Sunday, October 12, 2008

Margin Notes: Goldilocks, Empathy, and Cavities

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In the aftermath of this week's presidential debate in the United States, Republican strategist Dan Schnur noted on NPR's On Point that this has become a "Goldilocks" election--John McCain is "too hot" and seems angry, and Barack Obama is "too cold" and doesn't appear to have enough emotions. Unfortunately, with only two major parties, there is nobody that is "just right."

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After taking a lot of heat for referring to Obama as "that one" during the debate and leaving quickly afterward, John McCain deserves a lot of credit for telling his supporters that they do not need to fear Barack Obama. It is too bad that Sarah Palin doesn't seem to have gotten that memo.

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While the Democrats have been trying to tie John McCain to the Bush administration, a website called BushHarper.com shows the similarities between the Bush administration and the Harper government in Canada. The site has been advertised on-line for some time, and I have noticed it much more widely advertised in Toronto in the past few days, including on the subway. What really surprised me is that the site and the advertising are being funded by the Liberals. It would seem to me that in Toronto, especially, their main task is not convincing people to oppose Harper, but convincing people that they represent a better opposition than the NDP. BushHarper.com may end up helping the NDP in the ridings around me as much as it helps the Liberals.

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Normally, Canadians are very astute at perceiving symbolism in political campaigns, so I found it rather shocking that the Liberal party actually had St├ęphane Dion visit a room with advanced life support equipment at an Ottawa hospital. After so many stories about their party being on life support in British Columbia, what in the world were they thinking?

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If the "At Issue" panelists on CBC Television's The National are correct that the mood in the electorate favors candidates displaying empathy, it really is hard to predict how voters will move in the final days of the campaign. None of the five major leaders have been great at displaying empathy in the past week--they've been sticking to their strategies. Interestingly, the same thing is happening in the United States--neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has a message that is resonating broadly about the economy, though Obama as the nominee of the party out of power in the White House gains from such a stand-off by default. Where is Bill Clinton to feel your pain when you need it?

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New Mexico governor Bill Richardson doesn't know where Bill Clinton is, either. Appearing on KUOW's The Conversation on Friday, Richardson noted that despite his endorsing Barack Obama, he speaks regularly with Senator Hillary Clinton and has hosted two fundraisers to help reduce her campaign debt. However, he hasn't spoken with Bill Clinton. "President Clinton is still upset, I'm sure."

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In the 14-July-2008 issue of Chemical and Engineering News that I have just gotten around to reading, correspondent Rachel Petkewich describes a future in which it will be possible to grow (if slowly) the crystals that make up apatite, a substance essential to both the inner dentin and surface enamel in teeth. When these efforts bear fruit, that means many dental fillings will no longer be required. Undoubtedly, many of us hope that research advances as quickly as possible.

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