Brian Leiter criticizes the new Google Scholar Metrics, which uses h-index and various similar measures to assess journals. He writes that "since it doesn't control for frequency of publication, or the size of each volume, its results are worthless." Some of my friends on Facebook are wondering why he's saying this, so I'll try to offer a helpful toy example here.
Consider two journals: Philosophical Quality, which publishes 25 papers a year, all of which are good and well-cited; and the Journal of Universal Acceptance, which publishes 25 equally good and well-cited papers a year as well as 975 bad papers that nobody ever cites. Google gives both journals the same score along all its metrics. Since tacking extra uncited papers onto a journal doesn't affect the number of papers in it with at least that number of citations, JUA's additional bad papers make no impact on the h-index (or on Google's other measures defined in terms of h-index, like h-median or h-core). But if you're looking at someone's CV and they've got a paper in one of these journals, you should be more impressed by a Phil Quality paper than an JUA paper. The Phil Quality paper is likely to be good, while a JUA paper is likely to be bad. Still, Google will see them as equal.
Neil has an interesting analysis of "why Congressional Republicans are taking extreme bargaining positions
that shut down the government and risk defaulting on debt." He points to Republican "primary problem, which "makes Republican officeholders do the crazy things that the Tea
Party likes, because they fear losing their primaries even more than
they fear losing the general election." This has it backward in two important respects. First, it fails to understand the rationality of the Tea Party caucus. Second, by demonizing the Tea Party as "crazy," it facilitates the far more dangerous tendency among educated people to grow impatient with democracy and pine for rule by experts.
First, since 1988, the Republicans have won the popular vote once: in 2004. Their House majority is now primarily a product of gerrymandering and superior mid-term turn-out. If you look at the congressional Tea Party heartland (see this good map at the New Yorker), it is primarily rural, elderly, white, and Evangelical. With the exception of 'Evangelical,' perhaps, this is not the future of America. And even born again America is remarkably fluid when it comes to so-called 'life-style' choices--the generational shift of opinion on Gay Marriage has been phenomenally fast. That is to say, these are folk that know they will loose national elections time and again. Obviously Republicans can still put together winning national coalitions, but as the Tea Party heartland learned under the three Bush presidencies, these will not reflect their values and interests. They are not acting as co-partners in government awaiting their turn at the helm, but as the legal opposition. They are playing a lousy hand superbly and -- best of all -- by democratic means.
That's not crazy.
Some of my friends in academia like this blog post explaining the unhappiness of Generation Y kids in terms of how they think they're special and they're so entitled and they use social media. Who knows? That might be part of the story. But kids with an excessive sense of entitlement have been around since the Joffrey Lannisters of our world were claiming the divine right of kings. And I'm suspicious of explanations in terms of the special properties of social media -- mostly it gives you a new way to do kinds of social interaction that have been around forever. I'm sure explanations involving overly entitled kids resonate with my fellow teachers who are frustrated with students who complain about the bad grades they earned through their own laziness. But I'd like to see some real evidence that this generation is different.
The provable difference between this generation's situation and previous ones is that today's kids are looking for jobs in a terrible economy. Here's the US unemployment rate:
There are a lot of useful criticisms one could make of the way wealthy people make charitable contributions, so it's kind of a shame that Peter Buffett had to write this instead. I'm sure he's right that there are all sorts of problems with the motivations and strategies of wealthy philanthropists, and that some of them made their money by contributing to the problems that charities need to deal with. A good article would suggest concrete better options, or profile people who were doing things a better way. Instead, Buffett's positive proposals are a mess of hazy metaphors and tech startup buzzwords: "It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code." Ah, I see you had lunch with Thomas Friedman.
People are figuring out how to do this better. On the straightforward charitable giving level, there are awesome health interventions like giving Africans mosquito nets so they don't get malaria. This works really well -- $40,000 worth of nets led to many thousands fewer malaria cases per month. This chart is kind of messy, but it displays an awesome effect:
Along with President Obama and many Democratic Senate candidates, the
winners on election night included people who tried to predict the
results by aggregating polling data -- most famously,
Nate Silver of the New York Times. Their method was basically to average the recent polls, and use the result as a prediction. (Silver also did more sophisticated things, weighting the polls based on past accuracy, correcting for house effects, and running Monte Carlo simulations to calculate probabilities of victory.) Those who tried to predict the
results by gauging enthusiasm at political rallies and trusting their
gut feelings to adequately represent the preferences of the American
electorate didn't do as well. If you'd like to catch up on the intense debate
over poll aggregation as a way of predicting elections, I'll refer you
to Brad DeLong's summary of 2 reasonable criticisms of Silver and 45
I put together this chart ranking 25 different
predictions from people across the American political spectrum. (I
think my Doktorvater would approve.) They're ranked based on the sum
of the electoral vote margin in the states they got wrong, with the
popular vote used to break ties.