Friday, March 30, 2007

That's Pedestrian

Walking with an Ipod in ear, talking on a cell phone, and wearing $70 torn jeans is a common sight downtown Madison. But there’s another a big trend: walking out in front of and taunting cars as they drive down roads.

The clashes between drivers and walkers aren’t pretty.

As I drove down Wisconsin Avenue early Sunday morning, for example, four men in their 20s crouched like NFL linemen in the middle of the road. They dared me to speed ahead as they stood in the crosswalk, but I turned instead.

One of them even chased me down a side street shouting obscenities, apparently frustrated that we didn’t have the chance to play chicken. I politely declined my Darwinian opportunity to take him out of the gene pool. Though my bets are on my Saturn.

Despite similar occurrences --usually around bar-time-- drivers take a lot of heat for pedestrian safety. It’s no surprise after March 11’s hit-and-run at the intersection of Regent and Park Streets put a man in critical condition. But the path to traffic safety is a two-way route.

In a Wisconsin State Journal article, Safe Community Coalition project director John Bauer blames Madison’s driving culture for an estimated 100 pedestrians struck per year. Drivers simply don’t bother yielding to pedestrians. What isn’t mentioned is jaywalking culture and general misbehavior.

The linebacker numbskulls mentioned before have company. All too frequently, girls flash cars on Langdon Street and boys smack car hoods as they stroll through the crosswalks. Almost every driver has had to stop for State Street shoppers who wander out in front of vehicles that have a green light. The best part is when they give the finger or yell at drivers who honk the horn.

I am no saint when it comes to jaywalking, but I try to remember at least one valuable lesson that I learned at age five: look both ways and make sure that no cars are coming before crossing the street. I’m struck by how many people forget that.

If a large, moving automobile has a green light, don’t run out in front of it. Not only is it against the law, but also the driver likely won’t be held liable deaths or broken legs.

Pedestrians and drivers have to work together to ensure that the number of crashes decreases. They ought to know when they have right of way and yield when it’s their turn to do so.

For pedestrians who have right of way in a crosswalk but still want to make a scene, such as my linebackers from Wisconsin Avenue and thong flashing girls from Langdon Street, it’s unfortunate that there is no law against being a prick.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Belarussian oppostion

This from a combination of reports from the BBC and International Herald Tribune

Belarus - Opposition protesters in Belarus clashed with police today in the capital Minsk. Some 15,000 people rallied against President Alexander Lukashenko.

No injuries were reported in the clashes. But opposition said that at least 40 activists were detained, and 34 more were jailed in the run-up to the rally.

Scuffles began as protesters tried to push through police cordons.

Protesters said the were marking the anniversary of the creation in 1918 of a short-lived Belarussian republic.

While the rally went on, the EU made a fresh appeal for democratic reform in Belarus.

President Lukashenko has been accused by the opposition and foreign election monitors of persecuting his opponents and rigging elections.

Opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich said :"We should understand that we are not alone - the democratic world and Europe stand together with us."

Demonstrators chanted "long live Belarus" and waved the red and white flags of the 1918 republic, banned by the government which uses the Soviet-era national flag.

Milinkevich took 6% of the vote to 80.3% for Lukashenko in the presidential election last March. The election was was heavily criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for failing to meet democratic standards.

After last years election and subsequent protest. Police clubbed and arrested hundreds. Among them was unsuccessful presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, who received a five and half year prison sentence.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, said the EU was ready to form a full partnership with Belarus and increase aid to the former Soviet republic if Lukashenko adopted democratic reforms.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eerily similar

"The tragedy of Afghanistan continues as the valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters [The Taliban] persevere in standing up against the brutal power of the Soviet invasion and occupation."

-Ronald Regan, March 21, 1983

"America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad."

-George W. Bush, January 11, 2007