Cocktail Chatter

Bloodsuckers, the Politics of Hate, and Fixing Afghanistan

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

1) “The Obama Haters: We still don’t understand how fringe conservatism went mainstream,” by David Greenberg. The delusions of Glenn Beck and the birthers are nothing new for America. Putting their outlandish notions into historical context makes them slightly less threatening.

2) “The Garlic Years: When have we not been in the midst of a vampire craze?” by Christopher Beam and Chris Wilson. Although Twilight and True Blood may indicate a recent boom in vampire lust, a Slate study finds that vampires have rarely left the spotlight in the last half-century.

3) “Just Skim It: The case for not reading the legislation you’re voting on,” by John Dickerson. Just because members of Congress aren’t reading every word of the health care bills doesn’t mean they don’t understand them.

4) “ Saving Face: A chick-lit novel written in real time,” by Dahlia Lithwick. Read the latest installment of Lithwick’s novel, written over the course of a month—with Slate reader input. In Chapter 10: Erica’s legal blog grabs the attention of an online magazine editor. But is she ready to take Splitigation to the next level?

5) “It’s Not About the Troops: Only a legitimate Afghan government can beat the Taliban,” by Fred Kaplan. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan is requesting more soldiers, but he warns that adding troops isn’t going to solve the problem if the country’s government is weak.

6) “I Got To Roll Out the Tarp, but …: How I humiliated myself working on the Washington Nationals grounds crew,” by Emily Yoffe. The Human Guinea Pig strikes again, this time moonlighting as a baseball groundskeeper.

7) “Your Gullible Friend Has Sent You a Photo: The Dangers of social spam,” by Chris Wilson. Everyone is familiar with the African-bank and male-enhancement spam, but scammers are now stepping up their game and finding more creative ways to ensnare the credulous.

8) “Write Your Own Health Care Bill: Slate’s interactive guide to amending the Baucus bill,” by Timothy Noah and Chris Wilson. Confused by all of the different amendments in Sen. Max Baucus’ health care reform bill? This handy chart lets you fix the legislation to your liking.

9) “Drink Responsibly: Which is better for the planet, beer or wine?” by Nina Shen Rastogi. For oenophiles, at least, it’s time to stop drinking the good stuff and move to Franzia. Boxed wine proves more environmentally friendly than bottled.

10) “The Netflix Prize Was Brilliant: Google and Microsoft should steal this idea,” by Farhad Manjoo. Netflix’s ingenious idea to offer a $1 million prize to re-engineer its features is one that other major tech companies should look into.

The Week’s Best From the Slatest

1) Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown isn’t getting much love across the pond. The White House has apparently rejected five requests for a one-on-one with President Obama.

2) Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s rambling U.N. speech lasted six times longer than the time limit.

3) Despite comparisons to the largely unpopular Rush Limbaugh, a poll shows many Americans actually like conservative firebrand Glenn Beck.

4) The health care reform debate is boding well for Republican fundraisers. The GOP has about $8 million more in its war chest than the Democrats.

5) A British man found more than 1,500 pieces of seventh-century gold. The bad news? It’s been declared a national treasure, so he can’t keep any of it.