Using chaos to win?

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FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, smiles as she meets with reporters on Election Day at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Those trying to stop Pelosi from becoming House speaker say they don’t need a rival now, but instead plan to show she lacks the votes to win, and at that point, they say, challengers will emerge (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, smiles as she meets with reporters on Election Day at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Those trying to stop Pelosi from becoming House speaker say they don’t need a rival now, but instead plan to show she lacks the votes to win, and at that point, they say, challengers will emerge (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Pelosi’s opponents counting on chaos to deny her speakership


AP Congressional Correspondent

Monday, November 26

WASHINGTON (AP) — Call it the chaos theory for picking the next House speaker.

Those Democrats trying to stop California Rep. Nancy Pelosi from reclaiming the job say they don’t need a rival candidate just yet. Instead, they plan to show that Pelosi lacks the votes to win the race. And then, they say, new challengers will emerge.

It’s strategy that has other Democrats cringing at the prospect of their new House majority in disarray. They say voters swept them to office in this month’s elections to govern, not become bogged down by the kind of Republican infighting that sent Ohio Rep. John Boehner to an early exit as speaker and weakened his successor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

The last thing they want is a floor fight over the leadership post when Congress opens work in January.

“If the first Democratic value they see is chaos, I don’t think that’s very good,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who recently wrote an op-ed with colleagues supporting Pelosi. “I don’t think it’s a good look at all.”

The chaos theory will be put to a test this coming week when House Democrats meet in private for a vote nominating Pelosi to become speaker in January. She held that post from 2007 to 2011, the first woman to serve as speaker.

After one potential rival stepped aside, Pelosi is expected to easily win the majority from her ranks. But opponents have hopes of denying her the broader support she needs when the new Congress holds a vote in January.

One of those organizing against her, Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., said recently that the lack of a sure-fire challenger is beside the point. The goal is to force the question.

“The whole concept of you can’t beat somebody with nobody is a Nancy Pelosi talking point,” she said.

As Rice and others in the group led by Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio see it, it’s all in the math.

At the moment, there are at least 15 Pelosi opponents, making for a razor-thin vote. House Democrats won a 233-seat majority in the 435-member House in the November midterm election, with a few races still uncalled. Pelosi needs 218 to win the job, if all Republicans oppose her, which is likely. The margin could expand slightly with absences or if lawmakers simply vote “present.”

“The first step is showing that she cannot get to 218,” Rice told reporters, “and then I believe the challengers will emerge that can allow new members to say, OK, here’s another possibility, now I get it.”

Moulton, a Marine veteran, said earlier he hopes it will be “a chaotic debate” for new leadership because “that would be healthy for the party.”

But after the election delivered Democrats the House majority, it’s an approach that may require a leap of faith that other lawmakers are unwilling to take, especially as Pelosi amasses an outpouring of support from advocacy groups, labor unions and even former President Barack Obama in a display of raw power.

Trying to head off that debate, Pelosi sent a letter to colleagues thanking “so many of you for the strong support you have given me” and asked that “we all support” the party’s nominee for speaker when the full House votes. “Our unity is our power,” she wrote.

At one point, Pelosi’s opponents counted 17 Democrats on a letter against Pelosi and were hoping for more. But one by one, some of them started standing down.

A potential rival, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, decided against a challenge, agreeing instead to lead a new subcommittee on voting integrity. Pelosi revived that panel and recommended Fudge for the post, elevating an issue important to the Congressional Black Caucus, especially after close races this month in Florida and Georgia.

Another opponent, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., dropped his opposition after he said Pelosi agreed to have him take the lead on his proposal to expand Medicare as an option for those age 50 to 65.

As opponents regrouped, Pelosi was home for the holiday recess in California, working the phones and doling out the kinds of perks that show the potential power of being speaker in ways it hasn’t been wielded on Capitol Hill.

Boehner and Ryan struggled to corral their majority since Republicans gained control of the House in 2011. The revolt from within the GOP ranks started with the 2010 tea party election and continued with the Freedom Caucus that pushed Boehner to early retirement. Ryan was able to pass the GOP tax bill into law but the right flank repeatedly flexed its muscle including during California Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s recent election as minority leader.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said she remembers being in the House chamber as the Boehner speaker’s race teetered, and thinking the dysfunction on display wasn’t good for Republicans or Democrats.

She wrote the op-ed with Beyer in part because she cannot imagine facing voters in the St. Paul suburbs back home if a floor fight emerges as the Democratic majority’s first order of business.

“People in Minnesota would be very, very disappointed — from disappointed to outrage — that we are blowing an opportunity,” she said. “Those voters aren’t looking for chaos. They’re looking for effective, responsible governing.”

Newly elected members, especially those who pledged to oppose Pelosi and make way for a new generation of leaders, are caught in the middle.

One who supports Pelosi, Rep.-elect Katie Hill of California, said Democrats “need to minimize any internal party strife” and “hit the ground running day one.”

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said in a tweet: “I hope that we can move swiftly to conclude this discussion about party positions, so that we can spend more time discussing party priorities.” She backs Pelosi.

Seasoned lawmakers, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., say now is not the moment for a public split.

“I wouldn’t want to see it come to the floor, in front of the nation,” Cleaver said. “I don’t want to shake the confidence of the millions of people who stepped out to vote.”

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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Opinion: Tariffs Are Great … If You Like Raising Prices, Undermining Jobs and Inhibiting Innovation

By Matthew Rooney

The Catalyst, via

The United States is embarked on an experiment with protectionism in trade policy that represents a significant change from a policy approach we had followed for nearly a century. We are told that global trade has destroyed American manufacturing and undermined our middle class. We are told that protection will restore America’s prosperity and strength.

In the 1930s, the United States and other industrialized countries raised tariffs across the board, each hoping that by protecting domestic manufacturing they could limit the job losses of the Great Depression and return to prosperity. The result was a series of tariff hikes and retaliatory tariff hikes that wound up choking off world trade. The United States and the other wealthy countries of the day were cut off from export markets, which led to a collapse in manufacturing output and only deepened the misery of job loss and depression. Protection only left everyone exposed.

The lesson that generations of American leaders drew from that experience was that more open markets would produce greater wealth. Starting in the mid-1930s, the United States began to negotiate reciprocal tariff-reduction agreements. After 1945, the United States used its unparalleled power to build a global system that reduced tariffs over time and began to create a level regulatory playing field.

The result was the greatest increase in wealth in human history. Across the world, wealthy countries became wealthier and poor countries saw their economies grow and the emergence of a middle class. Successive waves of innovation — jet aircraft, space travel, micro-circuitry, cellular telephony, information technology — spread manufacturing across the world. The wealthy countries — including the United States — produced growing job opportunities even as they lost segments of the manufacturing value chain to poorer countries.

Before we climb off this merry-go-round, we should think carefully. We should be clear in our own minds what we are trying to accomplish, and make sure we are pursuing policies that are likely to get us there. If our goal is to strengthen our middle class, we should understand tariffs and how they affect the middle class in the short, medium and long term.

The fact is that tariff barriers weaken the middle class. In the short term, they raise consumer prices. In the medium term, they weaken the nation’s manufacturing competitiveness and undermine middle-class jobs. In the long term, they inhibit innovation and the emergence of the next generation of middle-class jobs, weakening our children’s toe-hold in the middle class and sapping the nation’s prosperity over time.

The explanation of why tariffs have this impact may sound at first blush like some economic “theory” that is speculative and removed from reality. But in fact we are talking about a series of observations of how human beings behave, how they make choices, and how those choices add up to become what we call “the economy.”

Tariffs Raise Prices. When the government imposes a tariff — a tax — on an imported good, that money comes from someone. Although the importer actually pays the money to the government, that cost ends up getting shared among the exporter in the foreign country, the importing company in the United States and the consumer. Who pays how much depends on the product in question, what kinds of substitute products are available, and how competitive the market is.

The foreign exporter might reduce their prices a bit to preserve their relationship with a customer or to defend their market share. The American importer might swallow all or some of the cost to avoid losing customers. At least some of the cost falls on the final consumer in the form of a higher price tag.

At the end of the day, the government siphons off some of the benefit of the product in the form of tax revenues and some of the rest is lost as shareholders see the value of their shares fall and consumers pay more for the end product. The overall benefit of the product to the society — whether it is a car or a tomato or a pair of shoes — is reduced and the nation is less prosperous.

Tariffs Undermine Jobs. If tariffs remain in place, these small changes in costs and prices become permanent and begin to spread. Why? Take the example of steel: The U.S. produces most of the steel we consume, but when we impose a tariff on imported steel, domestic producers of steel see an opportunity to raise their own prices. As a result, the cost of producing things made with steel in the U.S. increases.

This is true in any production chain affected by tariffs: Shoes become more expensive to produce if we levy a tariff on leather; grocery stores will see their costs increase if we levy tariffs on fresh produce; books and newspapers become costlier to produce if we tax imports of paper. In markets where substitutes are not readily available — avocados in winter, for example, or gasoline — consumers will see prices rise almost in lockstep with the tariff.

In other, more competitive markets — cars, for example, or beer cans — price increases to the consumer may be less noticeable. But in any case, production throughout the value chain will be less profitable, companies are likely to forgo expansion or innovation, and the industry’s ability to compete domestically and internationally will begin to suffer. The overall result is downward pressure on wages in those industries and, eventually, lost jobs.

Tariffs Inhibit Innovation. Some companies get a boost from tariffs, of course. Steel producers, for example, are seeing prices for their products rise now that tariffs are blocking foreign competition.

This makes steel production more profitable, opens up headroom for wages, creates additional jobs, and increases the return to shareholders in steel companies. This will tend to attract capital to the steel industry, and young workers will seek training and education to qualify for steel jobs. Talented managers and financial experts will seek out opportunities in steel.

Why is this not a good thing? Because that increased profitability is illusory: It only exists because of the presence of the tariff, which is a government policy that could change. And in fact powerful interests in the society — all those producers whose profitability is falling, all those consumers who are paying more, all those workers whose jobs in steel-consuming industries are under threat — are demanding that it be changed, and voting for it to be changed.

Sooner or later, that policy will change and the tariff on imported steel will be eliminated. And the steel industry will be back where it started, struggling to compete in a global marketplace, cutting jobs and reducing production.

Even more harmful for the society, every day on which those tariffs attract human and capital resources to steel is a day when an innovative new product dies in the crib for lack of investment and lack of workers. Or, worse still for the United States, a day when a potentially promising new industry emerges in China or India or Europe because it finds capital and workers there.

This is the ultimate lesson of our country’s last bold experiment in protectionism: Tariffs, even more than other forms of taxation or government interference in the marketplace, create dysfunctional incentives that distort costs and prices throughout the economy. They tend to shore up yesterday’s industries at the expense of tomorrow’s industries, an illusion of “protection” from an underlying economic reality that cannot be denied forever.

There is no doubt that that underlying reality in the current circumstances is challenging. Too many people in our country have felt their futures slipping through their fingers as more and more of the manufacturing supply chain has moved offshore, and the innovation that will produce tomorrow’s jobs hasn’t emerged.

But America has always thrived by embracing the industries and jobs of tomorrow, whether it was the radio in the 1930s, jet travel in the 1960s, or information technology in the 1990s. We can do it again in the 2020s, but not if we wall ourselves off from the global economy.


Matthew Rooney is managing director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. He originally wrote this essay for “The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.” This is distributed by

The Conversation

New dates for ancient stone tools in China point to local invention of complex technology

November 19, 2018


Ben Marwick

Associate Professor of Archaeology, University of Washington

Bo Li

Principal Research Fellow in Archaeological Science, University of Wollongong

Hu Yue

Postgraduate Student in Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong

Disclosure statement: Ben Marwick receives funding from the Australian Research Council. Bo Li receives funding from Australian Research Council. Hu Yue receives funding from the University of Wollongong.

Partners: University of Wollongong provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. University of Washington provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

You probably think of new technologies as electronics you can carry in a pocket or wear on a wrist. But some of the most profound technological innovations in human evolution have been made out of stone. For most of the time that humans have been on Earth, they’ve chipped stone into useful shapes to make tools for all kinds of work.

In a study just published in Nature, we’ve dated a distinctive and complex method for making stone tools to a much earlier timeframe in China than had previously been accepted. Archaeologists had thought that artifacts of this kind had been carried into China by groups migrating from Europe and Africa. But our new discovery, dated to between 170,000 and 80,000 years ago, suggests that they could have been invented locally without input from elsewhere, or come from much earlier cultural transmission or human migration.

Several different species of humans lived on Earth at this time, including modern ones like us. But we haven’t found any human bones from this site, so don’t know which species of human made these tools.

These Chinese artifacts provide one more piece of evidence that changes the way we think about the origin and spread of new stone tool technologies. And intriguingly we made our discovery based on artifacts that had been excavated decades ago.

New technology among old stones

Archaeologists have identified five modes humans have used to make stone tools over the last 3 million years. Each mode is represented by a new stone tool type that is dramatically different from what came before. The appearance of each new mode is also marked by a big increase in the number of steps needed to make the new tool type.

One of these modes, Mode III, also called Levallois, is at the center of several big debates about human evolution. Levallois tools are the defining features of the archaeological period referred to as the Middle Paleolithic, or Africa’s Middle Stone Age. They are the result of a set of very specific steps of chipping a piece of stone to create similar-sized tools suitable to be shaped for a variety of purposes. These steps are remarkable because they are a much more efficient way to produce lots of useful cutting tools, with minimal wasted stone, compared to earlier technologies.

One of these debates is whether Mode III tools were invented in one place and then spread out, or independently invented in several different locations. Since the world’s oldest securely dated Levallois tools have been found in north Africa from around 300,000 years ago, it’s possible they spread out from there, carried by groups of early humans migrating across Europe and into Asia. On the other hand, finds of similarly early Levallois tools in Armenia and India support the idea of independent inventions of the technology outside of Africa.

Changing the chronology in China

In China it has been hard to find evidence of Mode III tools until relatively late in the Palaeolithic period, approximately 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. That’s concurrent with when Mode IV (blade tools) appear there. Ancient people in China appeared to leap from Mode II (stone hand axes) to Mode III and IV at the same time. This suggests that Levallois tools appeared in China when modern humans migrated in and brought these new technologies with them around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Our results support a different story for the origin of Levallois tools in China. At Guanyindong Cave in Guizhou Province in south-central China, we found Mode III tools in layers dated to around 170,000 and around 80,000 years ago. This puts them well before Mode IV tools, and at around the same time that Levallois were the main tools used in Europe and Africa.

One major implication of our new early ages from Guanyindong Cave is that the appearance of Levallois tools in China is no longer tied to the arrival of modern humans and Mode IV tools 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. Instead, Levallois tools could have been invented locally in China – maybe by a different human species. Another possibility is that they were introduced by a much earlier migration, perhaps by the people whose teeth have been found in a cave in Daoxian, Hunan Province, who lived between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago.

Going back to Guanyindong Cave

Our discovery is a little unusual because we didn’t do any major new excavations. All of the stone tools we studied had been excavated from Guanyindong Cave in the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time Guanyindong has been famous as one of the most important Paleolithic sites in South China because of the relatively large number of stone tools found there.

Most are stored at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, and our team spent a lot of time carefully inspecting each tool to identify the traces that reveal how it was made. It was during this painstaking analysis of the museum specimens that we encountered a few dozen Levallois tools among the thousands of artifacts in the collection.

During the previous excavations at Guanyindong Cave, researchers had used uranium-series methods to date fossils found in the sediments. This technique relies on the radioactive decay of tiny amounts of uranium that collects in bone shortly after it is buried to come up with an age range for its burial. But it’s hard to precisely determine the true age of bone using this method. At Guanyindong these uranium-series ages span a wide range, from 50,000 to 240,000 years ago. Also, the association between the dated fossil pieces and the stone artifacts was not recorded in detail. These problems meant that we couldn’t work out what layers the dated fossils came from, and if they were close to any of the Levallois stone tools.

Using only information available from the previous excavation, we couldn’t be sure of the exact age of the Levallois tools in the museum. The dates were important to nail down, because if they were older than 30-40,000 years, then they could be the earliest Levallois tools found in China.

To uncover the true age of these Levallois tools, we made several trips to the cave to collect new samples for dating. It was challenging to find a suitable location to get the samples because the previous excavations didn’t leave much behind and much of the site was covered with thick vegetation.

We collected our new sediment samples from places where artifacts were still visible in the wall of the excavation, so we could be sure of a close connection between our samples and the stone tools. Essentially we were trying to collect new dirt from the spots where the museum artifacts had originally been excavated. The plan was then to test the samples with more advanced dating techniques than had originally been available.

Analyzing new samples to date old artifacts

Back in the lab, we analyzed the samples using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence methods. This technique can identify how much time has passed since each individual grain was last exposed to the sun. Dating many individual grains in a sample is important because it can tell us if tree roots, animals or insects have mixed younger sediments down into older ones. After we identified and removed intrusive younger grains, we found that one layer of artifacts dated to about 80,000 years ago. We dated a lower layer to about 170,000 years ago. Our museum work had identified Levallois tools in both of these layers.

With the combination of careful inspection of the museum collection, new fieldwork to collect samples, and a new laboratory method of dating the site, we had uncovered a surprising and important result. These Levallois tools are much older than those from any other sites in East Asia. This suggests a more widespread geographic distribution of Levallois prior to the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and Europe into Asia.

One reason why it has been so hard to find evidence of the technique in China until now is that the number of people in East Asia during the Palaeolithic might have been much smaller than in the West. Small, low-density populations with weak and irregular patterns of social activity might make it hard for new technologies to spread and persist over a long time.

We don’t know what species of human made the tools at Guanyindong because we haven’t found any bones. Whoever they were, they had similar skills to people living in the West at the same time. They appear to have independently discovered the Levallois strategy in China at the same time people were making extensive use of it in Europe and Africa.

FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, smiles as she meets with reporters on Election Day at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Those trying to stop Pelosi from becoming House speaker say they don’t need a rival now, but instead plan to show she lacks the votes to win, and at that point, they say, challengers will emerge (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) – In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, smiles as she meets with reporters on Election Day at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Those trying to stop Pelosi from becoming House speaker say they don’t need a rival now, but instead plan to show she lacks the votes to win, and at that point, they say, challengers will emerge (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
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