The recent shoot down of a Russian fighter jet near the Turkish border increased tension between Russia and NATO members while the world is trying to fight ISIS (The New York Times 11/25/2015). Turkey defended the shooting down the Russian fighter jet by stating that the jet was warned multiple times on radio as the Russian jet, according to Turkish radar, crossed border into Turkey. Russia has refuted Turkey’s claim by stating that no visual or audio warning was given, and according to Russian radar data the jet never entered Turkish air space.
It does not seem that Russia had any intention to invade or attack Turkey, and it is possible that a technological error from either side’s radar or GPS technology would have caused this unfortunate incident.
Nevertheless, the shoot down of a Russian jet shows a greater urgency for major international players to setup a coordinated military and intelligence infrastructure to prevent such tragedies in the first place.
It has already been over a year since the growth of ISIS, and despite the continuous brutality exhibited by the terrorist group against civilians, the world leaders have been extremely slow in mounting a counter terrorism operation. Bogged down by the question of whether Assad should stay in power in Syria, the United States and Russia are seemingly fighting the same enemy with a different end game in mind.
Due to the US and other world partners not being able to reach quick political consensus on how to approach the Syrian problem, Europe is facing a refugee crisis that is in historic in proportions. Without quickly stabilizing Syria and getting rid of all terrorist elements in the region, refugees from Syria will continue to attempt to reach Europe, and the world will be facing a long term humanitarian crisis for decades to come.
There are many ideas on how world leaders should approach the Syrian crisis, but the main priority ought to be a consensus among world leaders on the short term goals of Syria (i.e. getting rid of ISIS) and also form a United Nations sponsored special civilian protection zone within Syria. Under the jurisdiction of the UN, such region should provide stability, safety, and a possibility of recovery (of livelihood) for the Syrians still stuck in the region. If the world leaders are still bogged down on the question of whether Assad ought to be President, then they should ask themselves whether debating such question serves the immediate interest of the Syrian people running away for basic safety and stability.
Hopefully, the shooting down of the Russian jet will be the last such international incident that results in unnecessary death and casualties between nations that are supposed to work for the same cause.
Even though we are over a year away from the next Presidential election, presidential candidates have been campaigning tirelessly to secure their party nomination. The general media has been following each candidate and providing snippets of political drama in the campaign trail.
While some might find the mainstream political drama entertaining and even perhaps useful for determining which candidates to endorse in the upcoming state primaries, the debate about policy seems to be quite absent in the general press coverage.
To be fair, policy debate does not bring the same level of excitement compared to cheap political drama coverage, and the news media’s primary focus is ratings. If cheap, short-lived political drama brings in consistent levels of high viewership, then deep policy analysis is postponed until the last minute before the elections.
Polls are great utility for the campaigns and the media to gauge the current aggregate public opinion on a variety of topics. In the election coverage, polls provide a way for the campaigns to legitimize their candidates (if their candidates are high in the polls) while belittle their opponents. Polls are also an effective high ratings item for the media, because people are always curious about what other people think about the election.
For the campaigns, polls are useful even if the candidates are trailing poorly, because it allows even the worst campaigns to use the polls as a signal to change campaign strategies in order to meet the demand of the public. The usefulness of polls for the voting public, however, seems to be questionable.
In a democracy, founded by principles from the Enlightenment era, elections are important mechanisms to check whether the policy preferences of the elected government reflect the policy preferences of the general population. Without elections, a nation can transform into a state in which the will of the people is not reflected upon the action of the government.
From a purely philosophical perspective, the usefulness of national, aggregate polls in determining whether a given politician reflects the best political preference profile to a given voter is dubious. There is hardly any information that is useful in knowing the aggregate attitude of a given politician in determining whether such politician best reflects the individual’s political preference profile, unless such profile includes aggregate poll data.
But does aggregate poll data tell us any information on any political policy information about the candidates? Poll data only shows the popularity, not even specifically from a political perspective, of the given candidates in the face of hypothetical national voters. Poll data only shows the attitudes of the sampled masses but not the actual political positions of the candidates.
Even if we expand our thinking to the practical scenario, polls tell us nothing about the candidates themselves. Why should we care what other people think when we are determining whether a given candidate reflects the best political thinking to our own? At best, polls muddy our thinking by tempting us to follow the rest of the crowd like sheep regardless of what the actual facts are. Polls are fascinating tools to gauge national attitudes of the candidates, but they are again useless in determining whether the candidates reflect our political values and policy preferences.
That is not to say that looking at non-aggregate data is useless. It is quite useful to have a discussion with a friend or other people about the election by learning why individual people like certain candidates. These are learning opportunities to see whether the voter missed certain facts or certain political analysis in their thinking. Aggregate poll data strips all the context of this useful train of thought, and thus national polls only provide more political drama and heat without helping us to carefully, rationally choose our best candidates when the election comes.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was reached by trade ministers today (The New York Times 10/5/2015), and various organizations have been analyzing the text of the agreement. While the bulk of the agreement removes existing tariff for participating countries, there are some unique elements to the agreement, including standards agreement (Environmental, Labor, and Intellectual Property) and rules and practices in regards to internet regulations (i.e data flow).
The key component for President Obama to convince Congress, not including whether certain components of the agreement hurt certain critical (politically) American industries, is to demonstrate that the agreement will curtail China’s “influence” in various regions. Whether President Obama is able to convince Congress will depend on the amount of political capital he has and is willing to spend.
In the TPP discussion, there is a cause for concern on the vague notion that the agreement is somehow a reaction to China’s growing influence in various regions around the world, including Southeast Asia. While the agreement sets certain standards beyond a mere trade agreement, there does not seem to be any significant element or mechanism prima facie that would counter China’s “influence”.
It can be argued that China can use its vast amount of foreign capital (US Dollars) to continue exerting political and economic influence in various parts of the region. There is nothing in the TPP that would counter China’s growing influence based on China’s capital investments abroad.
Supporters of the TPP would argue that, without China’s participation of the TPP, China’s influence among the participating countries would deteriorate based on trade bloc exclusion. Nevertheless, China can simply exert political and economic (via foreign investments) influence by spending its vast foreign reserves to other nations. There is nothing in the TPP (so far reported) that would prevent a non-TPP member from continuing foreign direct investments in TPP member states.
Interestingly, TPP seems to be a potential welcoming framework among some Chinese academics (The New York Times 4/28/2015), so the notion that TPP has a negative effect on China is even more questionable.
It would be politically interesting to see President Obama attempting to pass the TPP if China suddenly expresses greater interest to join the trade union. Such a scenario demonstrates that the mechanisms designed to counter China’s influence might not even come to fruition due to China’s willingness to endorse such idea.
This is my writing depository containing analysis and opinion on current events. Online since 2004, DS NETS continues to strive to contribute to the general online discussion on the ongoing political, societal, and cultural events around the world and at home.
It is my belief that through good writing that not only I can think beyond the headlines and abstract summary of articles but also my writings can open new avenues for further research and discussions.