Home / General / But Gravitas!

But Gravitas!


Seriously, if you’ve going to pass over a very qualified woman to lead the Fed on the grounds that she’s not a team player, and the alternative is the famously modest and deferential Larry Summers, you might as well just say a penis is a job requirement and be done with it.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • mch

    More people should be reading Echidne about whatever she is querying. So pleased to see this link!

    • jim, some guy in iowa


  • I don’t think this conflict is about sexism. It’s about Rubinites holding onto their power.

    I also agree with Matt Y that Obama’s team VASTLY overrates their own performance on economic policy and they don’t get the criticism of the vastly overrated Summers.

    • Alan Tomlinson

      Consider the possibility that both sexism and cronyism could be factors.

      To paraphrase the brilliant Laurie Anderson, “Only a penis can handle the problem.”


      Alan Tomlinson

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “Consider the possibility that both sexism and cronyism could be factors.”

        Or diversity! Of chromosomes!

        Yellen just has two X’s, but Summers has an X AND a Y!

        Now, if there were only an XXY candidate, it would all be good.

    • joe from Lowell

      I don’t think this conflict is about sexism. It’s about Rubinites holding onto their power.

      Whatever it’s about, it sure as hell isn’t about the pretextual b.s. in that Washington Post article.

      She’s not manic? She’s very prepared?

      • Rarely Posts

        Yeah, the piece convinced me that I should support Yellen and oppose Summers. I was already convinced, but it’s funny to read a piece trying so hard to make the case for Summers and to walk away wanting Yellen. I’ve been in the room with these “super smart” manic, unprepared people. They inevitably have too high an opinion of their intelligence and, even more so, the value of that intelligence.

        Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

        I’ll take the smart person who is prepared and calm over the (allegedly) “super smart” manic person any day of the week. Particularly for the Federal Reserve!

        You also see this with the judiciary. The best judges are the work horses who take the cases seriously, delve into the facts, and rule on the issues before them. Some of the worst are the “super smart” ones who see each case as a chance for them to write clever, witty pieces making broad legal rulings that are merely inspired by the dispute before them. I’m reminded of all of the pieces that worried that Justice Sotomayor allgedly wasn’t “brilliant” enough. Everyone admitted that she was a work horse, and to me, that was infinitely more important than whether she could turn a cute rhetorical phrase.

        • joe from Lowell

          a piece trying so hard to make the case for Summers

          I’m not sure the Post story was really advocacy, so much as description of some people’s thought process. It seemed to take a fairly neutral stance on the merits of those arguments. The arguments themselves are so weak as to suggest that the writer might not be presenting them entirely objectively.

        • I liked Atrios’s capsule description of Brad deLong’s take. Brad wrote an entire post about how Yellen would be better but that, on balance, he might prefer Summers because in the event of another financial melt down something something something might be handled better by Larry. It was so infra dig and weird that Atrios’s summation (Larry might be able to use the Omega 13 to go back in time 30 seconds) was about as good as it gets.

          • rea

            In context, what DeLong wrote approached being a ringing endorsement of Yellen. Half DeLong’s resume is as a junior partner to Summers–at least 4 major papers cowritten with Summers, working for Summers at the Treasury Dept. Even he seems to think Yellen would be a good choice.

            • Herbal Infusion Bagger

              Wasn’t Yellen Summer’s thesis supervisor and mentor?

              • rea

                I don’t think so–she was at Berkeley when he was getting his PhD at Harvard.

          • efgoldman

            It was so infra dig….

            Back to the 60s?
            I haven’t seen that phrase in decades. but I looked it up and it dates to 1824!

      • Ronan

        Its Fed green lanterism, does it really matter? On a practical level?

        • joe from Lowell

          Using that term wrong is really excellent way to show it how much you hate it.

          I’m sure it’s just about ready to curl up in the corner of the dictionary and cry.

          • Ronan

            Eh, does the term not mean ‘theres only so much X (normally the President) can do, so lets not have unreasonable expectations’..
            In this case X is the Fed Chair..not sure why you think I hate the term, rather than agree with it

            • Ronan

              to expand, arguing over the minute specifics of each persons resume after its been whittled down to two people fitting all the political, ideological, professional etc criteria necessary seems to be buying into a form of green lanterism..like those specifics matter that much..
              or perhaps Im wrong vis a vis the Fed, which would be fine

            • elm

              No, Green Lanternism means “if you have enough will, you can accomplish anything.” So named because, in some incarnation, it is his will alone that allows the Green Lantern to accomplish anything he wants, except defeat yellow.

              If people were saying that as long as the Fed Chair cared enough about unemployment, the rate would go down, that would be Fed green lanternism. But the Fed Chair actually has the power to influence the rate, though not determine it outright. Noting this and noting that different economic philosophies might lead to different actions as fed chair is not green lanternism.

              • Ronan

                Thanks, elm. Yeah fair point on what the Fed Chair *can* influence, it just appears that the attention these sorts of appointments get is completely disproporianate to the influence they actually have
                Also, have you seen this? Why the Fed institutionally favours Republicans


                • joe from Lowell

                  The Fed’s regulatory role is no small thing, and there actually is a meaningful difference between Yellen and Summers on that.

            • joe from Lowell

              There was a commenter – not you, apparently – who showed up on a recent thread arguing that the existence of insider lobbying for Summers demolishes everything Scott ever wrote about the BULLY PULPIT and Green Lanternism.

              I thought what you were saying was along those lines.

              • Ronan

                Ah, no problem. Na that wasn’t me (afaicr)

              • Scott Lemieux

                You’re thinking of this. No, it doesn’t make any sense.

  • James E. Powell

    Gravitas is a term used by Villagers to indicate that a person either is a Village Elder or is popular with the Elders.

    • sparks

      I thought in Summers case, gravitas was identical with avoirdupois.

      • In Yellen’s case I presume it would be another word for embonpoint.

    • joe from Lowell

      It is funny how “gravitas” turned into “wooden” and its opposite turned into “relatable” just in time for the 2000 Presidential elections.

  • Cissexist Pig

    What a cissexist pig you are. I am embarrassed for you. What a disgrace you are. Stop posting here you disgusting human being

    • Dave

      OK, what’d I miss?

      • Lee Rudolph

        As a wild guess, Someone Unknown threw out a conjecture about Ms. Yellen’s Sekrit Adam’s Apple. Something of the sort, anyway.

        • Ruviana

          It popped in on the tanning thread near as I can tell. Also seems to have a beef with Amanda (I assume Marcotte). We can send it a delicious stack of flapjacks.

          • I appreciate people being banned as much as the next pseudonymous internet commenter but can ‘t you guys leave up a marker or a sign like “this is pancake 111!!!” because other wise I can’t tell whether Cissexist pig *is* the provocative comment or is in response to it.

            • And given this one, I’m unclear what the heck is going on.

              • LeftWingFox

                I think I know.

                The old pandagon.net registration lapsed, and the site has been taken over by an unrelated aggregator. It recently published a Trans* Exclusionary post, which Amanda responded to.

                My guess is the troll is trying to score points against Amanda by hoping no-one else noticed her full-throated rejection of Trans* exclusionary feminism, by parodying their idea of an oversensitive Social Justice Warrior.

                • Cissexist Pig

                  All you morons missed the point as usual. The Cissexist Pig is “The Dark Avenger” and you all fall slightly into the category. He is a fookin moron and any of you who defend him are just as large a moron

                • Uncle Kvetch

                  Oh, I get it. The commenter who posts here as Dark Avenger has a stalker who has shown up on Alicublog on a number of occasions.

                  If you must feed, feed pancakes.

                • Cissexist Pig AKA DA


                  Here is the deal. He follows me all over the net and makes trans jokes. He is a world class dirt bag

                • sharculese

                  Oh, I get it. The commenter who posts here as Dark Avenger has a stalker who has shown up on Alicublog on a number of occasions.

                  Cool, I was hoping for a morning infusion of stupid and desperate.

                • elm

                  Here is the deal. He follows me all over the net and makes trans jokes. He is a world class dirt bag

                  I haven’t followed DA’s blogging habits enough to know whether this is true or not, but I should note that he/she has not posted in this thread at all, so what your comment was supposed to be responding to, I have no idea.

      • Walt

        Our trolls now communicate in code. Which is kindly of them — it means we can exercise our brains figuring out what they mean before exercising our cardiovascular systems from the blood-pressure spike when we finally do.

        • Cissexist Pig AKA DA

          Walt, read above. Do you side with DA?

          • LeftWingFox

            Being a bigot is bad.

            Being a stalker is worse.

            • Cissexist Pig AKA DA

              Well stop stalking me then douche bag

  • Robbert

    I thought I’d seen it all by now, but making meticulous planning and using one’s own brain out to be flaws is really a bit special.

    • I thought I’d seen it all by now, but making meticulous planning and using one’s own brain out to be flaws is really a bit special.

      If you read MRA’s on discrimination against boys in school settings you will see where they got their training in doing just that. Its practically a standard of the genre.

      • This is a brand of MRA I haven’t encountered yet. As much as I’m going to hate myself for it, any chance of elaboration? I’ve read some single-sex theorists (Leonard Sax, mostly) but they at least pretend to be respectable social scientists.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Now, now. Some of them pretend to be respectable philosophers, like my one-time colleague Christina Hoff Sommers.

          • You have my sympathies.

          • Fair enough – I must’ve cited CHS about ten times in one paper since she’s one of the few people to have repeatedly written about the topic.

            At least as a “philosopher” she doesn’t have to deal with Sax’s problem of thinking validity is a concept for other people.

            • Check out the ManBoobz archives. The philosophy is anything but respectable, but it gives you a dizzying sense of the reach of the belief system. Here’s an example of the application of the theory to real life. Its somewhat confused, true, but what do you expect from a scholar named “Ihavealargepenis.”?

              • Ah, that’s a little different from what I was thinking. We have a similar problem in the classics, according to my thesis advisor: women heavily outnumber men at the undergraduate level, but the pattern switches once you get to graduate school.

                Agreed on the confusion: I don’t get how MIT/Stanford are “non STEM focused” universities or how that entire last paragraph proves that STEM is “huge.”

                The other weird thing is that, when I read up on single-sex education (it was for a master’s paper; I’d never voluntarily plunge into that topic) I was informed that men are the memorizing gender but have problems contextualizing information, and that that’s why we should teach classes with boys as nothing but a series of facts and figures.

                (Now, I am male, and my classes had plenty of memorization, and I was damn good at it . . . but at some point I started smelling rats.)

                • I have a friend who, ended up being a practicing lawyer and then a PH.D. in anthropolgy, learning tibetan and becoming an expert on Tibetan law who was told outright by her professors at University of Michigan (many years ago) that they would not write her a recommendation for graduate school in Philosophy because women didn’t become Philosophers or get Ph.D.s in philosophy. There’s almost always a falling off between undergraduate and graduate school enrollments for the different genders. If only because people never refuse to write recs for men for most fields, but have historically found plenty of reasons to refuse to write recs for women (and people of color).

                • I’ve heard a lot about philosophy departments in particular having this issue. I’m not sure if it’s something inherent to philosophy as an academic discipline – Symposium-writ-large syndrome is something that used to affect classics – or if its relative rarity makes it possible to zero in on it more.

                  Luckily we didn’t have this issue at my undergrad – our classics department is so small (three permanent faculty and ten majors or so at its peak) that almost everyone who takes classics does it as a secondary major. I think I’m about the only one I know of around the time I graduated who wanted to stick with it.

      • sparks

        “Pa! That girl is getting better math grades than meeee!” Really, this sort of thing played out through much of my childhood all the way through college. I heard variants of it dozens of times, even more sophisticated versions of it in university.

        Eventually, I came to realize that boys/men were more vain than girls/women, mostly about different things.

        • delurking

          I had a guy actually *drop* a graduate level classical Greek class for this reason — he was used to getting the best grades in whatever class he took, and I kept consistently outscoring him on every exam and quiz, and that just COULD NOT BE RIGHT, given how I did not have a penis and all.

    • joe from Lowell

      I thought I’d seen it all by now, but making meticulous planning and using one’s own brain out to be flaws is really a bit special.

      Right. We’re not talking about who to appoint for your third down running back here. Overanalyzing and not moving quickly on instinct: bad for a third-down running back, good for a Fed Chair.

      • politicalfootball

        I bet Larry Summers has some insight into why Fed Chairs and third-down running backs are always male.

  • Uncle Kvetch

    She has spent her time as vice chairwoman urging Bernanke and her other fellow policymakers to shift policy to try to do more to combat unemployment, and thinking through ways to do just that.

    Not to dismiss the sexism and cronyism angles, but this is a clear example of wrongthink from the perspective of the Very Serious ones at the WaPo. Unemployment is a trivial concern next to the exploding deficit that isn’t actually exploding or even going up for that matter but shut up it’s exploding, hippie.

    • Johnnie

      And even if it isn’t exploding, the mere possibility that it might means that we have to do everything in our power to avoid that vague possibility. You know, like make it more likely by severely hobbling the tax base by creating a job market where highly educated individuals get to work for scraps with no job security because “growth.”

    • daveNYC

      I’d have to say that the main pushback from within the beltway is due to her not being part of the right crowd, with a healthy dose of VSP quintupling down on their deficit scolding hyperinflation worries. It’s like if she gets the job that means that people are paying attention to the Keynesians that the VSP have spent the last six years mocking, and that can’t be allowed to happen.

      The crap about the Female Dollar… I have no idea what the driver is there. Do they hate her because Obama is the one nominating her? Because she’s a woman? Because the fixed income desks in NYC are pissed off with the performance of their portfolios and think Summers will be better for their PnL? (D) All of the above?

      • Obama isn’t the one nominating her, that’s the problem.

        • joe from Lowell

          But Obama is the one nominating her.

          As we’ve seen from the decision to go forward on health care, or with the Abbottobad raid, he doesn’t just do what his advisors tell him.

          • Did he nominate her? I haven’t seen today’s papers. As far as I know he hasn’t nominated anyone.

            • joe from Lowell


              You: Obama isn’t the one nominating her, that’s the problem.

              Me: But Obama is the one nominating her.

              • Lee Rudolph

                It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. —No, really, I mean it. You two have talked past each other. (I will leave a reconstruction of my stunning rhetorical explanation of just how as an exercise for the reader.)

                • I was responding to this line:

                  Do they hate her because Obama is the one nominating her?

                  To which I answered:

                  Obama isn’t the one nominating her. Because he hasn’t yet and so far the White House qua White House has given no sign that he is, in fact, nominating her. Therefore the hatred of her can’t be because Obama is nominating her. Although it can be caused, of course, by fear that he might nominate her.

                • rea

                  It can’t be emphasized too much–we are not seeing leaks to the press about what Obama intends to do–we are seeing people using the press to lobby Obama in favor of their preferred candidate. Obama hasn’t given any signals showing his preferences.

                • witless chum

                  It can’t be emphasized too much–we are not seeing leaks to the press about what Obama intends to do–we are seeing people using the press to lobby Obama in favor of their preferred candidate. Obama hasn’t given any signals showing his preferences.

                  It’s obviously hard to be sure, but this seems most likely to me. It seems like if it was the administration floating Summers as a trial balloon in the press, it wouldn’t have continued to simmer this long.

                • Manny Kant

                  Every asshole in the Executive Office of the President knows that he can call Wonkblog, float whatever bullshit he wants to, and Ezra and company will print it like it’s gospel. It’s embarrassing.

                • DocAmazing

                  Well, if the RNC has Politico…

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          unless I’ve missed something (entirely possible) Obama hasn’t nominated *anybody* yet, so this is all positioning and tea leaf reading

          that said, Yellen’s the vice chair already, O should name her for the job and be done with it

          • joe from Lowell

            I thought she was saying that it was Obama’s advisors – the ones described in the story – who were making the pick, not Obama, though I may have misunderstood.

            • The nomination is an actual, technical, thing. When Obama nominates her then he will have nominated her. Up until then: he has not nominated her and all the discussion revolves around who secondary parties think should be nominated by him. He could put all this speculation to rest by actually nominating her, or he could throw some more oil on the fire by going ahead and nominating Summers.

              • joe from Lowell


              • DocAmazing

                Schrodinger’s Fed Chief.

        • daveNYC

          Most people would be able to read ‘is nominating’, remember that nobody has actually been nominated yet, and then assume I misspoke and should have said ‘would be nominating’.

      • joe from Lowell

        Do they hate her because Obama is the one nominating her? Because she’s a woman? Because the fixed income desks in NYC are pissed off with the performance of their portfolios and think Summers will be better for their PnL? (D) All of the above?

        I don’t think they hate her. She’s just not Larry Summers.

        • politicalfootball

          I don’t suppose that I’ve accomplished much in life, but I can proudly say that I too, am not Larry Summers.

          (I can picture this line coming near the end of the Fed Nomination Movie, Spartacus-style, as the individuals in the crowd declare: “I’m not Larry Summers.”)

    • tt

      That’s not the sense I got from the blog post at all, or from the largely positive earlier one on Yellen by the same author ()

      The title is “Janet Yellen called the housing bust and has been mostly right on jobs” so I don’t think the perspective of the author is as you suggest.

    • joe from Lowell

      I think you’re misreading that complaint. There doesn’t actually seem to be much distance between Summers and Yellen on that issue. They’re talking about style – she actually worked to lobby The Boss, and tried to get him to advocate for the position she wants, instead of being his aide-de-camp.

      • sparks

        You mean she wasn’t a good little secretary? Aide-de-camp my ass, the VSP complaint is she was getting above herself in advocating for unaddressed issues that need addressing even today. “Lobbying” as used in your comment has a loaded connotation IMO. What does one do but advocate for issues they see as important? I see other Fed governors publically advocate positions all the time. Unless Yellen was expected to be a mere reflection of Bernanke, this is unsurprising. Maybe she was too “shrill”?

        What this reminds me of is the pushback from when Elizabeth Warren decided to run for Senate, the knock was she was just impossible in the role by being right on financial/fiscal issues, couldn’t campaign, plus, you know, girl cooties. Nobody was going to vote for her.

        • joe from Lowell

          What does one do but advocate for issues they see as important

          Did you, by any chance, actually read the story?

        • joe from Lowell


          They’re talking about style


          You mean she wasn’t a good little secretary?

          “Lobbying” as used in your comment has a loaded connotation IMO.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Why are we fighting over which central banker gets to head the Fed? We should be fighting over which union leader gets to head the Fed.

    Who cares what brand of bus runs you over?

    • witless chum

      This is true and would be awesome.

      More possibly in this fucked up state of affairs of ours, how about an elder senator from a deep blue state? It’s not like you have to be a banker to hold that kind of position. It’s a political appointee, so maybe we should appoint a politician.

      • joe from Lowell

        No no no!

        It is not a political appointee; it is an institution designed to be insulated from politics that bases its decision on technical expertise.

        I no more want a political appointee running the Fed than the NIH.

        • witless chum

          “Insulated from politics” seems to currently mean “insulated from pressure from anyone but the financial industry.”

          • politicalfootball

            The Fed and the Egyptian military: Proudly insulated from politics.

        • bobbyp

          The observed institutional bias on the part of the Federal Reserve promoting price stability over lowering unemployment IS a political stance, not one dictated by technical “expertise”.

    • rea

      Putting a union leader in charge of the fed makes about as much sense as putting a central banker in charge of the AFL-CIO. Before worrying about ideology, the first qualification for running the fed is having some understanding of how monetary policy works.

      • Davis X. Machina

        They don’t have staff? The Yellen-Summers wars are all about affect and symbolism at this point, so what’s the difference?

        • Davis X. Machina

          Once you’ve reduced the enterprise to an exercise in symbolic politics, you can go with a class-based largely empty gesture, or a gender-based largely empty gesture.

          Unless there’s a woman out there who’s heading a major labor union then you could get a two-fer.

        • witless chum

          Exactly. (See also, the Supreme Court.) We need to be appointing the most left-wing person that can be confirmed and let the career people who work for them worry about the technical details of how that’s put into practice.

    • PeakVT

      How about a union economist?

  • Manny Kant

    Is this a good time to say “Jesus Christ, what a pathetic operation Ezra Klein is running”?

    • calling all toasters

      Since you obviously didn’t and won’t read the article, now is as good a time as any I suppose.

      • Manny Kant

        I did read the article, which falls under the increasingly common Wonkblog category of “uncritically repeating whatever is fed to us by White House sources.”

  • calling all toasters

    It’s all about Obama being the biggest boy in a room of big boys. If Yellen wanted the job she should not only have been a man, but also be famous.

  • Davis

    Until now, I’d never heard of “being a team player” as a qualification for being Fed chairman. The Fed is an independent entity, you know. The more I read about her, the more I think she’s the best candidate, especially with respect to her concerns about unemployment.

    • joe from Lowell

      I think the “team” being discussed in the Fed board itself, which operates on a consensus model.

      • DocAmazing

        Eeek! Not consensus!

  • Ed

    Obama hasn’t given any signals showing his preferences.

    Yes and no. We have not heard from Obama directly and won’t until the nominee is announced, but some of the articles have indeed hinted, with what degree of accuracy we don’t know, that Summers is Obama’s preferred candidate (noting Obama’s high degree of personal “comfort” with Summers, the importance to Obama of having someone in the position he feels “comfortable” with, his admiration for Summers’ brains, etc., etc.)

    But anyway, Summers deserves a break. He’s the progressives’ whipping boy. You know how those people are.

  • Anonymous

    Aside from his credentials as a certified Harvard Good Old Boy, I fail completely to understand the liberal infatuation with Larry Summers.

It is main inner container footer text