Cocktail Chatter

Bye-Byes, Beach Reads, and Big Brother

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

1) “Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009): The Kennedy who most changed America,” by Timothy Noah. Despite the initial perception that he was unqualified for Congress and riding the coattails of his older brothers, Ted went on to become the “lion of the Senate” and the most influential Kennedy of them all.

2) “Halfway There: Is half a torture investigation better than none at all?” by Dahlia Lithwick. Attorney General Eric Holder is bucking the desires of both Republicans and his boss to probe the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists. But hold the applause: He’s authorized a look into violations by CIA underlings, but not the honchos who authorized torture.

3) “Barack’s Book Bag: What Obama’s summer reading list says about him,” by John Dickerson. Looks like President Obama didn’t get his summer reading list vetted. Most of the books he toted to Martha’s Vineyard are set on the East Coast, and they’re all by white men. Maybe he’ll pick up something more colorful at a local independent bookstore.

4) “Unchain the Office Computers!: Why corporate IT should let us browse any way we want,” by Farhad Manjoo. Your IT department thinks it’s making computers safer and workers more productive by blocking downloads and fun sites. However, it’s actually slowing workflow and impeding creativity.

5) “Cheney Refuted: Those CIA memos he got released don’t show what he said they’d show,” by Timothy Noah. Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of withholding CIA documents that proved torture works. But the reports, released this week, say next to nothing about the efficacy of torture. They paint a picture of which detainees were important but not when or why they gave up information.

6) “Ink Hole: Alex S. Jones thinks failing journalism makes failing democracy. So why won’t he prove it?” by Jack Shafer. In his new book,  Losing the News, Jones argues that a thriving democracy requires the sort of traditional journalism that’s in free-fall right now. But his anti-new-media screed is weak, and history suggests that old-school journalism inspires more cynicism than patriotism.

7) “Sent Mail: Does your outbox reveal how productive you are?” by Michael Agger. Data-mining companies are getting better at sifting through digital footprints to root out problem employees and identify the most productive workers. How to dodge the e-mail cops? Avoid typing in all-caps and, whatever you do, don’t write in Russian.

8) “Recess in Name Only: What happens in congressional offices when the boss is gone?” by Christopher Beam. When Congress takes August off, leaving Capitol Hill in the hands of scaled-down staffs and an army of interns, the rules are supposed to relax. Not this year—with the health care controversy at a high boil, Hill dwellers haven’t gotten much of a recess.

9) “The Green Lantern Goes to the Bathroom: How to do your business green,” by Nina Shen Rastogi. Flushing your waste accounts for almost one-third of your daily indoor water consumption. To cut water use, get a low-flow toilet (or green-up your old one), fix leaks, and pee in the shower every once in a while. Also, don’t forget to buy recycled toilet paper in bulk.

10) “When Preppies Became Yuppies: Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco,” by Troy Patterson. With The Last Nights of Disco, Whit Stillman succeeded in making a movie that is virtually plotless but still a smart commentary on a singular societal transformation.

The Week’s Best From “The Slatest

1) Apparently, the bank of banks needs its own bank: The FDIC could be out of money at the end of the year.

2) Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi is looking for a place to pitch his tent—literally—when he comes to the United States for a U.N. meeting next month.

3) Researchers are starting to worry that Conficker, a sneaky computer virus that has been infiltrating networks since November, is controlled by a foreign intelligence agency.

4) The nation’s two largest beer companies just announced across-the-board price hikes, sparking speculation that they’re colluding. And just in time for football season.

5) The lawyer of a 26-year-old model who was arrested for posing nude in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is professing shock that she was cuffed in a building full of nude art: “People take personal pictures there all the time.”