Cocktail Chatter

Rob Ford, Spam, and the Quintessential Summer Cocktail

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

 Barack Obama speaks about his administration’s drone and counterterrorism policies.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Obama’s Post-9/11 World: While the president said nothing new about drone strikes, he appears ready to take real risks to close Gitmo,” by Fred Kaplan. Kaplan analyzes President Obama’s counterterrorism speech on Thursday, writing that although the president’s renewed attention to closing the Guantánamo detention center is encouraging, his defense of drone strikes merely echoes a Justice Department white paper released in February. Elsewhere on Slate, Eric Posner writes that Obama’s speech underlines how similar the pesident’s national security policies are to those of George W. Bush.

The Highly Effective Idiot: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is crass, offensive, and may smoke crack. He is also a pretty good mayor,” by Philip Preville. Ford has attracted international attention following reports of a video showing him smoking crack. Preville, acknowledges that his mayor is “an ill-tempered buffoon,” but he defends Ford’s record in light of such accomplishments as slashing an out-of-control city budget and successfully negotiating with labor unions over privatization of waste collection.

The Gin and Tonic: The summer blockbuster of mixed drinks,” by Troy Patterson. With Memorial Day upon us, Patterson waxes poetic about that quintessential summer tipple, the gin and tonic. “The G&T,” he writes, “like the madras and seersucker fabrics upon which it is so often spilled, is a subcontinental invention appropriated for the warm-weather pleasure of Americans WASPs of all races and creeds.”

The Pedestrian–Cyclist Armistice: A bilateral, 10-point resolution to end the decades-long conflict between walkers and bikers,” by L.V. Anderson and Aisha Harris. New York City’s new bike-share program kicks off this weekend, and in order to head off the inevitable flare-up in pedestrian-cyclist tensions, Anderson and Harris sit down at the negotiating table to hash out their differences. Among the provisions of their truce are “no taking bikes onto the subway during rush hour,” “no walking in the bike lane,” and “no bike-riding on the sidewalk.”

Stop Hating on the IRS: People are attacking the IRS from the left and right. Actually it does as good a job chasing tax cheats as we let it,” by Emily Bazelon. The IRS has attracted a lot of criticism lately from its targeting of Tea Party groups over their nonprofit status and from recent revelations of Apple’s multi-billion-dollar tax avoidance maneuvers. Bazelon argues that the apparent failures of the IRS have more to do with insufficient funding and enormous legal loopholes than misplaced priorities.

Profiling Is Great … Except When You Do It to Me: Will the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups convince conservatives that all kinds of profiling are wrong?” by Farhad Manjoo. The IRS scandal has raised an outcry from conservatives. According to Manjoo, though, the IRS’s practices are just like instances of profiling that conservatives defend for crime-fighting and terrorism deterrence. Furthermore, he writes, the ineffectiveness of the IRS’s methods help illustrate that profiling is the wrong approach in all circumstances.

Give Spam a Chance: The maligned meat deserves a better reputation,” by Anna Weaver. For millions of Americans, Spam has a reputation as a “pink, slimy, salty block of sodium,” more suitable for joking about than for eating. Weaver wants that to change. She writes about Spam’s enormous popularity among Hawaiians and extols the meat product’s versatility, its ultra-short ingredients list, and—of course—its deliciousness.   

Freeze!: Egg freezing is supposed to give women control over their biological clock. So why won’t more women do it?” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards. Egg freezing remains an unpopular fertility option for most women, considering the procedure’s relative expense and the stigma of resorting to science to have babies. Touching on the themes of her new book, Motherhood, Rescheduled, Richards praises egg freezing as “the latest frontier for women’s fertility.”

Are Apostrophes Necessary?: Not really, no,” by Matthew J.X. Malady. The increasing absence of this punctuation mark from street signs and official place names has grammar traditionalists up in arms. Malady attempts to put their fears to rest, arguing that apostrophes are a relatively recent introduction to standard written English and that permanently removing them from the language would actually present very minimal challenges.

Who’s Your Daddy?: The perils of personal genomics,” by Daniel Engber. While personal genomics companies like 23andMe make it possible for people to learn about their susceptibility to certain inherited diseases, these genetic tests sometimes uncover unwanted facts about family relationships. Engber tells the story of one woman who discovered her father wasn’t who she thought he was and explores the implications of the growing availability of personal genomics services.