Damned Heretics

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Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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Times lets Larry Summers off the hook

Front page story on Summers winning Obama slot quietly vindicates him

Women colleagues admire Summers, who never said women were inferior at math or science, just wondered what research would find

Let’s hope Times survives current crisis to continue as standard bearer of truth in PC battles, finally reversing its HIV/AIDS bias

lawrence-summers.jpgA front page Times story yesterday (Sun Dec 7 2008), A Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal was surprising in tone, since it was full of quiet assertions that the misunderstood Lawrence Summers was never guilty of underestimating women, just as we pointed out during the Harvard onslaught this distinguished economist suffered from the oversensitive and paranoid PC battalion in the faculty and elsewhere.

CAMBRIDGE — The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.

Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on Summers’ talk, saying later that if she hadn’t left, ”I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” Five other participants reached by the Globe, including Denice D. Denton, chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, also said they were deeply offended, while four other attendees said they were not.

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 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….

Summers spoke during a working lunch. He declined to provide a tape or transcript of his remarks, but the description he gave in an interview was generally in keeping with what 10 participants recalled. He said he was synthesizing the scholarship that the organizers had asked him to discuss, and that in his talk he repeated several times: ”I’m going to provoke you.”

He offered three possible explanations, in declining order of importance, for the small number of women in high-level positions in science and engineering. The first was the reluctance or inability of women who have children to work 80-hour weeks.

The second point was that fewer girls than boys have top scores on science and math tests in late high school years. ”I said no one really understands why this is, and it’s an area of ferment in social science,” Summers said in an interview Saturday. ”Research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialization weren’t” due to socialization after all.

This was the point that most angered some of the listeners, several of whom said Summers said that women do not have the same ”innate ability” or ”natural ability” as men in some fields.

Asked about this, Summers said, ”It’s possible I made some reference to innate differences. . . I did say that you have to be careful in attributing things to socialization. . . That’s what we would prefer to believe, but these are things that need to be studied.”

Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.

In his talk, according to several participants, Summers also used as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral parenting. Yet she treated them almost like dolls, naming one of them ”daddy truck,” and one ”baby truck.” (Boston Globe, Jan 17, 2005)

So much for free speech and free enquiry, in an arena where as we pointed out in a previous post research has now shown that probably the only difference between the general intelligences of the two sexes is that there are more geniuses and fools among men than women, as might be expected.

However, whether little girls and boys behave differently with trucks is another question altogether. We recall one study years ago which found that among tots on a beach who sat in the sand, the boys would throw sand away from them, then move and throw sand away from another position, while girls tended to sit in just one place and gather sand towards them.

The excellent liveliness of Larry

Now Summers has made a full social comeback, the Times explains why in an even handed and complimentary piece which expands upon the immediate reason, which is that Larry Summers gives very, very good summaries of the current economic situation when these are needed by the new master of the political universe, Barack Obama:

Now, Mr. Summers will have a job as the top White House economic adviser to Barack Obama. American economic policy will be spearheaded in what many call the worst environment since the Great Depression in part by a man whose last full-time role ended in forced resignation.

The two men, who have forged their relationship in the tumult of the financial crisis, share a lot: Harvard, a love of debate and firm convictions, like agreement on the need to narrow the gap between America’s most fortunate and everyone else….

Starting last summer, as economics came to the forefront of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama faced constant decisions on the subject. Mr. Summers’s allies in the campaign put Mr. Summers on the phone, giving him a key task: to synthesize the developments for Mr. Obama. Mr. Summers made himself into an essential guide, Obama aides say, and earned a place in the administration.

Of course, it would have been an even nicer tribute to Summers if it hadn’t been used as an opportunity by the photo editor to print once again the image of Summers lurking with shifty gaze behind Obama’s shoulder. 07summers-600.jpg(Click Charles Dharapak of AP’s image to enlarge) Presumably the photo editor was unable to read the article him/herself in time, and choose a more suitable portrait. Or perhaps he/she felt differently. Or maybe the intent of the whole piece was a little backhanded:

“Barack thinks with his mind open,” said Charles Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard. “Larry thinks with his mouth open.”

But most of the piece was positive:

From the moment he stepped down, Mr. Summers, advised by powerful supporters who said he had been unfairly maligned, worked hard at repairing his reputation. He defended his time at Harvard but admitted mistakes; wrote a column that repositioned him politically and predicted the coming trauma; helped build a research group that supplied Mr. Obama with economic ideas and aides; and strengthened ties to women who helped dispel the accusation — stemming from a 2005 talk in which Mr. Summers wondered out loud about a relative lack of women in top academic science and engineering posts — that he thought poorly of their scientific abilities. He helped practically anyone who asked for advice, like undergraduates, economists and candidates.

This small effort to make amends for the petty extremism of others is worthy of the Times, even as it shows how careful its reporting has to be not to offend the Precious Contingent and stir up more trouble for Summers. For clearly the shamefully repressive affair still has repercussions, since one reason given for Summers’ appointment as the top economic adviser to Obama, head of the National Economic Council, rather than the Treasury Cabinet post he once filled that went to one of his mentorees, Timothy F. Geithner, is that no one wants to suffer the kind of hearings that the overzealous defenders of female impregnability on the status front might visit upon us.

Obama advisers name several reasons for the job assignments: Mr. Geithner is a fresh face. Mr. Summers’s job gives him a broader policy arena and a chance to do what he does best: debate ideas. He also avoids confirmation hearings, which could dredge up unpleasantness related to his Harvard tenure.

Summers’ sins don’t sound so bad to us, either; they seem to amount to nothing more than impatience with those too lazy or weakminded to think about a topic thoroughly enough to earn listening time:

“He’s going to have to ensure that he does not stifle debate or intimidate people,” said Roger Porter, a colleague at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former adviser to three presidents, who is otherwise confident about Mr. Summers’s performance.

Are there slower thinkers at Harvard?

Perhaps Larry’s mistake was to assume that Harvard doesn’t contain people who are so subjectively inclined that one should be kind to them to let them save face. This is probably an error, we suspect, judging from the fact that long ago we remember British graduate students laughing at the plodding mediocrity of a Harvard thesis on the shipbuilding industry. Not everyone in the nation’s highest academic tower had a wide perspective, it suggested.

Possibly Harvard has raised its standards in the last four decades as it became the hot ticket to financial success outside the academy. But there are at least two recent hints that it hasn’t, however. Harvard just lost a large chunk of its endowment in a housing and credit crisis that even Harpers magazine, hardly a redoubt for economic experts, foresaw, and that Marxist commentators like the inimitable Jack Barnes predicted and described accurately years ago.

felineaids.jpg Also, the School of Public Health is currently embarrassed by the efforts of Max Essex to propagandize on behalf of the failed HIV/AIDS paradigm with a “study” that “found” that 350,000 lives have been lost in South Africa through withholding dangerous and often lethal ARV drugs from people who certainly did better without them, at least according to peer reviewed medical literature by other, more trustworthy authors (Max Essex’s cat AIDS virus is a lesser known variation on the HIV theme).

A lively mind

Anyhow, getting back to Larry, he apparently doesn’t suffer fools gladly:

David Gergen, also a Harvard Kennedy School professor and White House veteran, asked: “Will it all be tea and cookies in there with Larry?” Of course not, but it shouldn’t be.”

But he has had excellent relations with many high powered women:

Mr. Summers counseled Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in elected office in American history, who drew him into economic advisory meetings. From the end of his presidency, the many women among his friends fanned out to defend his name.

“Quite a number of us who are women and relished working with Larry” thought he had been given a “bum rap,” said Elena Kagan, whom Mr. Summers had appointed as law school dean.

Among other examples of how well Summers works with others, and how helpful he is:

Around the time Mr. Summers resigned, Mr. Rubin started a small research group called the Hamilton Project and housed at the Brookings Institution, to foster new economic policy ideas. Mr. Summers threw himself into it. Asked to review papers by outside authors, he would return them with extensive comments, said Jason Furman, the former project director and chief economic adviser in the Obama campaign. “He didn’t just want to sit on the board and speak at the event,” said Mr. Furman, who served in the Clinton administration when Mr. Summers was Treasury secretary.

For someone said to be poor at reading others, Mr. Summers has often displayed keen political instincts; after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he had urged Harvard students to support the government and spoke out in support of its embattled R.O.T.C. chapter. Now, struck by the harsh consequences of globalization and income stagnation even among college graduates, Mr. Summers, known as a centrist as Treasury secretary, moved left, and in a very public forum.

freeland.jpgChrystia Freeland, a former student who had become editor at the Financial Times, asked him to write a monthly column that became such an attraction that the paper soon promoted it with his picture atop the front page. Mr. Summers offered prescriptions for the deepening economic trouble including huge fiscal stimulus and measures to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. A primary theme of his column was that too many people were falling behind, a point he cast in political as well as economic terms.

All in all, it seems that Larry’s only sin is to enjoy lively debate with a delight that speaks well for his love of new ideas, open mindedness and Obama-like ability to handle strength of mind in others, which in recent years has resulted in a productive shift in his own position from center to the left in his appreciation of how free trade is just as much in need of some steering and regulation as free competition in finance or production, in order judiciously to limit human exploitation without killing the golden goose of profit.

PC used to curb free debate in HIV non-science

watsonx.jpgThe Summers incident is not the only one which serves to show how powerful this kind of constraint on free speech and freely undertaken research can be (another was Jim Watson’s fiery expiration as the grand old comet of scientific outspokenness). As far as those interested in science politics are concerned, all this is also reminiscent of the vexed arena of HIV/AIDS, equally twisted by interests that use PC posturing to stifle debate or engender belief.

As Nietsche remarked,

“Every man has his price.” This is not true. But for every man there exists a bait which he cannot resist swallowing. To win over certain people to something, it is only necessary to give it a gloss of love of humanity, nobility, gentleness, self-sacrifice – and there is nothing you cannot get them to swallow. To their souls, these are the icing, the tidbit; other kinds of souls have others.

But PC politics in HIV/AIDS is mostly manipulated to protect the absurdly irrational paradigm fro review. The alarm that the narcissistic feminists among the Harvard faculty showed at the very notion that science should be allowed to evaluate what if any genetic bias away from math and science genius woman might contain is very similar in its style and repressive effect to the forceful hostility in HIV/AIDS toward any research initiative that might seek to evaluate the current 100% unlikely belief that HIV causes AIDS or any other symptoms.

Normally people who express horror and alarm at the very idea that their fond beliefs should be double checked are taken to be signaling how uncertain they really are about whether their faith would stand up to investigation, much as unfaithful husbands express shock and horror that their wives should not take their word that they have been entirely faithful and are then reasonably judged guilty by their spouses.

In the case of HIV/AIDS however this Excessive Denial syndrome is taken at face value by everyone including the otherwise often alert Times editors, for some reason possibly to do with vested interests preventing the proper functioning of medical correspondent Larry Altman’s brain ever since he attended the CDC school in reporting on infectious diseases.

Let’s hope that this brief flourish of higher values by the Great Lady of Times Square is not her last huzzah, since the current newspaper implosion is so cataclysmic that observers see the only way out for the Times from its $400 million debt repayment problem in May this year which otherwise threatens to put it out of business has to be that Google be allowed to take it over, not unlikely in our opinion unless the now fallen fruit of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, or Miami Herald tempt Google first.

Let the Times reign on – reformed in one aspect, please

Would that be a good thing? In one way it might be a blessing if it influences Times editors to understand that the Web now contains authoritative material which corrects conventional wisdom even in science, such as that found here at Science Guardian.

It might even remove the Times from its current myopic position as chief promoter of the most obviously incorrect paradigm in the history of medical science.

Meanwhile, Summers may be in for an even bigger job if he is all the Times says he is now:

As a participant in debates of the National Economic Council in the 1990s, “he was a great team player, he was loved and was very respectful of the back and forth,” said Gene Sperling, who led the council under Bill Clinton.

The term of Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, expires in January 2010, and some members of the Obama team predict that if Mr. Summers performs well, the job could be his. It requires confirmation, but with every passing day, say friends, Cambridge recedes further into the distance.

Fox on guard at the henhouse?

Needless to say, some will carp that this is all yet another example of how Obama has misfired in appointing the very man most responsible for dismantling regulatory oversight of the banking sector’s derivatives which as a result built up to a massive pyramid of unfathomable and interlocking debt instruments of nearly $50 trillion, which is now toppling and threatening to bury us all in a credit strangled international economic collapse where no one is willing to lend anybody anything. But we understand that Larry has explained all that and how his moves to deregulate are not responsible, and though we have not read it, we are sure it will lay concern to rest.

After all, as we have already posted we have complete trust in Barack Obama as a semi-divine intervention who transcends the petty ideologies that bias ordinary mortals in their decisions by listening to all sides and making a pragmatic determination of the best path forward in the light of the ultimate goals of peace, prosperity and freedom from fear and prejudice that we all share.

Here’s the full text of the Times piece, A Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal:
December 7, 2008
A Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal

By JODI KANTOR and JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
One quiet Friday in June 2006, Lawrence H. Summers ended his turbulent tenure as president of Harvard University. Few of the undergraduates for whom Mr. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, used to sign dollar bills were around. Most of his staff, including his driver, had been reassigned. Soon, even the burger with his name was off the menu at Mr. Bartley’s in Harvard Square.

Now, Mr. Summers will have a job as the top White House economic adviser to Barack Obama. American economic policy will be spearheaded in what many call the worst environment since the Great Depression in part by a man whose last full-time role ended in forced resignation.

The two men, who have forged their relationship in the tumult of the financial crisis, share a lot: Harvard, a love of debate and firm convictions, like agreement on the need to narrow the gap between America’s most fortunate and everyone else. But they are also an odd couple: the serene, slender politician who seems to win people over effortlessly and the impatient, acerbic bear of a man who seems to offend them just as easily.

“Barack thinks with his mind open,” said Charles Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard. “Larry thinks with his mouth open.”

Aides to President-elect Obama say a top administration role for Mr. Summers once would have seemed to be a remote possibility because of his controversial tenure at Harvard, during which he angered women and members of the faculty.

From the moment he stepped down, Mr. Summers, advised by powerful supporters who said he had been unfairly maligned, worked hard at repairing his reputation. He defended his time at Harvard but admitted mistakes; wrote a column that repositioned him politically and predicted the coming trauma; helped build a research group that supplied Mr. Obama with economic ideas and aides; and strengthened ties to women who helped dispel the accusation — stemming from a 2005 talk in which Mr. Summers wondered out loud about a relative lack of women in top academic science and engineering posts — that he thought poorly of their scientific abilities. He helped practically anyone who asked for advice, like undergraduates, economists and candidates.

But it was the financial crisis, or a series of phone calls about it, that almost instantly resuscitated Mr. Summers’s career.

Starting last summer, as economics came to the forefront of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama faced constant decisions on the subject. Mr. Summers’s allies in the campaign put Mr. Summers on the phone, giving him a key task: to synthesize the developments for Mr. Obama. Mr. Summers made himself into an essential guide, Obama aides say, and earned a place in the administration.

As the head of the National Economic Council, he will play two roles: counseling the president and nurturing the proposals of others. Few doubt that Mr. Summers will excel in the first; Democrats and Republicans call him one of the top economic minds in the country, with a résumé that may make him overqualified for the job.

Even Mr. Summers’s allies, though, acknowledge worries about the second part of his role. Mr. Summers, in an interview, said a crucial part of the job was exposing the president “to all possible views, developed as strongly and rigorously as they can be.”

But at Harvard, numerous faculty members and administrators say, Mr. Summers’s downfall resulted chiefly from his tendency to impose rather than persuade, to appear to have little regard for the views of others.

“He’s going to have to ensure that he does not stifle debate or intimidate people,” said Roger Porter, a colleague at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former adviser to three presidents, who is otherwise confident about Mr. Summers’s performance.

David Gergen, also a Harvard Kennedy School professor and White House veteran, asked: “Will it all be tea and cookies in there with Larry?” Of course not, but it shouldn’t be.”

After his five-year Harvard presidency, Mr. Summers at first seemed to have trouble letting go, colleagues and staff members say. He was on sabbatical but still roamed campus, especially the residential houses and pizza parties of undergraduates, who adored him so much they gave him a standing ovation at the next year’s graduation. He tried to fashion himself into an authority on reform of higher education, starting a book and giving blistering talks that amounted to a defense of his leadership.

Mr. Summers had recently married Elisa New, an English professor, and he bought a 6,500-square foot house and took up golf. “I had been in positions for 15 years when I had a full schedule for every day and a briefing book,” he said, “and I wanted for some interval to have a flexible and freer life.”

Friends, including Mr. Gergen, who had deployed his crisis management skills to try to save Mr. Summers’s presidency, and Robert E. Rubin, Mr. Summers’s predecessor as Treasury secretary and a longtime champion, told him he still had a big contribution to make. Return to your first love, economics, some recalled saying. Forget education reform. And make sure people know you are no misogynist.

Mr. Summers counseled Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in elected office in American history, who drew him into economic advisory meetings. From the end of his presidency, the many women among his friends fanned out to defend his name.

“Quite a number of us who are women and relished working with Larry” thought he had been given a “bum rap,” said Elena Kagan, whom Mr. Summers had appointed as law school dean.

As he took on projects, collaborators enjoyed the very qualities that had made the Harvard faculty seethe: for instance, his eagerness to delve into matters that seemed small for someone of his stature.

He became a co-editor of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, helping revive the once-vibrant journal. He took on a lucrative part-time role at D. E. Shaw & Company, a investment firm, spending a day or two a week in New York. He joined the board of Teach for America, which promotes equality in education. In interviews, people from all three organizations marveled at Mr. Summers’s capacity for involvement even in minor affairs.

“The small strategic decisions add up to the whole ballgame,” said Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America.

Around the time Mr. Summers resigned, Mr. Rubin started a small research group called the Hamilton Project and housed at the Brookings Institution, to foster new economic policy ideas. Mr. Summers threw himself into it. Asked to review papers by outside authors, he would return them with extensive comments, said Jason Furman, the former project director and chief economic adviser in the Obama campaign. “He didn’t just want to sit on the board and speak at the event,” said Mr. Furman, who served in the Clinton administration when Mr. Summers was Treasury secretary.

For someone said to be poor at reading others, Mr. Summers has often displayed keen political instincts; after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he had urged Harvard students to support the government and spoke out in support of its embattled R.O.T.C. chapter. Now, struck by the harsh consequences of globalization and income stagnation even among college graduates, Mr. Summers, known as a centrist as Treasury secretary, moved left, and in a very public forum.

Chrystia Freeland, a former student who had become editor at the Financial Times, asked him to write a monthly column that became such an attraction that the paper soon promoted it with his picture atop the front page. Mr. Summers offered prescriptions for the deepening economic trouble including huge fiscal stimulus and measures to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. A primary theme of his column was that too many people were falling behind, a point he cast in political as well as economic terms.

“In order to keep public support for open markets, you had to do more for the disadvantaged and the losers in globalization,” as Stuart E. Eizenstat, Mr. Summers’s former deputy at the Treasury Department, put it.

Three years ago, Mr. Summers could hardly pronounce Barack Obama’s name.

Introducing Mr. Obama at a reunion for black alumni of Harvard Law School, Mr. Summers drew chuckles as he stumbled through several iterations, finally settling on “BARE-ack.” The two men, intrigued by each other, stole away to talk privately, Mr. Ogletree said.

In the presidential primaries, most Clinton veterans stuck with their home team candidate, but Mr. Summers stayed neutral. Later, as the Obama campaign swallowed people and ideas from the Hamilton Project, he became involved, too, impressing aides with his willingness to do anything they asked, whether editing policy proposal or making television appearances.

As the financial crisis bloomed, Mr. Furman gave Mr. Summers a crucial task: introducing Mr. Obama’s internal conference calls on the economy by quickly summarizing the developments. The results were masterpieces of synthesis and concision, several participants said.

“I could tell, just being on the call,” Mr. Rubin said, “Obama got used to Larry bringing it all together.”

Mr. Obama sometimes asked questions other advisers struggled to answer, but Mr. Summers always seemed to provide new detail or analysis, making gracious references to the points of others.

Asked before Election Day if Mr. Summers would consider an administration role, friends joked that he had already bought airline tickets for his job interview.

For the position of Treasury secretary, the transition team had two finalists: Mr. Summers and Timothy F. Geithner, who had worked under him at the Treasury Department. “Either way it would have made sense,” Mr. Rubin said.

Obama advisers name several reasons for the job assignments: Mr. Geithner is a fresh face. Mr. Summers’s job gives him a broader policy arena and a chance to do what he does best: debate ideas. He also avoids confirmation hearings, which could dredge up unpleasantness related to his Harvard tenure.

When the jobs were announced, economists speculated on what the relationship between Mr. Summers and Mr. Geithner would be, now that the latter has the more prestigious title.

But in recent transition meetings, as in the Clinton administration, the two have seemed to trust and enjoy wrangling with each other, one aide said. Mr. Rubin said of Mr. Summers that in general he was “very aware of the criticism and very focused on making sure it works.”

And some predict that Mr. Obama’s style could mellow that of Mr. Summers.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, said Mr. Obama’s “affability and inclusiveness might help nurture those same qualities in Larry, even though those haven’t been among Larry’s notable strengths.”

He may be better matched with fellow economists than he was with Harvard’s faculty, say colleagues, and with an advisory role rather than an executive one. As a participant in debates of the National Economic Council in the 1990s, “he was a great team player, he was loved and was very respectful of the back and forth,” said Gene Sperling, who led the council under Bill Clinton.

The term of Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, expires in January 2010, and some members of the Obama team predict that if Mr. Summers performs well, the job could be his. It requires confirmation, but with every passing day, say friends, Cambridge recedes further into the distance.

“Now, who talks about Harvard?” Mr. Eizenstat, the former deputy Treasury secretary, said. “It’s a thing of the past, a little blip on the radar screen.”

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53 Responses to “Times lets Larry Summers off the hook”

  1. MacDonald Says:

    Seth, no doubt the joke gets funnier every time you tell it, but let’s face it, you are not going to sell any books regardless.

    If you really want to make us laugh, why don’t you post some nude photos of yourself. I’m sure your wife wouldn’t mind dropping the fig either, since you’re both in the business of prostituting yourselves.

  2. Cathyvm Says:

    Seth – “dooped”? Did you mean “duped” or “pooped”. No really, you parade yourself as a PhD and you don’t know how to spell what you mean (or is that smelled what you peed?). Whatever, your “does David Crowe exist”, never remotely funny in the first place, is worn so thin a Donald Trump toupe won’t cover it.
    Now I’m not officially a “psychologist” Seth but I suspect a bit of OCD behaviour here. Are you washing your hands 100+ times a day? Turning in a circle 3 times before opening a door? Blessing the Virgin Gastronomicus 35 times before placing a morsel in your (well, lets face it, overstuffed) mouth?
    Just to confirm my suspicions I called the University of Connecticut and it reinforced my worst fears. Your colleagues said (not even intimated here) that you are a sexual predator the likes of which has never been seen since Dennis Nielsen (or I believe in your neck of the woods it would be more appropriate to mention Jeffrey Dahmer).
    Anyhoo, (or is that anyhooped?)
    I think Seth you need to get some help.

    Umm, nooooo MacDonald – the clothed pictures are scary enough – can you imagine all that adiposity released? Ugh!

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    “Rebecca Culshaw exists, just call the math dept at UT-Tyler and they will tell you she no longer has her job. You might even talk to her husband, he still has his job.”

    Seth Kalichman, are you not aware that if someone loses their job, as you put it, as a result of being hounded by an ignorant pack of thieves for speaking the truth as she sees it, the actions of these people flout our nation’s Constitution which guarantees free speech, breaks one of the fundamental rules on which any respectable academy is founded, is against a basic principle of good science (that claims must be freely discussed and reviewed) and is ethically abhorrent to all decent people, let alone a crime against the public interest, which demands that scientific claims on which huge public spending is posited must be freely discussed and reviewed, and political and social means of repressing such discussion and protecting such claims from review might be counted criminal and prosecuted in a court of law for misleading the keepers of the public purse and fraudulently obtaining public funding with statements the applicants know are possibly or even probably (in this case certainly) false.

    You didn’t know any of this, but boast of such activity?

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