Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why I'm defending Summers?

For background reasons -- and my own PUMA credentials -- see the first Comment to this post.

Obama was hiring all good old Clinton 90s people for economic positions. 'Women's groups' bashing Summers gave Obama cover to bring in two inexperienced Bots -- as token women.

My posts elsewhere

And how is it 'promoting' a theory, to say "Please prove this wrong?"

Summers was asked to give a 'working lunch' talk at a closed meeting of academic economists. They furnished him with the papers of the meeting and asked him to summarize those papers. He did, urging the audience to get to work on counter arguments.

Summers' whole context and purpose of the occasion was to find ways to IMPROVE the ratio of women to men in those subjects.
Posted at politicalmachine Dec 3

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Summers' current sequel to what worked in the 90s
[ Summers' solution] was to get the economy growing fast enough that the problems of the middle class would begin to solve themselves. And the way to do this was to slow government spending and raise taxes on the wealthy, which would bring down the Reagan-era budget deficits and, eventually, interest rates. Once that happened, the American economy would be unleashed.
...Bill Clinton ended up embracing the centrist, business-friendly ideas of Summers and his mentor, Robert Rubin, and the situation played out just as they had predicted: interest rates fell, and along came a boom that helped almost everyone. In the late ’90s, the wages of rank-and-file workers rose faster than they had in a generation. 

 ....Dealing with this anxiety — making globalization work for the masses — has become the central economic issue of the day in Summers’s mind. And since his Harvard presidency ended a year ago, he has set out on a search for solutions. To him, it seems like a natural sequel to the policies he pushed in the 1990s.

.... Health care reform is another obvious priority. In Summers’s view, the current employer-based system, which creates insecurity for many families and big costs for companies, may need to be replaced by one in which the government pays for insurance but individuals choose what plan they want. It would be single payer, but not as England or Canada does it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Larry Got His Rep

How Larry Got His RepThe Harvard Crimson2005-03-03, a long background piece on how the press spun the controversies around Summers

Very fair and informative.

[Apology] Letter from President Summers on women and science

Letter from President Summers on women and science

January 19, 2005
Dear Members of the Harvard Community:

Last Friday I spoke at a conference on women and science, hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I attended the conference with the intention of reinforcing my strong commitment to the advancement of women in science, and offering some informal observations on possibly fruitful avenues for further research. Ensuing media reports on my remarks appear to have had quite the opposite effect. I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully.

Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science. As the careers of a great many distinguished women scientists make plain, the human potential to excel in science is not somehow the province of one gender or another. It is a capacity shared by girls and boys, by women and men, and we must do all we can to nurture, develop, and recognize it, along with other vital talents. That includes carefully avoiding stereotypes, being alert to forms of subtle discrimination, and doing everything we can to remove obstacles to success.

I have learned a great deal from all that I have heard in the last few days. The many compelling e-mails and calls that I have received have made vivid the very real barriers faced by women in pursuing scientific and other academic careers. They have also powerfully underscored the imperative of providing strong and unequivocal encouragement to girls and young women interested in science.

I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women. As a university president, I consider nothing more important than helping to create an environment, at Harvard and beyond, in which every one of us can pursue our intellectual passions and realize our aspirations to the fullest possible extent. We will fulfill our promise as an academic community only if we draw as broadly and deeply as we can on the talents of outstanding women as well as men, among both our students and our faculty.While in recent years there have been some strides forward in attracting more women into the front ranks of science, the progress overall has been frustratingly uneven and slow. Spurring greater progress is a critical challenge. As members of a university, we should do all we can to recognize and reduce barriers to the advancement of women in science. And, as academics who believe in the power of research, we should invest our energies in thinking as clearly and objectively as possible, drawing on potential insights from different disciplines, to identify and understand all the various factors that might possibly bear on the situation. The better our understanding, the better the prospects for long-term success.

I am strongly committed to Harvard's success in attracting both students and faculty who are outstanding and diverse along many dimensions. We have recently committed up to $25 million in new funds to avoid budget constraints on the appointment of outstanding scholars from underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Last year we completed a comprehensive report of our appointments process in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and we continue to assess and implement measures at a variety of levels to improve our effectiveness in this area. And we are actively exploring ways to enhance flexibility and support for faculty trying to balance career and family, through such measures as enhanced leave, parental teaching relief, delayed tenure clocks, and better childcare options. These and other steps should all be part of a broad-based and sustained effort to achieve a vital goal we all share: assuring that Harvard plays a leadership role in accelerating the advancement of women in science and throughout academic life.Sincerely,

Lawrence H. Summers

Other factors in the opposition to Summers at Harvard

Note: Actually iirc Summers wasn't 'fired'. The officials of the university (along with a majority of students) supported him. See

Other factors in the opposition to Summers

While many in the media have focused upon the controversial statements made by Summers or his political disagreement with left-leaning members of the faculty, it is also possible that these factors merely provided a pretext for members of the faculty to express their dissatisfaction with other aspects of Summers' presidency. Besides the aforementioned controversies, which undoubtedly provided the proximate cause for Summers' resignation, other factors have been proposed as contributing to his critical loss of support among the majority of faculty members. The first is Summers' reputed leadership style, described by many as arrogant, blunt, and intolerant of dissenting opinions. Many faculty members claimed they felt intimidated into remaining silent when they disagreed with Summers. Along the same vein, several prominent administrators abruptly left (or were forced to leave) their positions during Summers' tenure: Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis, Associate Dean of the CollegeDavid P. Illingworth, Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth Studley Nathans, and finally Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby. Another factor that has been proposed is a supposed substantive disagreement about the structure and philosophy of the undergraduate curriculum, amidst an intensive curricular review initiated during Summers' term. Summers proposed that more emphasis be put on undergraduate education and requested that professors take greater responsibility in teaching their undergraduate classes, as opposed to delegating to teaching fellows. Summers also encouraged Harvard to expand its international programs and connections, hoping that more students would have and use the opportunity to study abroad.[9]

In 2005 supported by students, donors, alumni, law school

Re the Jan 2005 talk on women in science.

The members of the Harvard Corporation, the University's highest governing body, are in charge of the selection of the president and issued statements strongly supporting Summers.

FAS faculty were not unanimous in their comments on Summers. [....]

Summers had stronger support among Harvard College students than among the college faculty. One poll by the Harvard Crimson indicated that students opposed his resignation by a three-to-one margin, with 57% of responding students opposing his resignation and 19% supporting it. [5]


After the Harvard Corporation accepted Summers' resignation, hundreds of millions in pledged contributions were canceled by donors who were disappointed by the Harvard Corporation's failure to stand up to the college faculty [8]. Harvard college alumni, as well as students and faculty at Harvard University's professional schools (in particular Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School), and other large donors generally supported Summers. Summers' dismissal was viewed by many as an indicator that the humanities faculty at the College had power that was disproportionately large relative to their contributions to the University, and that they would seek to use their entrenched position as tenured faculty to block curricular reforms, championed by Summers, that would place greater emphasis on math and science.


What's odd, iirc, is that it was the humanities departments that had failed to promote women ( 4 out of 36? ). Perhaps they were trying to blame Summers for their own failings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

and led Harvard to commit $50 million to the recruitment and hiring of women faculty

adding that he "would like nothing better than to be proved wrong". The controversy generated a great deal of media attention, forced Summers to make a number of apologies, and led Harvard to commit $50 million to the recruitment and hiring of women faculty.[29]


Wow, that's awful! Summers' talk worked; not only provoked thought, but got $50 million for the cause.

bio and links, ulterior motives at Harvard

  1. a b Toxic Memo, Harvard Magazine, May-June 2001
  2. a b text and commentary, The Whirled Bank (satirical website)
  3. ^ Housman, Daniel M., and Michael S. McPherson. Economics, Moral Analysis, and Public Policy. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  4. ^ an alternate source, The Jackson Progressive

Summers' $150,000 wardrobe -- was supplied by the organizers

Summers said he was only putting forward hypotheses based on the scholarly work assembled for the conference, not expressing his own judgments -- in fact, he said, more research needs to be done on these issues 
The conference, on women and minorities in the science and engineering workforce, was a private, invitation-only event, with about 50 attendees. 
Summers spoke during a working lunch. [....] He said he was synthesizing the scholarship that the organizers had asked him to discuss [....]

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If we 'show our power' by demonizing Summers (guilty or not) ... just whose power are we showing, hm?

If we join in a heresy hunt started by bots and NOW and NARAL, we'll make those groups look stronger.

Anyone who bothers to sort out the PUMA letters from theirs, can use ours as an excuse for Obama not to hire other Clinton 90s people.

If you must demonize someone, what about Judas Richardson?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How 'innate differences' invented the Internet

“The Crimson was one of the only publications to explicitly point out that he had never actually uttered the infamous phrase about ‘innate differences. ‘ ” Unfortunately, Summers’ habitual reaction to being (perhaps deliberately) misrepresented is like Gore’s on the ‘invented the internet’ misquote: Faced with a “media frenzy”, Summers’ “familiar script “ is “first declaring the whole thing a misunderstanding, then apologizing for unintentionally hurting any feelings, and finally taking institutional measures to rectify the problems some saw as the heart of the conflict.” [ref How Larry Got His Rep Published On Thursday, March 03, 2005  ]

[ These are all notes to add to previous entries. ]

re  1991 memo re Africa

Summers apologized, telling his critics that the memo was supposed to be a “sardonic counterpoint, an effort to sharpen the analysis” and that he had not been advancing a serious policy option. The week after the story broke, the Economist came to Summers’ defense, editorializing in eerily familiar terms that if Summers “was merely trying to provoke debate,” “it is to be hoped that he succeeds—and that the Bank does not, instead, go silent on the subject.” 
[ref ‘got his rep’] Unfortunately, Summers’ reaction to being (perhaps deliberately) misrepresented is like Gore’s on the ‘invented the internet’ misquote: //// quote ‘got rep’ re misunderstand/apologize/ 

RE      MANNER OF SPEAKING Accusations of ‘abrasive/wonky personality’ were heard as early as ///, //howlong// before Bill and Hillary Clinton appointed Summers as Under Secretary to the Treasury at the beginning of their administration in 1993, putting him among the Clinton Wonks like Gore and Reno (and, at that time, Hillary). During his progress upwards through the Clinton Treasury, “Summers underwent a dramatic transformation, coating his famously bold personality with a keen sense of tact and thoughtfulness. Murray calls Summers the most political Treasury secretary ever, pointing out that he is the only man to hold the job in recent memory who did not make any major public blunders.” “According to Wessel, such things never happened after 1999, when Summers was chosen to succeed Rubin as Treasury Secretary—the most powerful, high-profile position the economist had ever taken on [….] Summers sailed through his years as Treasury secretary, retaining his bold hand while avoiding any major conflicts with foreign leaders or domestic policy makers.” [ got rep ] However the media preferred his old, more colorful image, as did faculty of Harvard whom he made to work harder and think differently than they were used to. (And once out of Washington politics, Summers may have relaxed to boldness and brilliance and provoking people to think.) Unfortunately, Summers’ reaction to  ///same as Gore’s     See excerpts from How Larry Got His Rep Published On Thursday, March 03, 2005 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summarizing -- for D.O.N.E.

I am especially glad to see that Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is available and being considered for his old job. One of Summers' successes involved bailout loans to Mexico -- which were paid back at a profit to the US. I suppose most people know how successful the Clinton economy was overall: going from Bush Sr's deficit to the biggest surplus in US history. 

Anti-Clinton people are smearing Summers as insufficiently PC, and unfortunatelly some PUMAs are falling in with them; bed-fellowing with NOW, NARAL, and other former feminist groups who backed Obama over Hillary. Imo Summers' 'insensitive remarks' were just as innocent, and just as misquoted and misrepresented, as Ferraro's and Bill and Hillary's in this primary. 

I have a diary up about this at with the full text of what Summers actually said and other material from that time.  

Bill appointed Summers in 1993 as Undersecretary, promoted him to Deputy, then finally to Secretary after Rubin left. Thus Bill saw Summers through three Senate confirmation hearing procedures. If Bill thought he was worth that -- then I trust Bill's judgement.

"Working lunch" talk about women in science, Jan 2005

Gore, Ferraro, Bill, and Hillary have all been damaged by having their remarks taken out of context, misrepresented, and/or misquoted. Then they tend to make things worse by apologizing at length for being misquoted or misunderstood, which enemies then take as admission of whatever terrible sin they were accused of.

In January 2005, Summers was requested to give a talk at a "working lunch" for a group of economists//. He was given some research results and asked to summarize them, in a //provocative// way so as to stimulate argument and look for solutions for a lack of women in science and math in //waht area//.

He did, in a convoluted scholarly style with many disclaimres, unfortunately widely separated from what was being disclaimed. (He may have occasionally mis-spoken "under threat of sniper fire" as "under sniper fire", or seen fallen heroes in the audience.)

At the luncheon, Summers did not give out a written version of his talk.  Inaccurate stories were spread about it, especially by // who walked out in the middle. Stories were published in newspapers and public statements were issued (some by people who had not heard the talk), all before Summers finally provided a transcript.

Here are some of the disclaimers that his critics leave out:

Here are 
....the full text of a transcript
....two apologies, taken as confessions
....newspaper versions.

/A comment and reply re more women in sciences in Asia/

Monday, November 10, 2008

1991 satirical memo -- "pollution to Africa"

In 1991 Summers wrote a satirical memo (in the tradition of Swift's "Modest Proposal") suggesting some arguments to be used against serious proposals to the World Bank. 

Some people claimed to take it seriously, so Summers apologized, telling his critics that the memo was supposed to be a “sardonic counterpoint, an effort to sharpen the analysis” and that he had not been advancing a serious policy option. The week after the story broke, the Economist came to Summers’ defense, [saying] that if Summers “was merely trying to provoke debate,” “it is to be hoped that he succeeds—and that the Bank does not, instead, go silent on the subject.”  [ ref 'got re']

The excerpt below from Summers' memo should have made clear that the whole thing was satire. Some people chose to treat it as serious, and made it an issue in his confirmation hearings as Bill Clinton appointed him first Undersecretary of the Treasury, then Deputy, then Secretary. 

Bill didn't seem worried about it, though :-)

The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.

Longer leaked text of the 'Africa' memo

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Manner of speaking, 'personality'

// harvard crimson articles //

The Harvard Crimson (student newspaper) has done two articles strongly defending Summers.
Shortly after the January 2005 "working lunch" talk about women in science, they wrote this long article saying talk of Summers having an 'abrasive personality' was mostly media spin.
"How Larry Got His Rep" -- Published On Thursday, March 03, 2005 

// time, crooks and liars? //

//? hard on slackers //


In my opinion....

There are so many contributing or possibly contributing factors to to current financial mess, that anyone with any experience can be linked to some of those factors. What's clear is that the Clinton administration of the 90s cleaned up Bush Sr's mess, changing the biggest deficit (at that time) to the biggest surplus. From the beginning of the Clinton Administration in 1993, Summers was in  Clinton's Department of the Treasury, as Under-Secretary and Deputy Secretary, before succeeding Rubin (who has been called "his mentor") as Secretary. As a strong supporter of Bill and HIllary Clinton, I would applaud the choice of Summers. To nitpick about some statements being less than PC (when read on the same level that brought us "Gore said he invented the internet") seems very counterproductive, and likely to bring both Bill Clinton and the feminists into disrepute. Summers was part of the most successful Treasury Department in several decades; let's bring him back and let him direct the next one.

UPDATE: I'll keep adding more info and links as I get them.

Someone posted elsewhere:

You may also be interested in his send-pollution-to-Africa memo:

  1. I replied:Thank you VERY much for the repost, and for being willing to discuss this in a thoughtful way. The content of the memo seems to me obviously satire — in the tradition of Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” The part I’m quoting below seems to spell out to the readers that he is targeting certain arguments relating to serious proposals by making up these silly proposals.That’s my opinion (and I’ve seen the same opinion in some references I didn’t save, perhaps in footnotes at wikipedia). What’s not opinion is the dates: the memo itself dated 1991 and a critical postscript saying it “became public” in 1992 — well before Summers was admitted to the Treasury Dept, much less became Undersecretary or Secretary. It was ‘leaked to the environmental community’ and circulated and apparently taken seriously by Brazil’s then-Secretary of the Environment Jose Lutzenburger.

    It was also made an issue in confirmation hearings.

    DATE: December 12, 1991 TO: Distribution FR: Lawrence H. Summers Subject: GEP …. The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.

  2. Re Summer’s talk in January 2005
    (available at

    Someone posted elsewhere:

    One thing that is hurting the U.S. economically is that China and India are far surpassing us in terms of science and technology. Many of their physicists/engineers are women. Not so in this country. An economist who does not understand these developments is ineffective, if not dangerous.

    I replied:

    IN a quick reading of that Jan 2005 thing, I see that Summers is thinking very hard about the problem of US glass ceiling in those fields and how to approach it. Also he talks a lot about the pattern you mention, that a company(nation/INdia/CHina) that seeks brilliant people who are being discriminated against elsewhere could out-compete the discriminating competition. He’s obviously smart and can put these factors together.

    According to the Boston Globe coverage at the time (dateline Jan 17, 2005) “The conference, on women and minorities in the science and engineering workforce, was a private, invitation-only event, with about 50 attendees. Summers spoke during a working lunch. He declined to provide a tape or transcript of his remarks [....]”

    The version at the url you gave may have been expanded. But still this began as a “working lunch” talk where “[T]he organizer of the conference at the National Bureau of Economic Research said Summers was asked to be provocative, and that he was invited as a top economist, not as a Harvard official.” So if he does not mention China/India, that doesn’t mean he was unaware of what they were doing as of January 2005.

    IN any case I”m sure he’s heard a lot about it by now! -) He’s probably leaning over backwards to correct any errors, since he has negative-symbol rep to compensate for, rather than being able to coast on a symbolic status of his own.

    Would Bill Clinton have chosen a sexist in the first place, or not noticed such tendencies during the years between promoting Summers on up the ladder to Sec of Treas?

  3. Summers has said that he was ASKED to summarize some research that the organizers provided him from various sources. He was summarizing it as requested — NOT giving his OWN opinions.

    Blaming him for this –is like blaming Palin for the wardrobe that the RNC supplied to her.

  4. Please be careful that we’re not falling in with the Bots who will oppose ANY loyal Clinton person, on one pretext or another.Anglachelg describes them at 

    All the blogospheric people who have made an industry out of Clinton bashing and demonizing Bill’s administration while refusing to hold anyone else accountable and who have been at the forefront of proclaiming what incredible change The Precious will bring to Washington are now having to deal with the very basic fact that the new preznit won’t be able to do jack shit without using the people Left Blogistan loves to hate.

    It’s only The Village and the self-appointed “experts” (often members of the media or else Ivory Tower academics, all of them the worst kind of Stevensonians) of Left Blogistan who hate Clinton and Gore (and for pretty much the same reasons - their joint fantasy that they are opposing white trash racists) and who insist the Clinton administration was a failure.

  5. As for Summers having an ‘abrasive personality’, here is a long article from the Harvard Crimson saying it’s mostly media spin. 

    More on the Harvard Jan 2005 talk. Here is an article at the time analyzing the transcript. Imo the article is shallow; I'll try to do a better analysis when I can.

    What Larry Summers Said

    Bowing to faculty demands, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers on Thursday released atranscript of his controversial remarks on women and science. He did so while releasing yet anotherapology for those remarks and as the head of the Harvard Corporation released a statement


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Summers' record a Bill Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury


As undersecretary and deputy secretary of the Treasury, Summers worked closely with Secretaries Bentsen and Rubin in formulating domestic and international economic policies.  He played a key role in designing the United States support program for Mexico in the wake of its 1995 financial crisis and in crafting the international response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997.  As deputy secretary, Summers was also instrumental in the introduction of indexed Treasury debt securities, and in the reform of the Internal Revenue Service.  When President Clinton appointed Summers as secretary of the Treasury, he called Summers “a critical part of our economic team during the entire life of this administration.”

During Summers’s tenure as secretary of the Treasury, the United States used budget surpluses to repurchase Treasury debt for the first time since the 1920's, and extended the life of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.  Summers led efforts to modernize the financial system, extend financial privacy protections, provide for digital signatures, and insure the viability of the over-the-counter derivatives market.  Summers also championed reforms to address corporate tax shelters and predatory lending practices.