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iLessons of the Shutdown, Binge Drinking and Rape, and Not-So-Cool Technology

The week’s most Interesting Slate stories.

President Obama

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You’ll Pay for This, GOP: How Obama will make the 2013 shutdown a political weapon,” by William Saletan. The morning after the shutdown ended, President Obama declared that there weren’t any winners from the debacle. But the tools this shutdown has put at his disposal, like an excuse for a lackluster economic outlook or an example of how useful government can be, could give him an upper hand in the coming months.

Never Again: It’s time to amend the Constitution to give the president the power to raise the debt ceiling,” by Eric Posner. After our latest brush with the debt ceiling, it’s obvious that this can’t be a recurring phenomenon. It’s too destructive to both the American and the global economy. While many solutions have been floated, the only one that will last through political turmoil is a constitutional amendment. Simply giving the president the constitutional right to borrow money in order to cover interest on debt would have avoided this crisis.

 “Obama Wins: The president came to office preaching bipartisanship, but his legacy will be defined by his partisan victories,” by John Dickerson. Throughout his first term, Barack Obama tried working and compromising, and often came out with less than stellar results, like when negotiations and compromise led to the sequester. Yet during this government shutdown, Obama stuck firmly to his party line, and in doing so emerged with another political victory supported by his partisan posture. 

Losing Our Cool: Hey Silicon Valley: Stop co-opting cool,” by Seth Stevenson. Cool used to mean something: indifference and mystery. Yet that meaning has been twisted and perverted by geek culture. The devices that millions so enthusiastically embrace, on which we share all our information, are sold as cool. Useful? Definitely, but cool isn’t the right word.

 “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk: It’s closely associated with sexual assault. And yet we’re reluctant to tell women to stop doing it,” by Emily Yoffe. Yoffe points out that binge drinking and sexual assault too frequently go hand in hand, and she expresses frustration that it’s become politically incorrect to point out to women that drinking to incapacitation puts them at risk of attack. She quotes academics and authors who’ve encountered the downsides of alcohol abuse on college campus. ““High-risk alcohol use is the one thing connected to all, and I mean all, the negative impacts in higher education,” says.” Slate’s Amanda Hess responded that the focus still needs to be on the rapists, and Yoffe addressed criticisms of her piece here

Of Course Banning Ex-Gay Conversion ‘Therapy’ Is Constitutional,” by Mark Joseph Stern. California’s 9th Circuit recently banned state licensed counselors from using gay conversion therapy as a treatment option. This has angered some First Amendment hawks, who argue that since therapy is speech, it cannot be limited in such a fashion. Yet though therapy is accomplished through speech, it is itself a treatment, and the court is within its full right to block a therapy that has been condemned by medical associations across the country.

Bitcoin: I’m Not Dead Yet: The biggest problem for the digital currency is still politics, not concept,” by Sean Vitka. Everything was looking so bright for Bitcoin as October began. Its price had skyrocketed in the previous year, and venture capitalists were racing to fund the latest startup that could make use of the digital, anonymous currency. Then on October 2nd, the Department of Justice laid down the law, shutting down Silk Road, a major online black market where business was dealt in bitcoins. Yet even after this blow, bitcoin has survived, and share prices are holding steady. Its next battle may not be with the law, but with invested interests who don’t want to see traditional payment options blown away.