Posted by Sappho on April 6th, 2008 filed in Blogwatch

Unnecessary question of the week about Frodo, Samwise, Shelob the giant spider, gardening, and spider ecosystems.

Experts Dispute Report Critical of Antidepressants.

In their editorial, Turner and Rosenthal pointed out that the criterion set by NICE is “problematic, because it transforms effect size, a continuous measure, into a yes or no measure, thereby suggesting that drug efficacy is either totally present or absent, even when comparing values as close together as 0.51 and 0.49.”
They also noted that the NICE criterion is not a definitive measure, but a value that could be problematic as a litmus test for drug efficacy.

In the article, Kirsch and his colleagues noted that drug efficacy did not change as a function of initial depression severity, whereas placebo efficacy decreased as initial depression severity increased. “Efficacy reaches clinical significance only in trials involving the most extremely depressed patients,” the authors wrote, “due to a decrease in the response to placebo rather than to an increase in the response to medication.”

If male actors had to be as blandly perfect as female ones…

True Confessions of a Superdelegate (and the anonymous superdelegate’s blog).

It may be reassuring to Democrats to read that McCain is a really lousy speaker – not just compared to Obama, but compared to Sen. Clinton.

Matt Yglesias thinks this John McCain ad is bizarre

from the headless, anonymous rock star to the wisps of smoke to the fact that it goes out of its way to mention that McCain’s middle name is “Sidney” to the fact that the core of the ad is an anecdote about how McCain learned the importance of ratting out your friends at a tony boarding school.

Anyways, don’t candidates who attended fancy prep schools normally try to downplay that sort of thing? Everyone in America, after all, went to school and almost all of them are going to remember that they didn’t go to a school with an “honor code.”

From this we can conclude that, if the race turns on who has the coolest middle name, Hillary Rodham Clinton has the Presidency in the bag. Or – dare I hope? – that the Republicans aren’t going to try to push the improbable line that Obama is more elite than McCain.

In all fairness, though, honor over blind loyalty is a big part of St. Straight Talk McMaverick’s crossover appeal. Even if “John Sidney McCain once turned a high school classmate in for cheating” isn’t the best way to draw that out.

On the other hand, one of the XX Factor bloggers suggests that Obama isn’t enough of a Bad Boy.

… I’d been wondering today whether Obama was perhaps squirming a little, and his staffers might be casting about for a way to cultivate at least a bit of a bad boy image. I mean, McCain’s out there boasting about his demerits at the Naval Academy, even as Maureen Dowd makes Barack sound like a sissy compared to Hillary.

Because, evidently, he doesn’t like chocolate that much. Chocolate, I guess, is a manly food, and Real Men must eat more chocolate than women. Anyway, Maureen Dowd always makes Democrat men sound like sissies. It’s sort of her trademark in political commentary. My first thought is: Bad boy? When are we going to realize that our presidential candidates aren’t running for Homecoming King, or First Date? My second thought is: Well, maybe in this election it’s a bonus if people think the election is for First Date, since Obama’s cuter than McCain (as well as almost half a foot taller). But in the long run, all this talk about how men have to prove their macho (even counterproductive macho like being a “bad boy”) to win is a really bad idea. Quit the appeals to male identity politics.

It’s amusing, though, to read that Obama may have been a tamer and less druggie teenager than his memoir suggests. The New York Times suggests that either Obama was private in his teenage drug usage, or else he “added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.” Which I suppose he may well have done; many memoirs take that degree of literary license. On the other hand, there’s always a third possibility, that he was basically a good kid who took particularly seriously his mother’s and grandparents’ concern about relatively minor misbehavior and inattention to his studies.

I’m not so unusual after all department: fully a third of wives make more than their husbands. Also XX Factor, and I like it better than the other post.

Good post by Matt Yglesias on the illusions of merit.

More broadly, the merit illusion stems from the well-documented fact that people don’t have a great intuitive grasp of statistics or large numbers. If your family connections boost your odds of getting into Harvard from one percent to five percent, you’ll perceive that as having triumphed against the odds on merit rather than using family connections to quintuple your chances. And then once you’re in it is, again, a genuinely difficult, competitive process to get a job at an investment bank. And climbing to the top of the i-banking world is, again, a genuinely difficult and competitive process.

It’s difficult, however, for people to keep in their heads the idea that, yes, you may have displayed considerable merit to get where you are but also you’ve taken advantage of a lot of undeserved privileges of birth. Similarly, if you wind up needing to compete on merit against a few hundred other people for a couple dozen highly desirable slots, the question of what happened to all those other people who got excluded from consideration for non-merit reasons sort of falls out of sight.

Church’s pastor steals IDs from flock.

Framework Originalism and Skyscraper Originalism.

How Martin Luther King’s death affected black music.

The forgotten radicalism of Dr. King.

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