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Monday Message Board

July 19th, 2004

It’s Monday again, and time for the Monday Message Board. This is a chance for everyone to give their comments on any topic. Also, if you have longer pieces you’d like to draw to the attention of readers, feel free to post a link. I’ve been a bit slack about policing the “no coarse language” rule in the last couple of weeks, but please adhere to it and stick to civilised discussion.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    July 19th, 2004 at 09:33 | #1

    The corporate criminal Martha Stewart, sentenced to 5 months jail, has, in an orgy of self-pity, compared herself to Nelson Mandela.

    For that additional crime, she should get life.

  2. Tony Healy
    July 19th, 2004 at 10:05 | #2

    John, I was just catching up after returning from the bush, and noticed your comment about seeing Segways rolling along the footpaths when you were in Paris. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the controversy over Segways in America. They have attracted fierce opposition from walkability advocates, the elderly, the blind and medical groups too, to the extent that San Francisco banned them from footpaths.

    The problem with Segways is they’re fast moving metal devices trying to co-exist on footpaths. They effectively represent a take-over of a public space for a small elite of wealthy yuppies. In fact, before the Segway company launched the devices, it lobbied state legislatures in America to have the devices categorised as “consumer devices”, thus exempting them from road laws so they could be ridden on footpaths.

    * America Walks has a good general discussion of the problems with Segway

    * Blind and disabled people are particularly concerned about Segways on footpaths

    * Walk San Francisco explains why it wanted Segways banned from footpaths

    * Do Segway HTs Belong on San Francisco Sidewalks?

    * Excellent detailed paper: The SegwayTM Is a Vehicle; Implications for Operation and Regulation of the EPAMD in Traffic

  3. Homer Paxton
    July 19th, 2004 at 10:38 | #3

    let us assume for the moment we have a change of government.
    Who in the opposition sorry government would shine in opposition.
    We saw Simon Crean take to opposition like a duck to water and of course Messrs Faulkner and Ray use their forensic skills to great affect in Senate Estimates are small examples.

    Peter Costello was very ordinary last time round ( a blonde Andrew Peacock?). It is much easier to shine as a Minister.
    I am still perplexed that no-one uses Paul Keating as the benchmark. Mind you not everyone has that energy.

  4. Geoff Honnor
    July 19th, 2004 at 12:50 | #4

    I wonder why San Francisco might consider the Segway to be a greater threat to the blind and elderly than, say, skateboarders? Well, apart from the obvious reason: “middle class yuppies” are always more environmentally dangerous than cool kids :)

    I watched a blind guy with his dog walking down Oxford St in Darlinghurst the other day when two skateboarders came careering up behind him. He froze. So did the dog. I’d prefer it if they did their thing in the roadway personally.

  5. Tony Healy
    July 19th, 2004 at 13:08 | #5

    Lots of places don’t want skateboarders on the footpaths either. I’m not sure whether they’re banned in San Francisco.

    One difference is that Segways are heavy metal vehicles, whereas a crash with a skateboarder, bad as it would be, would be a crash with a soft body.

    I gather as well that the San Francisco response resulted from experience with the things on the streets, where the behaviour of the riders was similar to that of aggressive 4WD’s on roads.

  6. Geoff Honnor
    July 19th, 2004 at 15:09 | #6

    They weren’t banned last time I was there.
    I’m not convinced by the soft body argument Tony.

    The threat posed by a skateboard and rider whacking down a San Francisco hill would make your sedate Segway chugger look pretty low risk. Plus, Segway people are inherently dweeby. They’re just one step away from those motorised golfcart things that the differently abled use. While I don’t doubt that a rampaging, out-of-control dweeb on a V8 Segway with magwheels might yet come to be a familiar and terrifying sight in newly gentrified inner urban areas everywhere, it’s kind of an unlikely scenario.

    It’s hard to be a hardass urban terrorist on a two-wheeled silver scooter with a shopping bag of deli goods hung rakishly from the handlebar….

  7. Tony Healy
    July 19th, 2004 at 15:44 | #7

    Fair enough Geoff. The first and third links I posted have a summary of what people found in San Francisco.

    Segways travel at 20 kmh and can be configured to travel at 35 kmh. Those speeds are not compatible with footpaths.

    Segways are also quite different from motorised wheel carts in usage patterns and impact threat. Also, I see that you presume that motorised wheel carts are used by disabled people. In fact, mostly they’re not.

  8. Geoff Honnor
    July 19th, 2004 at 16:06 | #8

    “Also, I see that you presume that motorised wheel carts are used by disabled people. In fact, mostly they’re not.’

    Ah-hah! This would account for the “Wild Ones” type bravado that I frequently encounter amongst denizens of that mode of transport.

  9. Tony Healy
    July 19th, 2004 at 17:15 | #9

    Yeah, I think I know the one you’re talking about. (I walk along Oxford St too.)

  10. July 19th, 2004 at 22:04 | #10

    Will the Aust-US FTA affect Australia’s abilty to sign up to the Kyoto Greenhouse Protocol in the future?

  11. July 19th, 2004 at 22:05 | #11

    Will the Aust-US FTA affect Australia’s abilty to sign up to the Kyoto Greenhouse Protocol in the future?

  12. July 19th, 2004 at 22:05 | #12

    Will the Aust-US FTA affect Australia’s abilty to sign up to the Kyoto Greenhouse Protocol in the future?

  13. James Farrell
    July 19th, 2004 at 23:23 | #13

    I wish Sydney had a network of tracks – neither roads nor footpaths – suitable for segways. Then we could all take full and safe advantage of our bicycles.

  14. John Quiggin
    July 20th, 2004 at 08:21 | #14

    Frank, I’ve also wondered about this question, but I don’t have an answer.

  15. James Farrell
    July 20th, 2004 at 16:41 | #15

    John, I wonder if you saw this piece on Kyoto by David Madden in the SMH today. He offers a pretty standard tradable emission permits proposal, which he associates with McKibben and Wilcoxen, and dismisses the Kyoto agreement as an inferior ‘"targets and timetable" approach. These are presented alternatives, but I don’t see how you could implement a tradable permit system without a target or a timetable. The question whether Australia acts unilaterally or participates in a global commitment is entirely a separate one, and Madden doesn’t supply any reason not to prefer the latter.

  16. July 20th, 2004 at 16:48 | #16

    Fascinating question about pavement vehicles and the argument is ambiguous. Cyclists, for instance, are not allowed to ride on footpaths, but we are pushed out onto the road to mix it with cars as a result. That is, the rule does create danger.

    At night, particularly late on Friday, I do ride on the footpath. It is so much safer.

    At the same time, the footpath exists to support a whole range of different activities. Walking dogs, nattering with friends, pacing and thinking, jogging, carrying heavy stuff and unloading trucks. And it is often occupied by people who are not medically together, who are startled by fast objects and heal slowly when their shins are sliced open by the edges of a skateboard.

    I think it the fact that the space is chaotic and vulnerable that needs to be defended. We need this kind of zone. In that framework, the worst offender often doesn’t move at all – it is the pavement cafe. We have heaps of them here, and I do see people desperately trying to thread their way past flying waiters, dogs under seats, neighbours airkissing. buskers, voyeurs and rubbernecking tourists. God help the seeing eye dog.

    Through this, regularly, I see bike couriers and skateboarders.

  17. James Farrell
    July 20th, 2004 at 17:21 | #17

    In the true spirit of the Monday Message Board, I would like to change the subject and offer the following contention: The optimal year for a human being to have been born in is 1962.

    Here is the proof. On the one hand, this event was self-evidently the defining moment in human history, and one would need to have been at least seven at the time to appreciate its significance. On the other hand, one doesn’t want to be any older than necessary. QED.

  18. July 21st, 2004 at 14:59 | #18

    James, wouldn’t the developmental psychologists say you were too young to really understand what the moon is?

    That is an authentic image of how many younger people seem to describe their lives with baby boomers – plunging through it feeling that someone ten years older is always having all the fun.

    But I do have a baby boomer image to raise in response – I saw the moon landing on teev in the common room of Flinders University, at that time dominated by arts students. Harldly anyone was there. They were too cynical to be inspired. Different in the building on the other side of the lake full of scientists, I guess, but they lived in their own specialised universe.

    So we robbed ourselves of joy.

  19. July 21st, 2004 at 15:46 | #19

    Sorry to change the subject again, but I would like to bring to the participant’s attaention the article by Tim Colebatch titled: “Why Latham should reject the FTA”. In his conclusions Colebatch says:

    ” So what do we do? As one advocate of a Australia-US deal puts it privately, the problem is that negotiations ended at the half-way mark. In February the negotiators should have walked away, taken a long break for consultations and rethinking, and then resumed talks after both countries had got their elections out of the way.

    That is still the way to do it. It is only possible if Labor has the guts to defy the Murdoch empire – half-owner of Australia’s pay TV network, and hence a major beneficiary of the deal – vote this agreement down, and restart negotiations in 2005.”

    It is a tough call. Not only as Colebatch says the whole tabloid Australian media would lean on Latham like a ton of bricks, the fact that all the Premiers and Kim Beazley is supporting it makes it very difficult for the ALP to reject the deal.

    Can it be argued that if the FTA has such profound implications for Australia, that the ALP rejects it, loses the election but it would do the nation a favour in the long run. It is very much ‘old fashion’ Labor losing elections on principles.

  20. July 21st, 2004 at 16:32 | #20

    As usual, the argument is that the sum total of human good done by a government in power would outweight the problems caused by one treaty. It would take a brave advisor to run any other line.

  21. James Farrell
    July 22nd, 2004 at 10:33 | #21

    “That is an authentic image of how many younger people seem to describe their lives with baby boomers – plunging through it feeling that someone ten years older is always having all the fun.”

    What were you on when you wrote this sentence, David? Whatever it was, I guess it must have been a lot of fun, even if didn’t boost your comprehensibility an awful lot!

  22. Brian Bahnisch
    July 23rd, 2004 at 10:40 | #22

    James, I had just started working for the Qld Education Department when the moon landing was achieved. The guy in the office next door had a TV and we spent about half an hour maybe watching it.

    Of course in large part it was the American response to the sputniks of 1957, which in my memory made a much bigger stir. The sputniks shook up American science from the bottom to the top and everything of this kind was seen in the context of the contest with the Evil Empire.

    Speaking of which it was by no means clear which system would prevail. Moreover, those of us a bit older than 7 had a few other things to think about.

    In fact 1968 seemed much more significant. There were anti-Vietnam protests (Tet Offensive in Jan-Feb 1968), black power and consciousness movements (two American athletes gave the black power salute on the victory podium in the Mexico Olympics), student movements around the world including here and Japan, perhaps climaxing in the Kent State University killings (1970), the Czechoslovakian uprising, national liberation movements in Africa often supported by the Cubans, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Naxilite movement in India, the Red Brigade in Italy and Germany (the Italian Prime Minister was kidnapped and killed) and much more. Che Guevera died in 1967, but his spirit lived! There was ‘flower power’, Nimbin and alternative communal living experiments, plus Woodstock (1969). There was the birth of feminism, environmentalism, indigenous people’s rights, anti-racism and a new emphasis on human rights generally.

    In fact the distinguished sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein terms 1968 a World Revolution. Arguably it marked the beginning of the decline of US relative power (hegemony). The nation state also peaked and began to decline as a means of controlling our own destiny. Wallerstein also sees the world economic system as turning from expansion to decline. The Left, he says, at that point gave up on representative democracy as a means of achieving desired personal and social emancipation and transformation.

    Certainly in this context a technical achievement of putting a man on the moon, which was prefigured and entirely expected, though brilliant in itself and by no means assured of success, was not entirely a big deal. It meant the Americans had their nose in front in one particulr field, but the defeat of the Rusky system was still no more than even money.

    For me it had a sense of loss. Never again would the moon seem quite so romantic after being stomped on by American hobnailed boots!

    To appreciate all this you had to remember repelling the Japanese expansion, Hiroshima, the Berlin blockade, the fall of China to Communism, the H bomb, the Korean War, Hungary, Krushchev’s visit to the US (and the UN) and the Cuban missile crisis. 1940 is the year for sure!

  23. James Farrell
    July 23rd, 2004 at 17:06 | #23

    Hiroshima is certainly a candidate, Brian. But I wonder if you were old enough to respond appropriately. My five-year-old responded to the World Trade Center attack by crashing toy planes into lego towers. I hope you were less callous in 1945.

  24. Brian Bahnisch
    July 24th, 2004 at 10:56 | #24

    James, I’ll have you know I was a very serious, unfrivolous five year-old. I guess my point is that apart from creaky joints and a tendency to tire more easily I wouldn’t be younger for quids! Nor would I be older. I hope you and every-one feels the same, actually.

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