Cocktail Chatter

Cheap Wine, Fried Chicken, and Ladies Nights

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain dealt with the revelation of past sexual harrassment allegations this week

Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Leave Herman Cain Alone!: The three arguments Republicans are using to defend him,” by David Weigel. This week’s sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain haven’t fazed his supporters. Rather, the Cain defense has split into three subgroups to divide and conquer: the “this is all just racist” camp, a crew that blames the liberal media, and a third group with the credo “there’s no such thing as sexual harassment.” Find out why Weigel bets the last strategy will be most successful.

Rights Gone Wrong: How the civil rights movement led to a ban on ladies’ nights,” by Richard Thompson Ford. Some call it ladies night, others call it female chauvinism. Since the mid-1980s, a series of sex-discrimination lawsuits in states like California and Connecticut triggered bans on female-only perks at bars, such as discounted drinks or priority admission to events. But to understand the legality of these modern bans, we must look to the past, says Ford: He argues that they’re the result of equal rights legislation enforcement without the “mediating influence of good judgment or common sense.”

Culinary Racism: Trying to explain the ‘Obama Fried Chicken’ incident and others like it,” by Jesse Bering. Restaurants from Brooklyn to Beijing are complicit in a disturbing new trend: They’re using America’s black president to sell fried chicken. The racist implication is an obvious no-no to most Americans. But where did the stereotype that black people like fried chicken come from? Read on for Bering’s answer. 

Kris, Kim, and Six Other Profitable Reality Star Weddings,” by L.V. Anderson. After 72 days of marriage, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries announced their divorce this week. Even though they won’t enjoy the intangible spoils of wedded bliss, they’re still cashing in on the spectacle. Between the staged pictures, the free swag, and the monstrosity that was the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries E! wedding special, the couple raked in about $10,358.80 for every hour of their 72 days of marriage. But Kim and Kris aren’t the first couple to make a quick buck off of a celebrity wedding. From reality TV contest winners to Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, don’t miss this slide show of six other profitable Hollywood marriages.

Drink Cheap Wine: I mean, really cheap,” by Brian Palmer. Don’t believe the overzealous salesman at your local artisanal wine shop: Cheap wines are often just as good as their costlier counterparts. Palmer explains that the psychological effect of drinking expensive wine often causes people to eschew more wallet-friendly varieties. But cheap wines often win blind taste tests. The bottom line: Unless you’re training to be a sommelier, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference and you’ll save some serious money.

Lessons for Occupy Wall Street: Take a cue from the only social movement that has ever made a real dent in the nation’s extremes of wealth and poverty,” by Beverly Gage. As Occupy Wall Street seeks to transition from an impassioned uprising to a sustained movement, new logistical challenges—staying warm in the first snow of the season, for instance—raise questions about the future of the protests. For some insight and inspiration, Gage encourages occupiers to study the history of the American labor movement: The uprising spanned more than five decades and spurred meaningful economic change despite staunch opposition. 

The End of the Credit Card?: A new app called Card Case foretells a world without cash and plastic,” by Farhad Manjoo. For years, tech companies like Google promised consumers an easy system of mobile payment that would make cash and credit obsolete. Until recently, those mobile systems were not actually faster, cheaper or safer. Enter Card Case– a mobile app that allows you to pay with your name. To use the service, you must simply carry the mobile device in your pocket or purse – no need to whip it out. Now that, Manjoo argues, should be cause for concern for proponents of paying with plastic.

NRA, NATO, WWF: A brief history of abbreviations that are already taken,” by Torie Bosch. Herman Cain used to be the head of the NRA. No, not the National Rifle Association! The National Restaurant Association. ”NRA” is one of many acronyms that’s associated with multiple groups. Another odd pair is NATO: the National Association of Theater Owners and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For more, check out Bosch’s exploration of other surprising shared acronyms.

Guns on Parade: Qaddafi’s gone but his weapons aren’t, and they make the new Libya a very dangerous place,” by Sarah A. Topol. After months of unyielding resistance from now-deceased former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, the country is left with a daunting question. What next? Militias have divided the contents of Qaddafi’s vast weapons collection, but Libya’s government is still a loose federation of separate councils with no clear authority, Topol reports. The road to rebuilding the country, she writes, will be a difficult one.

The Eternal Teenage Life of Ruth Madoff: Maybe she really didn’t know about her husband’s Ponzi scheme,” by Jessica Grose. Ruth Madoff kept quiet for three years after her husband, Bernie Madoff, admitted to operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars. She’s finally breaking her silence on a national sympathy tour, inspiring Grose to believe she probably wasn’t complicit in the crime. But as Mrs. Madoff recounts her dysfunctional, subservient marriage, Grose says she’s still somewhat at fault for her current situation. Her fatal flaw? Spousal dependence—she’s “too weak to stand on her own two feet.”