Cocktail Chatter

Baseball Dads, Miranda Rights, and the Tyranny of the Smile

This week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Little league team cheering for runner.
What can be done about “baseball dads”?

Photo by Comstock Images/Thinkstock

“Screen Capture: Traditional TV is unstoppable. Can YouTube ever beat it?” by Farhad Manjoo. Will YouTube rise to challenge TV’s long-held primacy? It just might. Manjoo claims that YouTube’s recent upgrades, which include personalized channels and a new “serving technology” that diminishes buffering, aim to vastly improve user experience. Like television, YouTube here to stay—and, as Manjoo claims, “none of us will ever get anything done.”

Wait, Am I That Baseball Dad?: How baseball encourages bad parenting—and how you can support your kids on the diamond without driving them crazy,” by John Dickerson. The loudest, most boisterous baseball fans aren’t in the World Series stadiums; they’re on the sidelines of youth baseball games. Dickerson reflects upon the emotional investment has, on occasion, driven him to become that “dreaded Baseball Dad” who takes supportive to a whole new level. He recommends that parents refrain from getting visibly invested in the game and, instead, take a step back and let children decide whether or not they want to talk about that tumble they just took on the baseball field.

A Loss in the Family: James Gandolfini changed television, and us,” by Jessica Winter. Winter reminisces upon the actor’s memorable career, his tenure as iconic Tony Soprano and his own “American-dream story.”

The Tyranny of the Smile: Why does everyone expect women to smile all the time?” by Katy Waldman. Waldman uncovers the “tyranny of nice” to explain the social norms that regulate the gendered manner in which we grin. Women smile far more frequently than men, at least when it comes to the forced, performed smile. Waldman looks at a number of different hypotheses to explain the ubiquity of the sweet, smiling female and reveals that the tendency might be hurting more than helping.

The Second-Term Slump: Obama’s poll numbers are dropping. Does it matter?” by John Dickerson. The president’s approval ratings have slipped dramatically. Is that a problem? Only when it comes to health care. Dickerson argues that when it comes to Obama’s “signature legislative achievement,” his low approval ratings and the decline of the public’s trust in him could thwart the successful implementation of health care reform.

You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent: The Supreme Court’s terrible—and dangerous—ruling this week on the Fifth Amendment,” by Brandon L. Garrett. You should really pay attention to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Salinas v. Texas, because it means that you yourself have to invoke your right to remain silent in a case of informal questioning. Otherwise, prosecutors could use that silence against you in court. Garrett sheds light on this overlooked ruling by explaining how it will make false confessions and wrongful convictions much more likely.

 “The Pain Threshold: Banning abortions at 20 weeks is just the beginning of a plan to outlaw them altogether,” by William Saletan. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to outlaw abortion at the 20-week mark, two weeks earlier than the Supreme Court-established point of fetal viability. Why? House Republicans claim that 20 weeks is when a fetus is developed enough to feel pain. Saletan explains that the science behind this idea is much less definitive than House Republicans want you to believe. Saletan argues that the passage of this bill is evidence of the pro-lifers’ effort to continually push up the date at which abortion is legal until it’s outlawed altogether.

 “Why Don’t Cops Believe Rape Victims? Brain science helps explain the problem—and solve it,” by Rebecca Ruiz. Many victims decline to report assaults out of fear that they won’t be believed. Cops often having trouble believing victims because those victimes are sometimes unable to establish a timeline of the incident, and remain unemotional and detached while recounting their experience. Ruiz  reveals that brain science may lead the way to a more accurate and victim-sensitive method of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence.

 “Trapped in an Underwater Air Bubble for Three Days: Harrison Okene’s shipwreck survival wasn’t a miracle. It was fascinating physics,” by Rachel Nuwer. In May, a tugboat capsized off the coast of Nigeria, began filling with water and sank to the ocean floor, drowning the entire crew, except for one man: Harrison Okene. An air bubble in the boat provided Okene with enough oxygen to survive for nearly three days before he was rescued. Nuwer explains the amazing science behind Okene’s survival.

 “Approaching Death: A nurse goes from the ER to a hospice, and changes the way she thinks about life and its end,” by Kimberly A. Condon. Condon thoughtfully recounts the experiences that drove her to become a nurse. Though she began her career in the fast-paced world of the ER, Condon found herself yearning to form deeper relationships with her patients. When she made the daunting decision to switch her specialty over to hospice nursing, Condon grew accustomed to working in a slower, quieter atmosphere and reaffirmed her commitment to a life of caring for patients.