Cocktail Chatter

Bacon Shortages, Free Speech, and the Making of a President

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

President Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, addresses on June 1987 the people of West Berlin near the Berlin wall.
President Reagan famously exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall,” in a Berlin speech. Does it matter if a president is a great orator?

Photo by Mike Sargent/AFP/Getty Images.

How To Measure for a President: Suppose the presidential campaign was settled by a job interview. Here’s what we should look for,” by John Dickerson. As we enter the home stretch of the presidential campaign, John Dickerson explores what qualities a candidate needs to be a good president. He argues that candidates must know how to play politics, and he also talks about what it takes to manage a White House staff.

 “Pop Art: The brilliant redesign of the soda can tab,” by Tom Vanderbilt. It’s been 35 years since Jimmy Buffett “blew out [his] flip flop/ and stepped on a pop top.” Now Tom Vanderbilt explores the simple engineering marvel that replaced the old, dangerous metal scraps. But oddly enough, attaching the tab to the can still hasn’t kept kids from swallowing it.

The World Doesn’t Love the First Amendment: The vile anti-Muslim video shows that the U.S. overvalues free speech,” by Eric Posner. In this provocative piece, University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner puts American regard for freedom of expression in an international context—and suggests we might be the ones in the wrong.

Why You Hate Cyclists: Partly because of jerks like me. But it’s mostly your own illogical mind,” by Jim Saksa. What explains the never-ending war between drivers and bikers? Not maniac cyclists—science: “When it comes to cyclists, once some clown on two wheels almost kills himself with your car, you furiously decide that bicyclists are assholes,” Saksa writes, “and that conclusion will be hard to shake regardless of countervailing facts, stats, or arguments.”

Human Rights, the Death Penalty, and Affirmative Action: What will the Supreme Court decide in this term’s first big cases?” by Emily Bazelon. On the docket this fall: Does a 1789 anti-piracy statute allow cases against foreign corporations in American courts for human rights abuses on foreign soil? Can we execute defendants who are found mentally incompetent to help their lawyers with appeals? And will the Court strike down affirmative action? Emily Bazelon offers a preview.

How Can We Stop Pedophiles? Stop treating them like monsters,” by Jennifer Blyer. Pedophiles might struggle with sexual attraction to children for years before they abuse, but mandatory reporting requirements discourage them from seeking help. Jennifer Blyer recommends treating pedophilia as an unchangeable neurological condition and teaching mental health professionals how to offer treatment—before it’s too late.

Who Was the Most Religious President of All Time? They called him ‘The Deacon,’” by Forrest Wickman. This week, The New Yorker’s r Nicholas Lemann wrote that Mitt Romney “would arguably be the most actively religious President in American history.” But which president holds the title right now? Forrest Wickman suggests it’s Jimmy Carter, who went door-to-door introducing himself as a peanut farmer/missionary.

House of Pain: Obama may be president. Democrats may keep the Senate. But the House isn’t going anywhere,” by David Weigel. Nancy Pelosi tries to convince reporters that Democrats can take back the House, but David Weigel’s not buying it—especially not after the 2011 redistricting. “That would mean that the people who drew the districts didn’t do very good jobs,” a pollster tells Weigel.

There Will Be No Bacon Shortage: How a British trade association press release sent the Internet into a senseless panic,” by Matthew Yglesias. We won’t run out of bacon, but we might have to pay a bit more for it. Matthew Yglesias traces the bacon shortage rumor back to its source.

NFL 2012: The scab refs and the NFL slide deeper into incompetence,” by Drew Magary. The referee lockout is finally over. Relive the madness with Week 3 of Slate’s season-long NFL roundtable with Deadspin, where Drew Magary, Chris Kluwe, Barry Petchesky, and Stefan Fatsis analyze the botched call heard around the world.