Monday 17 January 2022

Unfreedom of choice the new normal (The Sunday Guardian)

 The publicly funded healthcare system in the United States is monstrously expensive, a consequence of successive US Presidents prioritising the interests of Big Pharma over poor and lower-middle voters. Geore W. Bush did make an exception to this rule when he sourced life-saving medication for HIV from India, but that was for Africa and not for his own country. Thus far, Joe Biden has remained loyal to Big Pharma and refused to boost pharma cooperation between the US and India, despite that being the only route that would enable Obamacare to survive, as it must in a country where income and wealth inequalities are massive, and getting more so by the day. Biden apparently lacks the resolve to take the fight to those opposing some of his signature policies—such as the proposed legislation to improve the quality of the living standards of ordinary US citizens, as well as improve the physical infrastructure across the country. Should the Democratic Party lose the House and Senate to the Republicans in November, that would be the loss of not merely a Biden legacy but the future of the world’s most consequential country for close to a generation. Watching the Republican Party carry out the scorched earth commands of Donald Trump, there is worry that hostile powers may be succeeding in their operations to infiltrate social media platforms to boost fringe opinion and capability in a manner that may, by another presidential term, make the US ungovernable. In a sense, the US is getting divided into what are essentially two countries, with Republican states forming a bloc separate from the states where Democrats are in power. General Secretary Xi Jinping must be delighted. Although Trump caused a few problems for the PRC, overall, the 45th President of the US seems to have assisted Beijing in its drive to attain superiority over Washington, whether it be in Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP or the way in which Trump reduced the post-1945 alliance system into purely money terms. Given the way politics is developing in the US, including through fiddling around with constituency boundaries and making voting as difficult as possible for low-income individuals, he may well win. Self-goals by the Democratic Party, such as the decision by New York to give the vote even to non-citizens, is not helping. Several who would otherwise have voted for Biden’s party may object to such an unprecedented step. Or by criminalizing freedom of expression where religious identity is concerned, but confining that protection to a single faith rather than across the board. Such legislation is at the cost of disregarding the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

In January 2020, the Wuhan lockdown ordered by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping spurred a number of similar lockdowns across the world, with consequences for the global economy that will take years to mend. Countries such as Sweden that went against such logic were excoriated, although subsequent events showed that trying to live as normal a life as possible during the pandemic did not result in a bulge in deaths. The 2022 lockdown ordered by Xi in Xian and the mass testing of millions of Tianjin residents following a few cases there did not (unlike in the past) lead to an approving nod from the WHO, nor advice from that organisation to countries to once again follow the PRC example where snap lockdowns are concerned. In the US, President Biden has this year refused to repeat the job-killing follies of the past two years. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not go by the advice of those who had recommended lockdowns, preferring instead to create conditions whereby most activity could take place, albeit with safety protocols such as masks and where possible, social distancing. Should the Omicron scare ebb as a consequence of an overwhelming number of mild cases, even in Australia, voters will begin to free themselves from Covidpanic, especially as so many have been vaccinated. Detaining Novak Djokovic in a manner such that the world champion could not practise his game, nor follow the diet and exercise regimen he needed, is equivalent to an act of “match fixing” designed to ensure that the Serbian not enter the history books by yet another victory in the Australian Open. The way in which technicality after technicality was used by Canberra to punish the unvaccinated Djokovic for coming to Australia has surprised many. Never before, even for diseases much more deadly than Covid-19, and for vaccines far more effective against infection than has been the case with Covid-19, have such penal methods been adopted for the unvaccinated in countries such as Australia, France, Italy and Germany that consider themselves democratic. If each Australian Open player tests negative every day, as can easily be done, why should there be any discrimination? Using the pandemic as the reason, both sides of the Atlantic since 2020 have begun to resemble the PRC. Henry Ford had said that customers could buy “any colour Model T, as long as it was black”. With his unique definition of freedom of choice, the founder of the Ford Motor Company would have felt very much at home in Australia during the Djokovic episode.

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