OpenBlacklist

I do think that money has kind of ruined politics in the US and I applaud the transparency efforts of OpenSecrets.org, but I always had a feeling the site could become a blacklist of sorts for those craven enough to exploit it. I’m sure it has happened before, but this is the first major story I’ve heard that could demonstrate that. Opensecrets even lets you do reverse lookups by full name, making it fairly easy to plop a potential new hire’s name into it, like I just did here for Howard Zucker. It’s not much of a stretch to think future employers that like to play politics would use this as a hiring decision tool for most any job while being able to easily explain away a rejection that hides the real reason why they weren’t hired.

No on 36: Help save Oregon marriages

Plenty has been written about the mastery of language in use by conservative think tanks these days and I’m reminded of it every time I turn on the news or watch a discussion show featuring conservative guests. I used to discount the importance of language and framing of issues as overly simplistic, but this really is the death of liberals right now. It’s in the liberal nature to tell both sides of the story and/or go for a nuanced discussion of issues, but people don’t have time or energy to keep those kinds of things straight on hundreds of subjects in the news. I’m constantly impressed by conservatives that can gain traction with somewhat crazy ideas, but do it using such simple language that leaves little room for interpretation.

One instance that is driving it home for me is seeing signs for prop 36 in Oregon. Proposition 36 is the vote on a change to the State Constitution, to clear up the ambiguous language that says “anyone over 18 can marry…” so that is says “A man and a woman over 18 can marry…” I hear the issue is currently polling at around 50%-50%, which surprises me because I thought gay marriage had zero chance of survival in the wild, but looking at the signs it’s clear that the No side’s language isn’t helping them, while the Yes side is killing it.

The No on 36 folks have these complicated signs that say “no on constitutional amendment 36” and although the NO and 36 are the biggest things on it, it still requires them to push a negative with a screaming NO on it. The color is drab and you can’t read the words “constitutional ammendment” from a car. The Yes folks have a great distilled message, with multiple colors. It says “One Man. One Woman. Yes on 36.” It’s simple, concise, and gets the point across without the need for a five-syllable word.

So here’s the thing: why don’t liberals champion the power slogan? Why can’t liberals drop the “yeah, but…” from everything they want to say? Conservatives never feel the need to spell out the specifics, or the drawbacks, or the exceptions, while liberals are almost happy to do it. It obscures the message when you have to add “yeah, but…” to everything you say.

Here’s my suggestion for the No on prop 36 folks: Go simple. Your new slogan is “Support Marriages. Support Families. No on 36.” That’s it. You don’t have to explain these are new marriages or expanded definitions of family, just go with short, emotional slogans. People love marriage. People love family. A no vote on 36 means thousands of marriages don’t have to be dissolved.

Just as a conservative might repeat the phrase “Progress in Iraq” over and over, you could easily spin gay marriage as a way to encourage more marriages, help create more happy families, and help spread love instead of hate. And when your opponents try to point out “but! but! you’re going to ruin civilization!” you can ask they why they hate the institution of marriage, why they want to deny love, and why they want to break up families.

And you can’t argue with that on a 2 foot-by-3 foot sign at 60mph.

Badass Mashup

If you love Queen, John Hughes movies, and classic 80’s hip hop music, drop everything you’re doing and download The Kleptones’ “hip-hopera” mix. Download the giant zip file and there’s a single 90 minute long mp3 file.

There’s no way to describe it other than totally badass [via].

Time for loving

I can’t believe how much I love FuzzyClock. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a simple app that puts the current time into natural language. So instead of 2:53 it will say “ten til three.” At first I thought the lack of accuracy could be a problem, but I’ve got lots of meetings and have never been late (just wait until it says “shortly before eleven” and you’ll be on time for it). Here is what it looks like on my current menu bar (also running: audioscrobbler, slimbattery, and instiki).

On the surface, it simply saves you a half-second of converting the numbers 3:41 into “about twenty to four” in your head, but in practice it removes a small mental tax you put yourself through dozens-to-over-a-hundred times per day. After months of running this app in place of the standard clock (I disabled it in my OS prefs and run fuzzyclock on startup), I feel liberated in a small way. I’ve spent my life surrounded by clocks and never realized how much easier it is to read “half past twelve” than reading numbers.

Last week, I noticed Flickr does timestamps on comments this way, which is a great idea and something I should really do at metafilter. Someone’s already written a function for it in PHP, I’m sure it’ll be a MT plugin soon, if it isn’t already.

Geek ear

So I’m eating dinner and half-heartedly watching junk TiVo recorded, including this episode of Landscaper’s Challenge (in case you’re wondering, it’s a homeowner thing), and I’m not actually watching but listening kind of and I hear the client make some jokes and I know that I know that voice from somewhere. I start watching it intently and racking my brain for a few minutes. Where have I heard that before? Books on tape? Narrator in a car commercial? Cartoon voice? And then it hits me: I’ve heard this guy “Al” dozens of times, but I’ve never seen him before. He does the commentary tracks on all the Simpson’s DVDs.

It was show writer/director Al Jean getting his backyard done.