Cocktail Chatter

Moonwalks, an Honest Apology, and the Weakest Links

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

1) “King Michael: Thriller was Michael Jackson’s masterpiece. It was also his curse,” by Jody Rosen. The self-acclaimed King of Pop’s best songs were his least boastful. Once the tabloid haze clears, we can focus on his art again. Plus, Slate V’s guide to the best and most touching moonwalk imitators on YouTube.

2) “Something Real: Did Mark Sanford admit to a sin worse than sex?” by William Saletan. Sanford could have appeased his wife and constituents by admitting to a temporary “lapse in judgment”—the false apology of so many philandering politicians before him. Instead, he was vividly honest.

3) “The Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” by Walter Dellinger, Linda Greenhouse, and Dahlia Lithwick. Was Monday’s decision on the Voting Rights Act dramatic or disappointing? What do this week’s decisions mean for SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor? Three seasoned Supreme Court analysts debate these and other questions in Slate’s eighth annual end-of-term forum.

4) “Woman Power: Regimes that repress the civil and human rights of half their population are inherently unstable,” by Anne Applebaum. The protests in Iran may seem like a spontaneous, tech-driven burst of democratic spirit, but they stem from years of less-publicized activism. Women’s groups led much of this organizing and have become a force that oppressive regimes can no longer ignore. (See Slate’s complete coverage of Iran’s June 12 election and its aftermath.)

5) “You Call That a Strike?!: Why does Major League Baseball use an outdated, misleading camera angle to show the batter and pitcher?” by Greg Hanlon. Few baseball teams film the game from straightaway center field—the angle that shows pitches most accurately. But the shot requires building costly new platforms and makes for an ugly picture.

6) “The Ladder: How a Supreme Court case about promotions at a local fire department will decide who gets the good jobs in cities across America,” by Nicole Allan and Emily Bazelon. There’s no fair way to choose which firefighters get promotions, even after decades of lawsuits that have tried to define one. This five-part series dissects the history and social dynamics that make the New Haven, Conn., firefighter race case, which the Supreme Court will decide next week, so controversial.

7) “Why Don’t the French Cook Like They Used To?: How the Michelin guide crippled France’s restaurants,” by Mike Steinberger. The country’s top chefs have hedged their creativity to please the guide’s prissy inspectors.

8) “Is Our Doctors Learning?: Why aren’t medical students taught about health care policy?” by Christopher Beam. Unless policy discussions are made mandatory at medical schools, students don’t have time for them. Some new docs don’t even know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare. Two med schools are taking the lead by weaving these topics into the required courses.

9) “Shorten This!: Do we really need link-shortening services like” by Farhad Manjoo. The Web sites that spit out Twitter-friendlier links have no clear business plan and could become obsolete overnight.

10) “No News Is Good News: Is it ever a smart idea to publicize a kidnapping?” by Christopher Beam. The New York Times suppressed stories about the kidnapping of their reporter David Rohde. Publicity helps most when the kidnappers care about their reputation. But if the negotiations are ongoing, or the hostage-takers feed off fame, it can aggravate the situation.