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Archive for February, 2013

In this piece, for example, the author pats himself on the back for his “paper output” and high h-index. The h-index is a count of papers published that factors in how many times those papers have been cited. It’s a better metric than simply a paper count because it attempts to assess quality under the assumption that quality can be measured by citation. Good papers are cited more than bad ones, in theory. That’s fine, but it’s still a measure inherently based on total output. 

Judging the quality of a scientist by publication volume has always bugged me. Lets say I do a thorough, solid experiment that involves several steps. Maybe first I do some tests to figure out how to control for something. Then next I do some to figure out the best conditions to use. Then, finally, I do my experiment under the conditions and controls I determined earlier. Because I did the first two steps, the third should give me a very nice, definitive data set. If I publish it all, it will make a great paper. If I did my job right, after you read my paper you shouldn’t be left with any doubts along the lines of “well, maybe, but you didn’t account for so and so…” because I already thought of possible problems and did the initial steps to solve them, and included that data. 

But I’m being judged on number of publications, so rather than write one thorough paper I’ll split it up into three, none of which can really stand on their own. That doesn’t help me (you’ll read my paper and say “wow what a piece of shit this experiment is, they didn’t even take so and so into consideration” and so you’ll think I’m an idiot for it) and it certainly doesn’t help anyone who reads the paper. 

The h-index weights a straight paper count by incorporating how often those papers get cited, so its a bit better, but still problematic. For one thing, most papers start out in the Introduction section with some perfectly obvious, banal fact. “As a result of increasing oil prices, alternative forms of energy are attracting significant interest”. People feel the need to cite that All. The. Time. so a great many citations to a paper don’t necessarily cite the results, or some new method, but just some obvious statement that sets up the intro. 
Further, lets say I want to raise my h-index. I’ll start by writing lots of short partial papers like I mentioned, and I’ll get all my friends together. We all agree to cite each others papers every time. Or I could cite myself. Or, as an anonymous reviewer, I could demand others cite me In other words, game the system with a bunch of useless, incestuous citations.

Scientists naturally want to develop a system to quantify everything. That makes sense. But when assessing research, counting papers and citations just doesn’t cut it. You have to read papers, and decide whether or not those papers are good. Output based standards are lazy methods of evaluation that incentivize bad, lazy science. 

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Apparently, the FBI thought Its A Wonderful Life was communist propaganda because it portrayed bankers and the wealthy negatively.

The memo is pretty funny, but it missed an important point: Red Ryder would be a great codeword for the operation to put some nuclear armed subs off of Long Island.

On a more serious note, I would point out that bankers seem to be quite good at discrediting themselves without Soviet assistance. The best bit:

[redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”

If we were to make movie today portraying bankers as fine upstanding gentlemen who followed all laws and whose primary interest was in protecting the funds in their care, it would be laughable.

At any rate, lest you think the Tea Party is on to something new, this shows us that screaming communist at anyone who says something mean about a wealthy person is a long, proud tradition.
In Soviet Russia, eye shoots out you!

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Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday which is more important than watching the SOTU, so I’ll preview it for you.

Obama: Jobs, economy, immigration, guns, shit congress won’t let me do, thank you and God Bless America.

Rubio: We won’t change our policies but we’ll try to be nicer to the brown people and also not say rape as frequently. And Obamacare is bad mkay.

Paul: (unintelligible)

Now you can go drink.

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Shorter John Guandolo:
John Brennan is a Muslim traitor who wants to destroy American and I know this because of people I won’t name but trust me.

Notice the way he uses “Islam” and “foreign intelligence service operatives” interchangeably. Its like a Tom Clancy novel with brown people instead of Soviets. And way less entraining.

Seriously though, I’m fed up with this particular flavor of wingnuttery. Its offensive and incredibly stupid.

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Friday Morning

Cold, rainy, Winter Storm Nemo, no coffee…

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Sullivan:

These are not the words of a president serious about cutting the debt. Cutting “waste” in government isn’t going to get you anywhere near what you need. And the president needs to get serious about the burgeoning long-term costs of Medicare. That requires real honesty about real future sacrifice – not blandishments about how we might be able to bend the cost curve slightly.

Can we, please, get something other than typical deficit-scold group think? Andrew seems to think that all we need is more seriousness and more sacrifice and then we’re golden. He decries the President’s desire to raise additional revenue as not serious because it won’t raise enough. Well, OK, I agree it won’t raise a whole hell of a lot. But previously Sullivan complained that the President wanted too much (relative) revenue! 

I would ask how much, specifically, is thecorrect amount? 

More importantly, I would ask how much deficit reduction, specifically, is the correct amount? 

We’ve already done $2.4 Trillion. But I guess that’s just not enough serious sacrifice for the deficit scolds. They won’t be happy until, well, they will never quite say. Is stabilizing the debt to GDP ratio sufficient? We can do that with another $1.2 Trillion. Obama’s “not serious” revenue ask gets us half way there. 

Alas, we will now continue our charade of THE DEFICIT WILL KILL US ALL MORE AUSTERITY NOW I’M VERY SERIOUS AUSTERITY NOW! followed by AUSTERITY WILL KILL US ALL! (remember the fiscal cliff?) and then back again. 

If you’re having trouble making sense of the Very Serious beltway opinion on fiscal matters, its because it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of sense. 

Sullivan finishes:

If you want to go small, Mr President, and leave the real debt cutting to your successor, that’s your prerogative. But it is not the change we believed in. Or voted for.

Well, actually that’s exactly what we voted for. Obama made no secret of his desire to squeeze revenue out of the rich via sunsetting the Bush tax cuts for only high earners and via closing Mitt Romney’s favorite loopholes. In fact, it was the entire premise of his campaign. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s (conflicting) versions of austerity for Obama’s “balanced” and minimally austere (by comparison) approach. 

I don’t ever recall Barack Obama running on a platform of “serious” austerity. Sullivan has been lamenting Obama’s failure to “embrace Bowles-Simpson” for two years, a lamentation that made as little sense then as now. On spending, Obama actually has (very nearly) embraced BS (in terms of net amounts, if not line items). On revenues, he never intended to. He’s made that abundantly clear for almost two years. 

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We should pay people to fix things. Heaters in elementary schools would be a nice place to start. 

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