Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, March 28, 2008

In Brief - March 29, 2008

First, a brief musing on names and branding. Restaurants, bands, authors, snack foods, and even presidential candidates can succeed or fail on the strength of weakness of their names. Names aren't all that matters--thankfully--but they do matter at least some. Forget, for a moment, everything else about the three presidential candidates, and let's take a quick look at the branding potential of the names McCain, Clinton, and Obama.

The name "McCain" isn't bad, honestly. It's normal, there's nothing weird about it. Its two-syllable structure with emphasis on the second syllable gives it a certain memorable cadence and power. It ends with "ain", a letter cluster that occurs in lots of other English words, and is thus useful in rhyme structures; e.g. "the rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain." It's not amazing, but it doesn't suck, and you can envision building slogans around it.

"Clinton," well, that one's harder. It doesn't rhyme nearly as well or easily as McCain. The core of it, "clint" is very western and masculine--almost cowboy in its roots--which may have worked for Bill but plays against Hillary's female candidate narrative. Outside of the Clinton family, just about the only other famous Clinton is the musician George Clinton who is indeed one funky dude but may not be what Hillary Clinton is really looking for in terms of association and branding.

Then there's "Obama." On the face of it, the name "Barack Obama" would seem to be a huge boat anchor to tie around the neck of any candidate in America, particularly one running for the office of president. It's completely at odds with the tradition of presidential names; it just doesn't sound like it belongs in the same pile with the names of our 43 previous presidents. Obama has done well to have introduced the "candidate with the funny name" line himself thus depriving the "funny name" narrative from having any power aginast him. But below the apparent negatives of his name, "Obama" turns out to be surprisingly brandable.

Why? Because English is a language that likes to take short phrases and collapse them into evocative, new words. And the name "Obama", by having the good fortune to end with the letters "ma," is just ripe for combination with a whole slew of positive-tone English words that happen to start with "ma," "mo," and similar common sounds. A few of these newly-coined words are starting to enter the vernacular. They're so self-evident in their derivation that I don't even need to explain them: Obamajority. Obamathon. Obamaniac. Obamomentum. And my favorite: Obamanomics.

Yes, it's silly. But don't for a minute let yourself think that makes it meaningless or irrelevant. As a name--and we hope as a man--Obama is a winner.

Around the Northwest:

  • David Postman reports on what the newly Supreme Court approved "top two" primary might, in the details, look like. NPI remains adamant that the "top two" primary is a huge mistake and stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic nature of a primary election. A primary is not "the first stage of a two-stage election". Rather, a it is solely a mechanism for political parties to determine their nominee for the general election ballot. This has not been made sufficiently clear in the past--not by Washington's elections commissioner, nor by the parties themselves--but is the reality. Postman's right, though: this is all going to be in the courts for a long time.
  • Northwest Airlines begins European service from the Portland International Airport.
  • In a bit of presumptively good environmental news, the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf has been removed from the endangered species list. Of course, that does mean it's still threatened, but hey, it's progress.
  • WA-08 candidate Darcy Burner's Responsible Plan was featured in yesterday's Washington Post

Around the Nation:

  • One of my roles here at the Northwest Progressive Institute is to think about energy policy and how we, as a society and as a species, need to evaluate and select the energy sources for our future. Clearly, a key component is going to have to be efficiency. With that in mind, I can't wait until the day we can go buy full-spectrum incandescent bulbs that are ten times more efficient than regular ones.
  • Shame on you, Network Solutions! Regardless what anyone may think of Islam, the Koran, or Dutch politics, blocking access to someone's domain name is not your call to make. Especially when you are in the domain name business...
  • Wait, people don't like being threatened? A group of high-dollar Clinton supporters (and I do mean high; there are billionares on that list) co-signed a letter to the effect that they would stop making their generous donations to the DCCC if superdelegates didn't give the nomination to Mrs. Clinton. Of course, the DCCC's job is to help Democratic members of the House, i.e. the very super delegates Clinton needs support from, get re-elected. This not-so-subtle shakedown--endorse our candidate or else--fortunately seems to be backfiring. Nancy Pelosi, the designated recipient of the letter, is having none of it and as word filters out far and wide the whole thing seems mostly to be encouraging more small-donor DCCC contributions while solidifying the perception of Clinton as willing to win even at the cost of destroying the party.
  • As California goes, so goes the nation. California's Air Resources Board has just elected to make regulations about zero-emission vehicles in California's fleet a little more flexible. Manufacturers can now satisfy fleet makeup requirements through pure zero-emission vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and various combinations thereof.
  • Herb Peterson, the inventor of the Egg McMuffin, died Tuesday at his home in Santa Barbara. Invented as a fast-food version of eggs benedict, Peterson single-handedly created what has become an American cultural touch point and changed the way busy, on-the-go Americans look at breakfast.

Around the World:

  • It looks like the a cease fire, ordered by Muqtada al Sadr to his Shiite followers, is collapsing. Violence in Iraq is already spiking to levels we haven't seen in months. As for the "surge"? Well, that's no so much related to conditions on the ground as President Bush would like you to think. DailyKos contributor clammyc penned this thorough summary of the situation.
  • With Zimbabwe's presidential election happening today, President Mugabe is being warned that riots will result if, as is expected, the election is not free and fair.
  • Pieces-of-Eight and shouting out "yarr, matey!" may have gone the way of the Dodo, but piracy is still a real threat on the world's seas.

The Lighter Side:

  • Listen to the oldest recorded sound. It's not what you would call hi-fi, but think about that--the oldest recorded sound. It's from April 9, 1860: before the Civil War, and coincidentally, just days before the first Pony Express ride set out from St. Joseph, Missouri to deliver mail to far away Sacramento, California.
  • Let's hope this story from The Onion doesn't have to run for real.
  • Maybe I should add a semi-regular "this week in campaign videos" segment. Up this week, the instant classic of snark Raining McCain (at least, on McCain's behalf I hope it is), and the rockin' tune I Want Barack.
  • Another "glad I'm not there" reminder that you can't build your way out of traffic problems.
  • And finally, because it's Saturday and you should relax a bit, a couple of online board-games for you. First, the world's first mmosbg: a massively multi-player online strategy board-game. If anybody tries that with chess, my head will explode. Second, Cephalopod, and intriguing little board game with dice as counters. I have no idea why it's named that.

This Day in History:

  • 1792: The assassination of Sweden's King Gustav III concludes, 13 days after he is shot, with his death. He is succeeded by King Gustav IV Adolf.
  • 1809: Exactly seventeen years later, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden abdicates the throne after a coup d'etat. March 29th is not, apparently, a good day for Swedish political stability.
  • 1886: Coca-Cola is invented in the Atlanta backyard of Dr. John Pemberton.

Have a great week, everybody!


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