Cocktail Chatter

Senate Folly, Fonts, and Furry Wankers

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

1) “What a Waste: The Sotomayor hearings were a mass of missed opportunities for Republicans and Democrats alike,” by Dahlia Lithwick. Republican senators turned nuanced discussions of diversity into a bitter fight over race. Democrats failed to use their airtime to articulate a real judicial philosophy for the left. Why didn’t anyone put these four days to better use? (See Slate’s complete coverage of Sonia Sotomayor.)

2) “Hands or Paws or Anything They Got: Masturbation in the animal kingdom,” by Daniel Engber. Yes, animals pleasure themselves, just like humans. One recent study suggests that men who masturbate daily are more fertile than men who don’t. If that’s true, masturbation could provide male animals with an evolutionary advantage. Females, naturally, are more of a puzzle.

3) “The Recession Is Over! What America’s best economic forecaster is saying,” by Daniel Gross. Ignore all that doom and gloom—according to the Economic Cycles Research Institute, key indexes have all been trending the right way for long enough to indicate an honest-to-God recovery. It doesn’t mean your job’s coming back, though.

4) “Down With Verdana! Typography on the Web is basic and dull. A startup called Typekit will fix it,” by Farhad Manjoo. In one of the Internet’s greatest ironies, sophisticated fonts found all over print media can’t be displayed on most Web sites. By making fonts available for a fee—think iTunes for fonts—Typekit will make creative design accessible to all.

5) “The Bipartisan Divide: Obama wants to redefine bipartisanship. Will the Republicans go along?” by John Dickerson. On health care, the president wants Republicans to know that while he’s open to their input, he won’t bend over backward for their votes. That’s fine, but don’t try to call it bipartisanship.

6) “No, You Can’t Have My Social Security Number: Why using SSNs for identification is risky and stupid,” by Chris Wilson. It’s shockingly easy to guess someone’s Social Security number if you know a few key things about them—bad news for those of us who use them to access our money and personal information. Luckily, better alternatives are right in front of us.

7) “The Most Important Questions To Ask About the CIA’s Targeted Killing Program: We know Cheney ordered it kept secret. What don’t we know?” by Shane Harris. Who knew what when, how did they know it, and what did they do about it? Dick Cheney isn’t the only one with accountability here—Leon Panetta and George Tenet have questions to answer, too.

8) “Two Cheers for France: The country’s vineyards are in trouble. But it still makes the world’s best wines,” by Mike Steinberger. Despite the competition from Napa and Australia, notwithstanding France’s own management missteps, you still can’t beat the frogs for quality, price, and variety.

9) “Mortal Skin: Race, genes, and cancer,” by Will Saletan. According to a recent study, black cancer victims die at a higher rate than white ones. It’s not racist to acknowledge that the difference may be genetic—why is the mainstream media avoiding the story?

10) “ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Kind of like 90210 with owls,” by Dana Stevens. The latest installment in the Potter cinematic odyssey is sleepy and slow, which can be chalked up to the lack of a charismatic villain, the focus on romantic subplots, and the in-between nature of its source material. Therein, however, lies its appeal for the series’ devotees.