. Recklessly threatening nuclear war against foreign nations, undermining and subverting the essential diplomatic functions and authority of federal agencies, including the United States Department of State, and engaging in other conduct that grossly and wantonly endangers the peace and security of the United States, its people and people of other nations, by heightening the risk of hostilities involving weapons of mass destruction, with reckless disregard for the risk of death and grievous bodily harm;
  7. Directing or endeavoring to direct law enforcement, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to investigate and prosecute political adversaries and others, for improper purposes not justified by any lawful function of his office, thereby eroding the rule of law, undermining the independence of law enforcement from politics, and compromising the constitutional right to due process of law; and
  8. Undermining the freedom of the press.

Recommended. — Joe

Digital innovation benefits the 1% by giving rise to “winner-take-all” markets

Here’s the abstract for Dominique Guellec and Caroline Paunov’s Digital Innovation and the Distribution of Income (Nov. 2017 NBER Working Paper No. 23987):

Income inequalities have increased in most OECD countries over the past decades; particularly the income share of the top 1%. In this paper we argue that the growing importance of digital innovation – new products and processes based on software code and data – has increased market rents, which benefit disproportionately the top income groups. In line with Schumpeter’s vision, digital innovation gives rise to ”winner-take-all” market structures, characterized by higher market power and risk than was the case in the previous economy of tangible products. The cause for these new market structures is digital non-rivalry, which allows for massive economies of scale and reduces costs of innovation. The latter stimulates higher rates of creative destruction, leading to higher risk as only marginally superior products can take over the entire market, hence rendering market shares unstable. Instability commands risk premia for investors. Market rents accrue mainly to investors and top managers and less to the average workers, hence increasing income inequality. Market rents are needed to incentivize innovation and compensate for its costs, but beyond a certain level they become detrimental. Public policy may stimulate innovation by reducing ex ante the market conditions which favor rent extraction from anti-competitive practices.

— Joe

Are you a core conservative, market skeptic, opportunity democrat? Pew’s 2017 political typology reveals deep divisions

2017 Pew Political Typology

Pew’s political typology sorts Americans into cohesive, like-minded groups based on their values and beliefs, as well as their partisan affiliation. See the report, Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left, this story, and The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider. Are you a Core Conservation, Market Skeptic, Opportunity Democrat? If interested, take Pew’s political typology quiz. — Joe

PEN America’s fake news report

From the executive summary of Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth:

Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth examines the rise of fraudulent news, defined here as demonstrably false information that is being presented as a factual news report with the intention to deceive the public, and the related erosion of public faith in traditional journalism. The report identifies proposed solutions at the intersection of technology, journalism, and civil society to empower news consumers with better skills and tools to help them process the torrents of information they see online.

Faking News looks at how the spread of fraudulent news has been facilitated by Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and the ways each company is responding to the problem. The report also discusses how traditional journalism has in part contributed to the breakdown of public trust in the media—through partisan reporting, the blurring of fact and opinion, a lack of transparency around policies and procedures, and even honest mistakes, among other reasons—and what newsrooms are doing to rebuild that trust and improve the accuracy and transparency of their reporting processes. Civil-society-led initiatives, including professional fact-checkers and news literacy education programs round out PEN America’s examination of proposed solutions to the fraudulent news crisis.

H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

Brookings Institution report: Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump

On October 10th, the Brookings Institution released Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump (Oct. 10, 2017). From the press release:

In this paper, we break down and analyze the question of whether President Trump may have obstructed justice and explain the criminal and congressional actions that could follow from an obstruction investigation. Addressing the possibility of criminal behavior by President Trump and the complicated issues it raises is not a task that we take lightly. Dissecting allegations of criminality leveled against an individual who has been duly elected president and who has sworn to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution is an inherently solemn task. But it is our hope that by presenting a rigorous legal analysis of the potential case against the president, we will help the American people and their representatives understand the contours of the issues, regardless of whether it is eventually litigated in a court of law, the halls of Congress, or the court of public opinion.

Recommended. — Joe

Constitutional Accountability Center’s white paper on Trump and the Domestic Emoluments Clause

In a recent Brookings white paper, several legal scholars took an in-depth look at the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the constitutional violations that result from President Trump’s continuing acceptance of benefits from foreign powers. This white paper,  The Domestic Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump, takes a similar look at the Domestic Emoluments Clause, discussing the text and history of the Clause, how it should be interpreted, and what it means in the context of President Trump’s vast business holdings.

Based on this examination, the Constitutional Accountability Center concludes that President Trump is likely violating one of the Constitution’s most important provisions—a safeguard designed to prevent corruption and self-dealing in our highest office. And that should not be allowed to continue. — Joe

Search and politics

Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States reports the results of an online poll of Internet users about how they use search, social media, and other important media to get information about political candidates, issues, and politics generally. From the abstract:

Global debate over the impact of algorithms and search on shaping political opinions has increased following dramatic election results in Europe and the US. Powerful images of the Internet enabling access to a global treasure trove of information have shifted to worries over whether those who use search engines and social media are being fed inaccurate, false, or politically targeted information that distorts public opinion. There are serious questions over whether biases embedded in the algorithms that drive search engines and social media have major political consequences, such as creating filter bubbles or echo chambers. For example, do search engines and social media provide people with information that aligns with their beliefs and opinions or do they challenge them to consider countervailing perspectives? Most generally, the predominant concern is do these media have a major impact on public opinion and political viewpoints, and if so, for the better or worse.

— Joe

A DARPA perspective on artificial intelligence

According to John Launchbury, director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, the development of artificial intelligence is progressing in three waves: handcrafted knowledge, statistical learning and contextual adaptation. In the below video, Launchbury explains his theory. From the YouTube description:

John Launchbury … attempts to demystify AI–what it can do, what it can’t do, and where it is headed. Through a discussion of the “three waves of AI” and the capabilities required for AI to reach its full potential, John provides analytical context to help understand the roles AI already has played, does play now, and could play in the future.

The video is a companion communication for Launchbury’s stack, A DARPA Perspective on Artificial Intelligence. Recommended. — Joe

The changing digital landscape and Americans’ reading and library habits

Hat tip Stephen Abram’s blog post for Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s Books, libraries, and the changing digital landscape stack that was presented by Kathryn Zickuhr. — Joe