Cocktail Chatter

Troop Strategy and the Art of Black Friday

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

1) “Self-Examination: On Afghanistan, President Obama will have to answer Sen. Obama’s questions,” by John Dickerson. As the president prepares to unveil a new troop strategy in Afghanistan, he must reconcile the plan with his previous demands for benchmarks and consequences for the Afghan government.

2) “Black Friday Is for Suckers: Netbooks, e-book readers, and other post-Thanksgiving bargains to avoid,” by Farhad Manjoo. Planning ahead to avoid impulse buys is only way to avoid breaking the bank during post-Thanksgiving sales.

3) “Psst: The House’s Health Bill Is Cheaper: CBO changes its mind about the Pelosi bill’s cost,” by Timothy Noah. Although the Senate health care bill gets more respect from fiscal conservatives, a second look at CBO figures shows that the House bill’s net cost is lower.

4) “Football Fantasy Land: The NFL Network’s RedZone channel reveals the future of fandom,” by Robert Weintraub. Fans can avoid dozing off during boring Thanksgiving NFL matchups by tuning in to the new RedZone highlight channel, but will the nonstop action doom traditional football?

5) “Jewish Mother Russia: The Worst Good Idea Ever,” by Masha Gessen. High mountains, blood-sucking insects, Cossacks, floods, and anthrax spelled doom for a remote Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia’s Far East.

6) “What I Saw Inside China’s—and the World’s—Most Important Dam: Plus: Why can’t I find a chocolate bar in China?” by Daniel Gross. Three Gorges Dam is an engineering marvel and a symbol of China’s preoccupation with economic development. Plus, Gross plays spot-the-Marxist in Beijing.

7) “Outfoxed: How Roald Dahl’s stories for children eclipsed his fiction for adults,” by James Parker. Sans Dahl’s trademark gritty realism, Wes Anderson’s animated adaptation of Dahl’s children’s classic misses the mark.

8) “Multicultural Masochism: The ‘war on terrorism’ didn’t cause the Fort Hood shootings,” by Christopher Hitchens. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s correspondence with an extremist Muslim cleric disproves the theory that the Fort Hood shootings were a response to the U.S. war on terror. 

9) “Geithner’s Disgrace: The new AIG report reveals how the Treasury secretary—and U.S. taxpayers—were fleeced by Wall Street banks,” by Eliot Spitzer.  In refusing to negotiate with AIG’s counterparties during the bailout, Tim Geithner cost U.S. taxpayers a pretty penny.

10) In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s the lowdown on how to find an environmentally friendly turkey, how farmers supply so many birds around this time of year, why we started eating turkey during the holidays in the first place, why green beans cast a pall over the meal, and what wine to quaff with your white meat. Plus: tips on finding the best vegetarian turkey substitute and countless ways to ingest pumpkin.

The Week’s Best From the “ Slatest

1) South Carolina governor and make-believe hiker Mark Sanford has been charged with violating 37 ethics rules

2) The Pentagon underestimated by half the financial cost of a troop surge in Afghanistan

3) Whistle-blowing Web site Wikileaks will publish in real time roughly 500,000 text-pager messages sent on 9/11 by officials scrambling to deal with the disaster.

4) Officials fear roving gangs of wild monkeys will disrupt the 2010 World Cup events in Cape Town, South Africa.

5) In an unprecedented move, the Department of Transportation fined three airlines $175,000 for leaving passengers stranded overnight in Minnesota in August.