Monday, 8 February 2010

We need more Travel Advisory Warnings

Let's have a look, for a moment, at three countries it's not worth visiting because they shouldn't be encouraged, or it's not worth the risk.

Let's start with the United States of America.

This country has produced some of the most fantastic human achievements of modern times, it has produced great artists in all media, it has generated or contributed to some of the most fundamental aspects of modern life.

But as a country, it is paranoid, egotistical, suspicious, arrogant, and psychotically dangerous. And selfish, my god! What sort of society objects to universal health cover? What sort of society is shown the sums, proving that every other country in the world has better outcomes for less expenditure, and then equates "socialised medicine" with "National Socialist Party" and starts referring to a black man as Hitler? This is the country that gave us Godwin's Law, and they still can't see the irony.

The only way to go anywhere near its borders is with the largest travel insurance policy you can afford, and even then I'd prefer to be in Canada.

Personally, although some very admirable people live there, and it has some great sights, I'd prefer not to encourage them.

Next up, we have Indonesia, which is standing in, by proxy, for far too much of South East Asia. Pretty, I'll grant you. Fantastic history and traditional culture completely unrelated to our own, yes. But the more you hear stories about their justice system and the way in which people have (allegedly, mind) been told "They made a mistake, but they're not going to admit it because they don't want to lose face", the more I don't want anything to do with the place.

Oh yes, and this was the country that invaded East Timor because if they didn't, their bit of Papua New Guinea might start thinking that freedom, self-determination and self-government might actually be possible and, you know, rights or something.

On the other hand, I do want to ride a motorbike through somewhere like Vietnam, eating at roadside stalls and cafes.

Next, Saudi Arabia and most of the rest of the Arab world.

This is for one very simple reason: I may be participating in their continued existence by using fossil fuels, however remotely, but I will not help encourage their society and their treatment of women, and ethnic and other social minorities, by actually giving them any money directly. I will make an exception for their airlines, but only because I already have.

I won't bother mentioning countries that have ongoing civil wars, or even South Africa, with its crumbling infrastructure, medicine-denying government, slum violence and rampant car-thieves.

They're obvious, and people shouldn't need reminding.

The same goes for the interesting bits of South America.

Nonetheless, I still think that the Government needs to issue more travel advisory warnings.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Motorbike accidents in the media - part the V-twin

Okay, time for the second installment in an ongoing series, where I analyse the media's reporting of motorbike accidents.

And, for the second time, it's a bit anticlimactic. 

This second post is a two-in-one, starting with Three die on roads by the Brisbane Courier Mail.

The relevant section is this:
In a separate incident, a motorcycle rider was killed in a two-vehicle crash at Elimbah this afternoon.
A car and motorcycle collided at the intersection of Mansfield Road and Bigmor Drive about 4pm.
The male rider was confirmed deceased at the scene when emergency services arrived.
This was the third motorcycle fatality in Queensland this year.
Okay? Simple, straight-forward, uninformative. Leaves lots of questions unanswered, but doesn't do anything wrong. 

Does anyone else notice that this is also at an intersection? A quick trip to Google Maps reveals that it's also an uncontrolled intersection, with Bigmor Drive coming out of a new-looking development suburb. 

The easy assumption is therefore that the car didn't see the motorcycle, and drove in front of it, but that's my own biases speaking. It may have been the other way around.

Pity we don't know more, but can't otherwise fault the writing.

I am, however, disappointed that I haven't seen a report of the second motorcycle fatality this year in Queensland - possibly, it was buried in another article, as here.

The second one, for a change, is from the ABC, and is even shorter and pithier: Two killed in road accidents.
Two people have died in separate accidents on Queensland roads this morning.
A man in his 20s died at Mt Isa, in the north-west of the state, after his motorbike crashed into a parked car.
Meanwhile, a women in her 50s died when she was hit by a car on the Bruce Highway, north-west of Mackay.
A man is helping police with their investigation.
That's the entire article. One line, indicating that a man, aged anywhere between 20 and 29, crashed into a parked car. 

Now, at this point, the temptation is to point an accusing finger and suggest that he may not have been entirely riding at a wholly sensible speed. We don't, however, know what the road surface was like, or even if he swerved the wrong way to avoid another car, an animal, a drunk pedestrian, or a pothole.

It's a complicated business, this accident investigation, isn't it?

So, that's it. Still nothing for me to really sink my teeth into, but I'm rather glad of that.

Incidentally, although I'm in Queensland, I'm quite prepared to pick holes in reporting from anywhere, if it crosses my perceptual horizons.

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