Would-be Man of Leisure

the occasional & quasi-lucid ramblings of Jason Karsh

Who you fight for

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Back in the summer of 2007, I went to the first political organizing anything, for any candidate, I’d ever attended in my life. To convince myself to go, I labeled it a fact-finding expedition.

The truth, however, was that I was bored with my job and frustrated by over a decade of dysfunctional politics. Yes, I wanted to contribute, but I was nowhere near ready to admit that and I had no idea how to make that happen.

But during that first weekend, perhaps the single smartest volunteer integration idea the Obama campaign had early on was the way in which we were asked to define why we were there. The idea wasn’t to put it in terms of ‘why’ so much as it was to put in terms of ‘who.’

Which is to say, you want to change things in the country? That’s great, but for whom?

My background is pretty heavily based in advertising and marketing so I could go on about how tactically smart I found this to be, but the point was to get you to answer the question. Because if you could come up with the who, the how is almost a formality. And for me, the answer was my mother.

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Written by jkarsh

August 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Posted in General randomness

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Why I won’t apologize for President Obama

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I hate August.

Wasn’t it just yesterday when I compiled a cheat sheet for those who wanted to tune out politics for the summer? Only now, the longer this summer goes on, the more I wish I’d have taken my own advice.

Somehow it’s as if the nationwide heatwave slowly melted the political conversation into essentially two puddles. Either you blame the president for everything—which is a shockingly bi-partisan group, by the way—or you supported, worked for, and believe in the president and now feel that if you don’t step up defend him nobody will.

Yet most of the defenses I continue to see sound like apologies: ‘He would have done this, but …’ ‘Yes, it’s a bad deal, but …’

If ever there were a way to lose the future, this would be it. Because all this does is let everybody else off the hook.

What do I mean?

First, when did the Executive Branch become responsible for writing all our laws?

Last week there was an article from The Onion that got passed around about how we were going to air-drop a bunch of 8th grade civics teachers into D.C. to help solve the debt ceiling crisis. It was funny, but it was also a poignant reminder that a frightening number of Americans have completely lost their grasp on grade school civics—if they were ever taught them in the first place.

It’s the Legislative Branch of government writes the laws. That’s Congress, not the White House (see: Schoolhouse Rock).

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Written by jkarsh

August 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

What a winning issue looks like

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Don’t tell anybody this, but I didn’t care all that much about the debt ceiling.

The GOP negotiates raising the debt ceiling.

Don’t misunderstand me, I cared very much about the GOP taking the country’s economy hostage. That was ridiculous, petulant, and petty.

But the issue itself essentially boiled down to: Do we want to borrow money so that we’ll have more time to pay our bills, or do we want to blow up our credit in a way that we may never recover from—oh, and by the way, send the national and international economy into a recession/depression in the process.

Well, would you like a plate of poorly cooked brussel sprouts with that or a bowl of glass shards we found in an alley behind the methadone clinic?

Things like raising the debt ceiling are routine, or have been. And I don’t think I’m an atypical American for thinking Congress should dispatch with housekeeping items quickly so that they can get to the real issues that help Americans prosper.

Instead, we just wasted two entire months doing something routine.


A week or so ago I feel like I shared this clip from the Rachel Maddow show. It’s from April and although it talks about how Democrats could (and should) use Republicans’ insistence on trying to kill Medicare as a way to win politically, it begins with a story about how everybody tends to agree the FAA is our friend. That’s because the FAA helps keep airplanes from disintegrating in mid-flight.

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Written by jkarsh

August 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm

No, we actually do big things

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In today’s Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson makes the point that progressives need a Big Idea.

His view is that what the GOP stands for is simple. It’s so simple, in fact, that you can put it on a bumper sticker: Cut taxes, cut spending. (Which shouldn’t be confused with, ‘Me Tarzan. You Jane.’ or ‘Fire Bad. Woman Good.’)

Insofar as what Republicans stand for, it’s tough to disagree. The GOP has painted a pretty clear picture of what they are about. And although I might sum it up differently than Robinson, the message the party would like Americans to walk away with does seem to be: Lower taxes, less spending, less government.

(Also, Fire, bad. Woman, good—just so long as she’s makin’ babies or sammiches an’ not doin’ anything crazy like voting or exercising her right to choose.)

However I disagree with Robinson about progressives not having a Big Idea. At least, about Democrats not having a Big Idea.

Granted, he has a Pulitzer Prize and I have one of those cards that knocks seventy-five cents of a bag of Doritos at the grocery store, but I still think he’s wrong.

Democrats do have a Big Idea. It’s a good one, and it would fit on a bumper sticker were they so inclined. It’s entitled: Rebuild America.

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Written by jkarsh

July 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

What union busting looks like today

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If people think much about union busting any more, their images probably tend to be cast in black and white. Chaotic scenes of picket lines broken apart by men with nightsticks and trash can lids.

This isn't congress fighting over the debt ceiling.

But we probably don’t give much thought to the idea any more because not only are fewer Americans in a union than at any point in the last 60 years, but because major strikes are at historic lows.

In 2010 there were exactly 11 major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift.

Eleven. In the whole country. For an entire year.

This was the second lowest level the in history in the U.S. The first was in 2009, when there were a total of five.

For myriad reasons, Americans just don’t belong to unions like we used to.

As such, you could be forgiven for wondering why there seems to be such a new-found emphasis on laws designed to attack unions, strip rights from unions, or do away with worker rights all together.

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Written by jkarsh

July 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Posted in General randomness

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The Year of the Woman

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As a kid I always loved the Chinese Zodiac. Honestly, I still do, and not just because it allows you to make completely inappropriate jokes about the Year of the ‘Rooster.’

I like the Chinese Zodiac because everybody gets a year. Not a day, or a week or a month, but an entire year during which you’re supposed to get the breaks for a change. It’s awesome.

Of course, given the way things have gone for women in 2011 politically, it’s safe to say this year has been anything but the Year of the Woman. However, looking ahead, I think there’s an opportunity for 2012 to be exactly that.

But first, the bad news.

The political landscape is terrible

By almost any benchmark, the current political climate is about as anti-woman as it’s ever been.

From state to state there has been a concerted effort to subjugate women and their bodies to the will and whims of government.

Don’t believe me? Of course you don’t. Thankfully, a long time ago, somebody invented charts.

What’s important to note about the chart to the right is that it’s solely focused on abortion, and it only charts legislation that has already passed.

That’s right, this graph isn’t of proposed legislation, those are now laws on the books.

But wait, there’s more:

  • 916 measures related to reproductive health and rights that have been introduced nationwide in 2011
  • 33 laws in 9 states were passed to restrict abortion, or make it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, in a single month of this year alone (April)
  • 46 states now allow some health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services (pdf)

Sadly, it’s even more than that, because it’s not just about abortion. It involves women’s health on the whole.

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Written by jkarsh

July 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

Posted in General randomness

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Minnesota as microcosm

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The hotter it gets outside, the more I’d like to turn off politics for the summer and enjoy the sun like a normal person. But there’s so much going on and as I’m between gigs, well …

Two things have been driving me a bit batty about politics lately.

1. The continued inability of Democrats to message.

2. The ridiculous negativity on the part of ‘progressives’ and many people who said they were ready to stand and work with President Obama when he got into office.

Since the first of those is almost as old as time, let’s take the second for a moment.

Lt. Dan Choi, as played by Kevin Bacon.

Peck around the Internet even a little or cruise by twitter and what you mostly seem to find is a lot of people bent out of shape that Obama didn’t deliver them the pony they imagined he promised them when he took office.

The perfect example of this for me is the way equal rights advocate Lt. Dan Choi has recently gone off the rails because the president seems more interested in preventing the U.S. economy from going in the tank (and taking the world’s economy with it) than tackling the issue of gay marriage.

Thus, Obama is the #WorstPresidentEver. Obviously.

But Choi is hardly alone. All over the political left, from pundits to blog posts it’s a sea of complaints. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for venting one’s spleen, especially if it hold our electeds accountable.

The thing is, if you’re complaining 24/7 without offering up a solution of any kind, what you’re doing isn’t called constructive criticism, it’s called whining.

With that in mind, here are a few questions that may help solve both of my concerns while suggesting a few solutions for those who seem unable to stop whimpering like a five year-old in need of a nap.

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Written by jkarsh

July 12, 2011 at 10:20 am


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