New Essay at Splice Today: A Cozy Allegory in a Cozy Mystery

Tim Hall is a man with answers. He is a man with humor. He is a man with guts. He is a brilliant writer. He is a friend of mine.

I’ve written about his work before with an essay about his autobiographical novels and a review of his collaboration to create a web comic.

In my first essay for Splice Today, I review his new mystery novel, Dead Stock. Dead Stock is a book that will make any lucid reader laugh, but the book is so full of insight and inspiration, that in between belly laughs, it will hit you in the same region, provoking introspection and examination of the culture in which Dead Stock‘s unlikely hero – Bert Shambles – lives.

Dead Stock

New Column for the Indianapolis Star: Mike Pence Leads Way Against Government Bloat

In my new column for the Indianapolis Star, I defend Indiana Governor’s miserly cuts to the higher education budget, picking up on the thread I’ve deemed the “higher ed hustle” in American life.

I also reference the brilliant theory of Jonathan Rauch – “demosclerosis.”

The column is an interesting and important read for anyone still caught in the 1960s and suffering from the belief that the modern university is still a dilapidated school house where professors wearing clip on ties lecture to students on scholarships sharing a single text book.

It is, in fact, one of the most profitable, and selfish, institutions in the world, and it is continually scamming American students and their families. Pence’s small cuts to the budget are necessary, helpful, and one can hope, the beginning of a new precedent throughout the country.

New Essay at The Daily Beast – The Legend of Brown Dog: A Great American Hero Gets His Due

My favorite literary character is Brown Dog. Brown Dog is the libidinous trickster, the quiet hero, the ribald dreamer, and the aggressive life lover from the mind of one of America’s greatest writers, Jim Harrison.

Brown Dog manages to challenge the pedestrian pettiness, the boring moralism, the Puritanical asceticism, and the politically correct conventions of American culture. More importantly, he has fun, and he lives according to a code of compassion, while doing it.

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of writing about Brown Dog for the Daily Beast. The resultant essay is one of my personal favorites. I hope that readers who already admire the work of Jim Harrison find it insightful, and that readers just making an introduction to Harrison and Brown Dog use it as motivation to pick up the books.

As I write in the essay, “Any American in desperate need of rescue from long commutes, cable news, shop talk from a cubicle, dreary suburban sprawl, and the contrived sexuality of predictable pop culture, would do well to sit down with Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog, and meet a new friend who will graciously give him a tour of a wonderfully debauched and always inspired life of energy, mystery, and avidity.”

The tour can start here.

New Column for Indianapolis Star: State Has No Business Banning Gay Marriage

State Has No Business Banning Gay Marriage

Indianapolis Star: December 5, 2013

The Indiana State Constitution is based on the United States Constitution – perhaps the most important document in the history of humanity’s fight for freedom. Considering the legal brilliance, political empowerment, and spiritual hope that the Constitution embodies, it would set a dangerous precedent, and betray the meaning of America to amend the constitution – at the state or federal level – to limit liberty, rather than enlarge it.

The ink that the American founders used to write the Constitution doubled as the concrete that provided the foundation for Republican Democracy around the world. An essential part of its vision is the separation of church and state. While that actual phrase might not appear in the Constitution, the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, made it clear in letters that they intended to keep bureaucrats out of the business of religion, and keep clerical bullies from imposing their dogmas on the duties of governance. The Supreme Court has upheld and validated the separation interpretation of the Establishment Clause in dozens of cases dating back hundreds of years.

It is for these reasons that any thoughtful, reasonable, and moral person must vehemently oppose the proposal to change the Indiana State Constitution to include an amendment banning gay marriage.

It is not the State’s role to make judgments on the consensual sex lives of adults. If America is to remain a friendly home for freedom, it must extend that freedom, and the equality of opportunity and dignity that goes along with it, to gay Americans – the majority of whom are law abiding, taxpaying citizens who conduct themselves with decency and responsibility.

Homosexuality is not only a form of sex. It is also a form of love. All Americans, but especially those who wear the label of “family values conservative,” should seek to honor that love in the maintenance of a society that values romantic commitment and familial care.

The entire debate surrounding gay marriage is cartoonishly absurd, given that there is no credible argument against it. One side uses legal precedent, philosophical argumentation in keeping with the American tradition of individual liberty, and simple kindness, while the other recites passages from a book written thousands of years ago.

The Bible, along with any other religious text, is to have no influence on the laws of our secular government. Any religious doctrine can influence the way people think and behave in a free country, but the Constitution clearly prohibits the exercise of religion during legislative activity or judicial decision-making.

When gay marriage opponents claim that their argument is The Bible, they are confessing that they have no argument.

American opinion is reaching a favorable consensus on gay marriage, and when legalization does inevitably occur, no church will have to marry a gay couple. The beauty of the separation of church and state is that it is mutually protective of religion and governmental autonomy and interest.

That being said, on the issue of religion, gay marriage opponents have yet to answer important questions.

The Bible prohibits adultery, divorce, eating shellfish, working on the Sabbath, wearing clothing of mixed fabrics, wearing gold, and touching a woman experiencing her period. For most of these crimes – including working on Sundays – the penalty is death.

Why are the loudest defenders of Biblical law, who so eagerly denounce gay marriage, not insisting that these injunctions also influence government legislation?

Might it be that they are not truly motivated by religion, but that they are using religion as a cover story for the exclusion and hurtful treatment of people they just don’t like?

David Masciotra is the author of All That We Learned About Living: The Art and Legacy of John Mellencamp (forthcoming, The University Press of Kentucky) and Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity. For more information visit http://www.davidmasciotra.com.

New Column at The Indianapolis Star: Why Indy Prospered and Detroit Declined

I was once an adherent to the liberal narrative of government growth and economic planning. Lucidity and literacy, however, changed my mind. Simple comparisons, at the municipal and state levels, of alternative models of government settle the case – California versus Texas, Illinois versus Wisconsin, and the story of two cities that provides the basis of my new column for the Indianapolis StarIndianapolis versus Detroit.

As Detroit’s promises of remuneration for public sector employees became unrealistic, its taxes became punitive, its regulations became unnavigable and incomprehensible, and its government became bloated to the point of obesity, the home of the American automotive industry and Motown Records went bankrupt. The once rich, populous, and culturally vibrant city now fails to offer its residents basic services, has an official unemployment rate of 20 percent, and a housing market comparable to undeveloped countries.

In the 1960s, journalists gave Indianapolis the unflattering nickname of “Nap Town.” “There is only one thing to do in Indianapolis,” the joke went, “take a nap.” Its downtown resembled an abandoned movie set. Businesses, along with families, fled the city, and the situation seemed hopeless. Now, it is considered a “sports capital” of the country, its downtown is busy, full of commercial, social, and recreational activity, and its unemployment rate is lower than the national average.

Many factors account for the revitalization and resurrection of Indianapolis, but the politically undeniable aspect is a consistent fidelity to low taxes and deregulation. Indianapolis leaders, from both the Republican and Democratic parties, intended to incentivize investment and entrepreneurship, attract business and home owners, and create a legal system to encourage risk, rather than punish it.

The sights outside of the window as one takes a drive through each city – one a clean, efficient, bustling, and growing center of commerce and community, and the other a dangerous, dilapidated, and dysfunctional home of corruption and crime – makes the political conclusions obvious to all but the most ideologically stubborn .

Read the column here.

New Article at The Daily Beast: Atheist Ex-Pastor’s Mission to Red America

Last weekend, on the Sabbath, the Daily Beast published an article I wrote after interviewing an inspirational man named Jerry DeWitt.

DeWitt is a former Pentecostal minister, who after years of study, wrestling with doubt, and finding that his personal experiences could not justify his faith claims, left the church and discovered he was an atheist.

The community he loves and cherishes of DeRidder, Louisiana does not look too kindly on heretics. He planned to live a quiet life of introspection and secular employment. A strange series of circumstances led to his outing as an atheist, and rather than run, he decided to stand strong and tall in defiance against hatred and commitment toward honesty, authenticity, and secular advocacy.

Book-cover-for-Hope-After-Faith-An-ex-PastHe is currently working hard to make the Community Mission Chapel – a secular congregation – successful in the deep South. It is no easy task, but DeWitt is not a man who cowers from a challenge.

While celebrity atheist provocateurs, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, write bestselling books from the comfort and friendly quarters of elite universities, DeWitt is taking heavy fire in one of the most ballistic battles of the culture wars.

Read about his important story and inspirational work on the Daily Beast.

New Column for the Indianapolis Star: Obamacare Website’s Failure Highlights Private Sector’s Superiority

In my latest column for the Indianapolis Star, named one of the best of the week around the country by USA Today, I address how critics who called Barack Obama a glorified celebrity five years ago, despite being ruthlessly attacked, are now proven as painfully correct in their assessment.

I then transition into how the HealthCare.Gov fiasco demonstrates the superiority of the private sector in accomplishing important tasks, both large and small.

It seems the only people still defending the disastrous lack of leadership from President Obama are those still enamored by who he is, and indifferent to what he does. That is the classic case of a personality cult.

Christmas In Washington 2011

 

 

New Column for the Indianapolis Star: The Government Shutdown That Wasn’t

What would anyone reasonable call it when a pizzeria that is typically open daily announces that for a few weeks it will no longer open on Wednesdays and that during that same period of time it will no longer offer pepperoni as a topping?

A temporary cutback? A slight reduction of services?

No one would call it a “shutdown”, yet when a mere 17 percent of the federal government takes a moratorium, while local and state governments remain fully operational, the American media reports on the “shutdown” with the same urgency they would bring to an impeding nuclear attack.

In my new column for the Indianapolis Star, I continue my chronicle of what Friedrich Hayek called the “despoiling and perversion of language” by analyzing the stupidity of the label “shutdown” when 83 percent of the government carries on, business as usual, and by diving into the even worse bizarro world of “nonessential employees.”

New Essay for The American Conservative: Are Video Games the New Novels?

In my recent essay for the American Conservative, “Are Video Games the New Novels?”, I answer with a resounding and unequivocal “no.”

The essay is largely a response to an article by Nick Gillespie in Time in which he praises video games as the most important art form of the 21st Century, and compares them favorably to the novels of Charles Dickens. Gillespie is a journalist and polemicist I greatly admire. His libertarian activism and advocacy with Reason magazine is of crucial importance in a political arena hosting a brawl between one wing that wants to rob America’s liberty and another wing that wants to revoke its freedoms.

His argument in support of grown men and women wastefully idling their hours on toys designed for children is dreadfully unconvincing, however.

beavisandbutthead-volume4-08In my essay, I argue that video games are damning evidence of how American culture has undergone a process of juvenilization (it has become difficult to find real adults), which I also wrote about for Front Porch Republic and True/Slant, and I rely on Marshall McLuhan to explain that electronic games, despite their content, are bad for the attention span and inferior to literature. “The medium is the message,” as the old dog put it a long time ago.

On an interesting side note, followers of my work are well aware that I tackle many controversial political, religious, and cultural issues, but never do I attract scorn equal to that of the adult video game player. The gamers come out of their rooms to attack anyone who will question their favorite hobby. It often seems to me that they protest too much.

New Column for the Indianapolis Star: Living Wage? It’s Often Missing On College Campuses

The worst labor practices in the country belong to the elite universities, and the most lucrative scam in American life, is the higher education hustle.

It is not difficult to find discussion in the mainstream media of the staggering and paralytic amounts of student debt that young Americans now struggle to pay after graduating college. It is easy to come across reports of rising tuition rates, but still hidden is a full expose of the higher education hustle.

That is, the big government and big education scam to create an administrative class at the universities, and increase government revenues through usury on student loans.

While colleges across the country increase tuition and hire more underpaid adjuncts to teach courses, they also hire a shameful amount of well-paid administrators. Three separate studies have confirmed that the number one cause of rising tuition rates is “administrative bloat.”

The higher education hustle story recently became even more important when the American left went into convulsions over the hourly wages of McDonald’s employees. Liberals insist that part time cashiers at fast food restaurants, most of whom are high school or college students, deserve a “living wage.” Yet, those same liberals are amazingly silent on the issue of poverty pay for adjunct instructors, who have Master’s Degrees or PhD’s, and according to a study from Northwestern University, are better at teaching that tenured faculty.

I issue a full indictment of the university system, and the higher education hustle, in my new column – “Living Wage? It’s Often Missing on College Campuses”.