This Tiny Corner Of America Can Predict If Democrats Will Win In the Next Election

Published: mic (September 30, 2013)

While it’s easy enough to talk about politics in terms of any given immediate cycle, Democrats should always try to keep the big picture in mind by asking themselves the most important question: How can we win the next election, the election after that, and other elections into the future?

The answer, I believe, can be found in the Lehigh Valley. In my 16 years as a Lehigh Valley resident, I have heard time and again the term “key swing district” used in reference to my little corner of Pennsylvania. Generally defined as the region in eastern Pennsylvania comprising Northampton and Lehigh counties, the Lehigh Valley has long been thought of as a bellwether for the rest of the state in presidential elections, with Northampton County supporting the commonwealth’s choice since 1952 and Lehigh County doing likewise since 1980. Similarly, it remains one of the target regions in Pennsylvania gubernatorial and Senate elections, with its penchant for ticket-splitting frequently giving its voters’ preferences decisive weight in a state once described by James Carville as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the east and west, and Alabama in the middle.” read more

Ted Cruz’s 21-Hour Senate Speech Was Full Of a Lot Of Hot Air

Published: mic (September 25, 2013)

After 21 hours of orating, Senator Ted Cruz’s one-man jeremiad against Obamacare has officially come to an end.

What in the world are we to make of it?

Certainly the punditocracy has not come up short on feedback. Top Republicans are livid at Cruz for what they perceive to be his grandstanding, even going so far as to send research to Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace to be used against him. Progressives, naturally, despise his vitriolic liberal-bashing as symptomatic of what is so toxic about our political culture, with terms like “brute” and “embarrassment” appearing in a recent New York Times piece. Tea Partyers, predictably, are strongly backing him, even going so far as to consider opposing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the primaries for his unwillingness to support Cruz’s effort. read more

What This 1898 War Can Teach Obama Today About Syria

Published: mic (September 13, 2013)

Political insight can come from the darndest places.

On this occasion, inspiration struck me in the midst of insomnia-induced light reading. My nocturnal literary companion, Kristin L. Hoganson’s classic historical monograph Fighting for American Manhood, was discussing the various ways in which Victorian ideals on masculinity influenced America’s imperialist ambitions at the turn-of-the-century. As I reached the chapter on President William McKinley’s decision to go to war with the Spanish Empire, aptly titled “McKinley’s Backbone,” I came across this thought-provoking observation: read more

Why Indie Films Are the Blockbusters Of the Future

Published: mic (September 12, 2013)

Every so often there is a silver lining to bad news, and this silver lining in particular should resonate with independent filmmakers. As a recent New York Times headline blared: “Huge Summer for Hollywood, but With Few Blockbusters.” What followed was a piece reviewing the “darker realities” behind Hollywood’s seemingly “blockbuster” summer, which despite a 10.2% increase in ticket revenue over last year is replete with ominous signs. For one thing, ticket sales increased mainly because of the quantity of big-budget productions that were crammed in theaters, not the quality … and indeed, given that 23 films released this summer had budgets of $75 million or more, it isn’t surprising that there were so many duds. For every smashing success (at least financially speaking), like Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, and Fast & Furious 6, there were also bombs like The Long Ranger, Turbo, and Kick-Ass 2. Even high-caliber big-budget films that did manage to turn a profit, like Pacific Rim, often had their successes offset by the high production costs. Indeed, as the Times’ article pointed out, some of the most lucrative movies this summer were relatively smaller fare, like This Is The End, which cost $32 million to produce and grossed $114 million, The Purge, which cost $3 million and grossed $85 million, and The Conjuring, which cost $20 million and grossed $240 million. read more

War in Syria Feeds the Military Industrial Complex — I Wish Ike Were Here

Published: mic (September 11, 2013)

While it’s a tad unorthodox to opean a political op-ed with two historical quotes, this pair strikes me as particularly prescient:

1. “They [the Union of states] will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” George Washington, September 19, 1796.

2. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961. read more

The 10 Best Jack Nicholson Movies Ever

Published: mic (September 4, 2013)

Note: This article reports that Jack Nicholson is retiring. Turns out that’s not true. The media incorrectly reported on this actor’s retirement. He will still be in the film industry.

In light of his recent announcement that he’ll be retiring from acting, we honor Jack Nicholson’s 10 best movies. Please bear in mind that these are only the opinions of this author; passionate disagreement is not only expected, but encouraged!

1. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

While this wasn’t his biggest role, Nicholson certainly stood out as the masochistic dental patient Wilbur Force in this horror-comedy by legendary shlockmeister Roger Corman. Despite occurring early in his life, Nicholson still displayed the offbeat charisma and taste for the eccentric that would define his later career. read more