Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died at the age of 79. While the majority of Americans and the main media might have known him to be a "Conservative" Justice, Justice Scalia's contribution to the theory of originalism (LA Times 2/15/2016) and his vast legal writings show Scalia as a rich explorer of constitutional questions. His legal writings were consequential, and his contribution to the law literature will be studied and applied for years to come. Justice Scalia's honorable service to the United States ought to be remembered and celebrated as President Obama looks to another qualified candidate to fill the seat.

One of the major factors in the high cost of health care is the high cost of drugs, and as Ms. Margot Sanger-katz notes in her article “The Real Reason Medicare Is a Lousy Drug Negotiator: It Can’t Say No” (The New York Times 2/2/2016) that Presidential candidates have offered various approaches to decrease the cost of life-saving drugs. Specifically, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, and Mr. Trump has called for better negotiating strategies by the U.S. federal government for Medicare drug prices. Unfortunately, as Sanger-katz writes, “But if you talk to experts who study the pharmaceutical market in the United States, they aren’t optimistic that, by itself, letting the government play drug negotiator would take a big bite out of prescription drug spending.”

Newer drug costs money due to the cost of research, marketing, paying out dividends to investors, and other expenses incurred from running a pharmaceutical company. Developing new drugs are expensive, and the costs are passed down to consumers. However, the people that need the newly developed drugs the most are not necessarily able to pay for them. And even if the U.S. government subsidizes those drugs completely to the economically disadvantaged drug users, the rest of the country have to pay for the high drug cost.

The key question is how can we reduce the cost of newly developed drugs while keeping the pharmaceutical companies competitive in the global drug market? Simply putting a cap on drugs might run the risk of putting certain drugs out of the market due to unsustainable price limits for the pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical companies had no specific price control regulations and price on some of the life-saving drugs are too costly for the health care system to keep general health care cost sustainable.

There does not seem to be any viable solution to this problem, but if there is a potential solution, the drug companies and public officials need to come together as partners to devise such a solution, not merely antagonize each other. Because if drug companies decide to pull their drugs out of the U.S., then the patient that need them most will face severe consequences.

One of the major driving force behind the dynamic political drama of the presidential election are the polls. Polls that attempt to measure potential voters’ attitudes can either bring momentum or stall to a presidential campaign. Due to high media coverage of published polls, it can be even argued that polls play a significant role in driving the election.

However, most polls are quite useless in gauging the general public's attitude about the candidates. Most polls gather data by calling land line phone numbers to initiate the survey. That limits the scope of the data to individuals that have a landline, bother to answer the call from an unknown caller id, and make the effort to actually spend time in answering questions, which some of them are polarizing in design.

That means the poll data is composed of a survey of individuals who found it to be worthwhile donating their time away for a phone survey. As a country that hates telemarketing calls, it is hard to see normal people delighted to answer a poll phone call. From the surface of it, the sample data of presidential candidate polls are not representative by design. Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the people that bother to participate in these telephone polls that drive presidential campaign politics.

Even if polls did measure accurately the general public perception of the presidential candidates, the polls might not be useful according to David Brooks. Mr. Brooks believes that there are two decision making processes. (PBS News Hour 12/4/2015) The first one occurs early in the presidential campaign, where people are looking at the most dreamy and ideal candidate that best reflect the inner political desires. The second decision making process occurs within three weeks of the campaign, where people take a more serious look of the candidates by taking to account of the limits of the real world. Polls become more accurate as we get closer to the presidential primaries and the election date.

The general media love to cite “the most recent presidential candidates poll”, but unless we are getting closer to the primaries and the election, it would be better to spend more time on reading on the candidates’ platform than diving into the abyss of shallow political drama.

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 beautiful images of Pluto sent by the space probe New Horizon demonstrates not only the beauty the space exploration program can provide but also the necessity of continuing the program. With all the never ending craziness from the world’s political, economical, and social spectrum, the image of Pluto provides a momentary peace among many as future generations of scientists can look towards the stars to dream big.

While the images and data sent by the New Horizon are stunningly beautiful, it is more stunning to know that the program almost did not made it to fruition. The combination of NASA internal skepticism, Congressional funding problems, and a potential lack of fuel almost derailed the project (The New York Times 7/19/2015).

NASA’s initial skepticism and the lack of fuel problem are part of the possible problems that can arise from a project of this type. However, the Congressional funding problem shouldn’t have become a serious factor in derailing the program.

The cost of the New Horizon project exceeds $700 million, and there ought to be scrutiny in the decision making process of whether such projects should get funded. However, the decision making process ought to be made in the realm of whether such project would be successful and whether the project services the greater good for mankind.

It is interesting to observe that no one is commenting on the clear picture of Pluto from a political, budgetary point of view. We are all instead in awe of witnessing the beauty of mankind’s continuous endeavor of pushing the limits of scientific progress. This type of scientific progress inspires younger generations to dream big about a world focused on scientific discoveries and not on petty politics.

To keep the dream alive, Congress should not play around with the budgets of scientific studies as part of a politics of chess. Instead, a steady commitment on scientific projects would keep the dreams alive for many generations to come.


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.

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