29 January 2009

The Game They Play in Heaven

This one is for all those rugby players out there who already know the answer to this question...

Two 90 year old men, Mike and Joe, have been friends all of their lives.

When it's clear that Joe is dying, Mike visits him every day. One day Mike says, 'Joe, we both loved rugby all our lives, and we played rugby on Saturdays together for so many years. Please do me one favour, when you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's rugby there.'

Joe looks up at Mike from his death bed,' Mike, you've been my best friend for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favour for you.

Shortly after that, Joe passes on. At midnight a couple of nights later, Mike is awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, 'Mike--Mike.'

'Who is it? Asks Mike sitting up suddenly. 'Who is it?'

'Mike--it's me, Joe.'

'You're not Joe. Joe just died.'

'I'm telling you, it's me, Joe,' insists the voice.'

'Joe! Where are you?'

'In heaven', replies Joe.

'I have some really good news and a little bad news.'

'Tell me the good news first,' says Mike.

The good news,' Joe says,' is that there's rugby in heaven. Better yet, all of our old friends who died before us are here, too. Better than that, we're all young again.

Better still, it's always spring time and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play rugby all we want, and we never get tired.'

'That's fantastic,' says Mike. 'It's beyond my wildest dreams! So, what's the bad news?'

'You're in the team for Tuesday.'

Will -- 28 January 2009

This post is for those of you who are interested in seeing how Will is growing...

Drinking and Driving -- Designated Decoys

Something that came into the inbox...

Drinking & Driving... THIS is absolutely brilliant!

Only an Aussie could pull this one off!

A true story from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Recently a
routine police patrol parked outside a local neighbourhood tavern.
Late in the evening the officer noticed a man leaving the bar so
intoxicated that he could barely walk.

The man stumbled around the car park for a few minutes, With the officer
quietly observing. After what seemed an eternity and Trying his keys on
five vehicles, the man managed to find his car, which he fell into. He was
there for a few minutes as a number of other patrons left the bar and drove
off. Finally he started the car, switched the wipers on and off (it was a fine
dry night), flicked the indicators on, then off, tooted the horn and then switched
on the lights.

He moved the vehicle forward a few cm, reversed a little and then remained stationary
for a few more minutes as some more vehicles left.

At last he pulled out of the car park and started to drive slowly down the road. The police
officer, having patiently waited all this time, now started up the patrol car, put on the
flashing lights, promptly pulled the man over and carried out a breathalyser test.

To his amazement the breathalyser indicated no evidence of the man's intoxication.

The police officer said "I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the Police station -
this breathalyser equipment must be broken."

"I doubt it," said the man, "tonight I'm the designated decoy".

27 January 2009

Durex -- Get It On!

Get it on indeed!

This is very funny (and no apologies if any of you, "my readers", are offended). In this day and age where abstinence is clearly not working, then a very funny condom ad is worth posting. There are a whole series of outtakes to the commercial which you can also find on You Tube.

I wonder if this would breach the provisions of the Indonesian Pornography Law?


What Do Your Musical Tastes Say About You?

I am a bit of a fan of You Tube and will remain so until someone posts an unflattering video of me and then I will hate the place. However, before then it is a great place for all manner of videos on all manner of subjects. I like to listen to music and watch music videos so You Tube is certainly a place that I visit regularly to indulge in both these passions.

I have just found myself surfing through music videos of Bob Marley. How did I end up searching for Bob Marley videos or more importantly why, is a question I have just started to think about and do not yet have an answer for. I cannot recall a specific thought that went off in the grey matter that said, Bob Marley. Maybe it was a fascination with a man who managed to have 13 children to 9 different women?

Or perhaps it is the idea that a man can be so committed to his Rastafari beliefs that he would refuse the amputation of a cancerous toe because his beliefs dictate that the body must be whole. And that this decision may have ultimately resulted in his early and untimely death that robbed the world of a true and legendary talent.

So, I pose this question. What do your musical tastes say about you?

By the way, my favourite Bob Marley tunes include "No Woman, No Cry", "Redemption Song", "Stir It Up", and "Exodus". Then again, I do not think there is a Bob Marley song that I do not or would not listen to.


President Barack Obama and his Indonesian Language Skills -- The You Tube Video

For those of you who are interested in seeing a short video of the Indonesian language skills of the new President of the United States of America, then here it is!


A Musing or A Ramble or a Bit of Both?

This year is an election year in Indonesia. That in and of itself will either excite people or bore the hell out of them. However, this little rambling musing is about change politics and the "yes, we can" philosophy seen recently in the US.

The Indonesian press and blogosphere has generally been pro-Obama and holds out high hopes that the new president of the US of A will be pro-Indonesia based on 4 or so years the man spent here as a child. The most recent warm and fuzzy moments relate to a You tube video doing the rounds showing the US president showing off his Indonesian language skills.

There are a couple of points to be made here. First, politics is always bigger than the person. Obama as president might be able to influence policy to some degree towards Indonesia, but the question is why do Indonesians think that this is such a positive? There was nothing in the campaign that he ran that would suggest that he is focusing on policy development related to Indonesia and nothing to say that this is going to be in Indonesia's benefit. Second, the love affair that Indonesians seem to have with the new US president highlights an extreme lack of hope in their own Indonesian politicians and the future of Indonesia.

Let's face it, when push comes to shove there are two possibilities being touted for Indonesia and depending on the day, it is either Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) or Megawati Soekarnoputri as the shoe-ins for the presidency of Indonesia. Why is this interesting? It is interesting because when it is all said and done this is politics as usual in Indonesia and not the change politics that the Indonesian media seem to have fallen for with Obama. It is also interesting because if the media really believed in change politics then the media would be excellent facilitators of promoting that change.

On Megawati, it must not be forgotten that Indonesia's most recent political assassination took place on her watch. The assassination of Munir has yet to see the "real" perpetrators of this crime identified, prosecuted, or jailed for their crimes. This is hardly an advertisement for a second crack at the big chair! It is also worth noting that Munir was particularly critical of SBY as being a military man with no commitment to investigating abuses of human rights, particularly in Aceh.

SBY has gone on the record as saying the investigation and prosecution is a test of his government's commitment to human rights and pursing justice for victims of abuses. He and his government have clearly failed this test.

The Indonesian political style of money dictating outcomes is rising its ugly head again, albeit in the form of crass public policy. The reduction of fuel prices is nothing but an attempt to draw votes by buying into the wallets of constituents and trying to avert attention aways from a poor record as president by SBY. Poor, is subjective but when you get elected with a change mandate like SBY, and then fail to deliver, it is fair that questions be asked of and on that record.

The most likely outcome is going to be people exercising their democratic right not to vote. This is known locally as Golput (golongan putih or the white group). I am anti-golput for many reasons, but most prevalent among these is that it is an affront to those who have laid down their lives to ensure that Indonesians achieved a "real" right to vote. It is a sad state of affairs that if among the 1000's of candidates that can be elected there is not one that represents your ideals, beliefs, hopes, and aspirations.

The idea that SBY or Megawati or someone else can reach the pinnacle of political power with a minority of voters electing them is sad. I accept that this is a feature of a non-compulsory voting system and even the grand old democracy known as the USA does not demand that its citizens vote if they do not want to. Yet, that is hardly the point.

Personally, I would vote and choose that minority candidate even if I was sure that they would not be elected. It is important that they know that they have support. Vote for the alternative candidate. It is also an equally effective way of showing the powers that be and those that do get elected that there are plenty of people out there who did not vote for them and place their faith in others.

I am the eternal optimist when it comes to all things Indonesian, and this is no different when it comes to matters of general and presidential elections.

Thus endeth this rambling musing.

25 January 2009

Facebook -- Relationship Status

Social networking has become a feature of our daily lives for many of us. Some might call it an addiction others a necessary evil and others see it as an essential business and marketing tool. I am a Facebook user. I became a Facebook user because my high school reunion last year used it as a means of communicating and tracking down members of the class of 1987.

Facebook has plenty of interesting features for users to exploit. One of these is the ability to note your relationship status. You can pretty much be any status that takes your fancy. However, this is not necessarily all fun and games. Some users take this seriously. The beauty of Facebook is that changes are instantaneous and your "friends" are sure to note any change in your status.

Now, in a tragic case in the UK a man murdered his wife in a "frenzied and brutal" knife attack because she changed her Facebook status from "Married" to "Single". The man has now been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Perhaps one needs to think carefully before changing their Facebook relationship status.

Funny T-Shirts

This is not intended to be an ad for these t-shirts. However, you can find them here if you are interested in acquiring one. I must say I am thinking about it. Some of them are very clever.

19 January 2009

Tennis -- Australian Open

Maybe I am a little bit peeved at this story because I am a proud Australian.

However, the idea of changing the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament into the Asia-Pacific Grand Slam event is interesting as I wonder whether people would consider the French Open and Wimbledon being combined into the European Open and the US Open being changed to the Continental American Open, and then to ensure that there remained "four grand slam events", the introduction of the African Open.

The idea of having an Asia-Pacific Open that rotates around from places such as Doha to Suva instead of having a single grand slam event in Australia is flying in the face of history.

With a bit of luck we will see a similar piece from the author of the story linked above for each of the remaining three grand slam events of the year. The pros and cons of each and the need to share around the spoils.

14 January 2009

American Idol Season 8

Having lived in Indonesia for a good number of years where just about everybody thinks that they can sing , I really should not be all that surprised at some of the train wrecks that I watched on the American Idol Season 8 opener earlier tonight. I sing in the shower, but that is about the extent of my skills. In fact, my singing is so woeful that I sometimes scare myself.

Nevertheless, I have often wondered why people who so obviously cannot sing seem to think that they can. I am guessing that it is a 15 seconds of TV fame thing. That said there were a couple of people who auditioned who were pretty good, including Emily Wynne-Hughes. Then there are those that cannot sing. Then there are those who mask any deficiencies in their singing talent by auditioning in a bikini.

It makes absolutely no difference to my life who wins but there is something about the ick factor that keeps bringing the viewers back. I will be watching again tomorrow to see who I can sing better than and remembering why I would never seek my 15 seconds of fame in this way.

13 January 2009

Will - 13 January 2009

For those of you who are interested in seeing how the little fella is growing...

12 January 2009

Breastfeeding - An Obligation for / on Indonesian Women

In order to increase the numbers of mothers who breast feed their children, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labor and Transmigration, and the State Minister for the Empowerment of Women have issued a Joint Ministerial Regulation that sets out the provisions for women who are wanting to breast feed their children at the office and during office hours. This addition to the legislative framework was not entirely unexpected.

Interestingly, the regulation states that every mother is under an obligation to provide breast milk to their children. It is not entirely clear as to whether the government intends to sanction women who do not or cannot breast feed their children. I am guessing that they won't. Even more interesting is that the regulation states that there is a period of time where children are to be fed exclusively breast milk.

My understanding is that some mothers just do not produce enough milk themselves to satisfy the voracious appetites of their newborns or just are physically incapable of breastfeeding. For this reason the characterization of the need to breast feed and to do so exclusively would seem to unnecessarily stigmatize those that cannot.

The premise of the regulation is that breast milk and breast feeding are crucial to the physical, mental, spiritual, and intellectual development of children. The spiritual angle is an intriguing one. I guess if breasts are your thing then it is possible that the experience might be a spiritual one for you. However, I am not sure that it is all that spiritual an experience for a new born.

Furthermore, it seems that the Ministers have collectively realized that most Indonesian office environments are not very new mother or family friendly. And, if the government is going to characterize breast feeding as an obligation on women then it makes good sense to put into place legislation that allows for this obligation to be met.

Under the regulation each of the Ministers is tasked with specific functions. For example, the State Minister of Women's Empowerment is tasked with socializing and providing knowledge to new mothers regarding the benefits of breast feeding. The Minister of Labor and Transmigration, for example, is tasked with working with employers and employee representatives with a view to establishing guidelines and agreements to facilitate the opportunity for nursing mothers to breast feed at the office and during office hours. The Minister of Health is tasked with creating and implementing training and education programs for new and nursing mothers.

For employers and employees the impact of this regulation conceivably has some wide-ranging and long-term impacts on office life in Indonesia. Initially, it would seem that employers are going to have to incur some costs in setting up designated spaces in order for employees who are new or nursing mothers to fulfill their breast feeding obligations.

Therefore, it seems a foregone conclusion that work environments are going to become increasingly more family friendly. This might lead to the establishment of in-house child care facilities so that mothers do not have to take considerable chunks of time out of the office to go home and feed their newborns. With Jakarta's notoriously nasty traffic it is likely that for a mother to leave the office, go home, feed their child, and get back to the office, maybe three or four hours have been lost.

Employers, rather than incur the expense of a more family friendly environment, will be more likely to marginalize female employees who get pregnant by restructuring the work environment so that when the period of maternity leave is finished there is no position for the new mother to return to. It will be interesting to see how the Ministers and the government deal with this kind of eventuality.

So, in that sense the regulation is interesting on a number of different levels, as it opens the doors to all sorts of possibilities. Some good and some not so good possibilities could arise in the future. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that there might be more legislative developments in this area before the year is out.

Finally, this post lends itself to the gratuitous posting of a picture.

11 January 2009


Down memory lane that is!

I was reminiscing about my youth and staying up late on Saturday nights playing cards with my friends and chilling out to Rage on the ABC. This got me to thinking about music and the bands that I have liked and the songs that I remember.

One of those bands is "The Pretenders" and their classic song "Don't Get Me Wrong".

This post is not for everybody and perhaps it is for nobody but me. Who knows?

The Sounds of Silence

I am not sure that there is any other version that compares with the original Simon & Garfunkel version. However, this is a version that I enjoy (perhaps because I am a fan of Bob Dylan). I hope you enjoy it too!

10 January 2009

Indonesian Elections and Youth

The Indonesian General Elections will soon be upon us. There is always talk of regeneration and providing opportunities for younger, and presumably cleaner, candidates that have not yet been tainted by the old ways of government. This coming cycle might provide a few of those opportunities. Then again, getting on a ticket is one thing, garnering the votes to get yourself elected is another kettle of fish altogether.

I need to state at the outset that I do not know the person who is the subject of this musing personal and I know not much about her, other than what I have read, therefore my commentary here is general within the framework of an actual possibility.

The National Awakening Party, which was once Amien Rais' vehicle for a shot at the presidency, but that never worked out for him, has selected a 21-year-old to head up their ticket in the province of Riau. This might be a bold move or just another case of politics as usual. It is being reported that the candidate, Nathania Regina, has family connections to the party and that her father has been a consistent and sizable financial supporter of the party in Riau.

This is unfortunate as it is destined to detract from any achievements that she may be able to cite in support of her candidacy, as the questions will linger. However, by all accounts she has spent much of her high school and university education overseas and has held leadership roles in student organizations. Whether this is a good grounding for national politics, Indonesia style, remains to be seen. What is for sure is that one can never know until it has been tried.

However, who is to say that 21 is too young to aspire to the national political stage? It is certain that youth will bring a certain degree of energy, altruism, and perhaps naivety that is free from the "business as usual" mindset of many other candidates. Perhaps it is these characteristics that Indonesia so desperately needs when they are combined with a commitment to change and a commitment to see the people of Indonesia achieving what is possible for all and not just for a select few.

The problem with youth is that it is so rarely connected to the powers that be. One 21 year-old, no matter how well-connected and how driven, may not be able to change the culture of politics in Indonesia as it currently stands. But, it is always worth a shot, always! The voters of Riau will make the determination by casting their votes.

I have always believed that if we can send our young men and women off to foreign shores to fight and die for our freedoms, then we can also afford them the same opportunity to fight for us and our freedoms at home in the halls of government and power. It is the epitome of arrogance by an entrenched set of interests to restrict the contribution of youth. It is, and will remain, empty rhetoric to say that the youth are our future but not let them then be a part of creating that future but rather enforce them to inherit problems that may never have existed had the vision of youth been given its due.

To be sure, if Nathania is elected it is going to be a steep learning curve as politics in all parts of the world is a cut throat business. Yet, it is nice to imagine a young woman sitting in the halls of power with the courage of her convictions to speak her mind and advocate for a better future. I just hope that she does not lose the innocence of her idealism in the process.

Viva Democracy!

Damaged Roads

It is being reported that the Public Works Agency of Jakarta is planning to repair some 211,000 sqm of roads in the capital in the first six months of this year. This gets me wondering about just how many sqm of roads are damaged and in need of repair. This is because records state that the Public Works Agency reported repairing more than 400,000 sqm of roads during the past 12 months.

It seems that the priority is going to be the main thoroughfares first. This is probably a good idea. However, it is of limited value to someone like me who lives in the suburbs.

But, I guess if the Public Works Agency manages to fill in some of the potholes and prevent accidents then this has got to count for something. Nevertheless, it is a case of doing it right the first time in order not to have to repeat the same shenanigans over and over again after each rainy season. It is a simple philosophy really!

I have also been wondering of late, how many accidents are attributable to roads that are in a state of disrepair and whether this constitutes negligence on the part of the government of Jakarta? And, if it does can citizens sue the government for this negligence?

Life in Jakarta.

Legal in Jakarta?

Every year the City Population and Civil Registration Agency send their inspectors to do the rounds of businesses employing foreigners in order, supposedly, to check that their paperwork is all squared away.

This "inspection" has also been a traditional annual under the table money spinner as there are invariably a good number of businesses and foreigners who believe they will never get caught and do not bother to get the myriad of paperwork and permits completed.

This year the Agency found 55 of the 241 expats across 62 different companies that they surveyed / inspected did not have their paperwork in order. Assuming that this is an accurate reflection of the numbers and not just the ones being reported, then this is a rate of more than 1 in 5 without the right paperwork and therefore technically working illegally in Indonesia. Stupid.

The simple reality is that all the countries that I have ever visited or worked in have had in place strict regulations governing foreign or expat labor. To expect that Indonesia is any different is naive and to assume that everything remains "fixable" is not good risk management.

The Agency seems to have been generous this year as it did not impose the sanctions it could have done on the illegal workers, but rather gave them a grace period to get their paperwork in order.

According to Agency data there are some 49,000 foreigners with work visas and a further 5,000 who would be classified as permanent residents (five continuous years or more) living and working in Jakarta. I have got to say that I can imagine that it is that many but I also have to say that I have never seen more than a hundred or so gathered in any one place at one time (usually a business networking meeting). So, I wonder where they all are and what they are doing?

But, back to the point. I really do not see what is so hard with understanding that as guests in this country we are required to comply with the prevailing laws and regulations. Admittedly, immigration is a bureaucratic challenge but it is a challenge that can be overcome. It is interesting to me that many of my colleagues talk about corruption in Indonesia but have no problem with paying 50K here or 20K there to get some forms to fill in that are free or 30k for some fella to snap their photo and take a set of fingerprints.

If you keep feeding the monster ...

07 January 2009

Video Games and Child Behaviour

Anyone looking for an in-depth analysis of the relationship between video games and child behaviour will be sorely disappointed in this post. Nevertheless, there is a connection.

In a news story out of Wicomico Church, Virginia in the good ol' US of A, a six-year-old who was so keen to get to school that when he missed the school bus he figured he would grab the keys to the family car and drive himself to school. This decision did not pan out as he was hoping as he did not make it to school crashing after some six miles and still at least a mile and a half short of school.

When pressed by the local police about where he learned to drive the child admitted that all of his driving experience can from playing "Grand Theft Auto" and "Monster Truck Jam" video games. The fact that he managed to drive six miles, negotiate a few turns, and pass a couple of cars before crashing seems to suggest that these video games are pretty real in terms of the reality portrayed.

Unfortunately, for the kid he is now in protective custody as both his parents have been charged with child endangerment. Child endangerment would suggest that there is more to this story than just a mother falling asleep and leaving the car keys on the table. If not, then the moral of this story is that as a parent you must supervise your children 24 hours a day because if they do anything that endangers themselves then you are responsible as a parent.

The logic of this, taken to its conclusion, is that the parents of children are responsible for the children's actions. Simply, if your child steals then you as the parent must be punished. Similarly, if your kid decides to "borrow" your car keys and take the car for a spin then you are guilty of child endangerment.

A Victory for Common Sense?

A victory for common sense is a rare thing in these days of heightened terror and loathing of all things. However, when one does come along it is worth writing about and discussing. Raed Jarrar has just one a sizable payout from two US transportation officials and JetBlue Airways for being forced to cover-up a T-shirt that had Arabic script printed on it. The case stems from a 2006 flight on JetBlue airways from JFK Airport in New York to Oakland in California.

The Arabic script on the offending T-Shirt said something along the lines of "we will not be silent". I am guessing that the majority of people flying on that day and on that flight probably could not read Arabic and had no idea what the t-shirt said. Nevertheless, in their infinite wisdom the transportation officials and the airline required Jarrar to cover up his t-shirt before allowing him to fly.

Presumably, the necessity to cover up the writing was so as not to scare other passengers. The stupidity here was that the officials and JetBlue suggested to Jarrar that wearing a t-shirt with an Arabic script was like "wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, 'I am a robber'". Stupid is as stupid does! I wonder if the t-shirt had been in French or Russian or Cambodian or Vietnamese or even Indonesian would there have been a need to cover it up? My guess is, No.

Adding insult to injury Jarrar was moved from a seat at the front of the plane to a seat at the back. I guess out of sight out of mind.

It seems that people never learn the error of their ways. This kind of profiling continues through to 2009. On 1 January 2009 a family of Muslims was removed from a flight as a security threat because 2 members of a party of 9 were discussing how safe it was to be seated next to the engines. This caught the interest of other passengers who reported the discussion and the whole family was removed from the AirTran flight. Eventually, they were cleared of any wrongdoing but were still not allowed to board the flight and were not permitted to fly with the airline. For more details check out Spruiked: Djak Style and here.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Babysitter Needed?

Here is a story out of Jackson, Ohio in the USA. Is it any wonder it is tough to find someone willing to babysit your kids?

A four-year-old boy, that is right, four-years-old, has grabbed a loaded and unsecured shotgun and shot his 18-year-old babysitter in the arm and side. Apparently, the babysitter accidentally stepped on the four-year-old's foot. This infuriated him so that he responded with a shotgun blast.

There are a couple of issues here, like what was an loaded and unsecured shotgun doing in the home in the first place and can a four-year-old have the legal or mental capacity to be responsible for his or her actions?

The four-year-old has not been charged. This suggests that the possibility of a four-year-old having the mental capacity to understand right and wrong does not exist. Nevertheless, on the bare facts available to date, the idea that the kid got a little angry when the babysitter stepped on his foot and then decided to shoot the babysitter would suggests that there is some capacity there in terms of understanding revenge, maybe.

I do not own any guns so there is not much chance of you being shot when you're babysitting for us.

05 January 2009

Australian Humour?

A major earthquake, measuring 9.1 on the Richter Scale, has hit New Zealand this morning. The country has been devastated with 350,000 New Zealanders reported missing and more than 100,000 injured.

The country is in ruins and the government has issued a worldwide appeal for immediate assistance to respond to the unfolding humanitarian disaster. The world has been quick to respond with:

Britain flying in rescue workers and sniffer dogs to locate trapped victims; the USA flying in food supplies and aid money; France is flying in doctors, nurses, and first aid units; Japan is flying in high-tech communications equipment; Germany is flying in specially trained police units to help restore and maintain order; China is flying in tents and warm clothing; the Australian government is flying in 350,000 replacement Kiwis...

My apologies to any of my readers, especially any of my NZ readers, who do not appreciate this brand of Australian humour. However, all the Kiwis I have ever known have always given as good as they have ever received.

Just in case, this is something that came in through my inbox...

02 January 2009

Acceptable Collateral Damage?

It is always easy to watch hostilities from afar and make one's judgments based on some ethical or moral code that is removed from the daily threat of violence and death. However, as I sit back and watch another round of Israeli and Palestinian violence, I wonder what is acceptable collateral damage in this time of sophisticated weapons and "surgical strikes".

I find myself wondering how Israel justifies killing women and children in order to kill a self-proclaimed terrorist. Is this as simple as killing them before they kill you. Is it a case of these children would have grown up to be terrorists and they would have been encouraged by their mothers to be so, therefore the best solution is to wipe them out before such a reality can eventuate?

I also find myself questioning the wisdom of firing rockets, homemade or otherwise, by Hamas into Israel.

The issue here is not one of whether Israel has a right to protect itself, it is not even a question in my mind of proportionality. Ask yourself this question, when are wars ever about proportionality? Your answer should highlight the silliness of the idea of proportional responses. To the victors go the spoils, and the victors are those that are left standing. Simply, the idea of proportional response will lead only to a series of ceasefires and temporary truces that never address the fundamental problems that lead to the hostilities in the first place.

The issue for me is what constitutes acceptable collateral damage. The recent Israeli attack that killed Nizar Rayan is an example of why this is a question that must be answered. There is little doubt that Nizar Rayan is a senior leader of Hamas. There is also little doubt that he advocates violence. It has been reported that he even sent one of his own sons on a suicide mission to kill Israelis. There is also little doubt that Israel classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.

However, in order to kill Rayan, the Israelis decided the best method was to drop a rather large bomb on his house. This bomb was obviously large as it destroyed 12 surrounding house as well as the targeted house. The collateral damage issue here that I want to look at is not the property but the 18 people killed in addition to Rayan. Among the dead were his four wives, two daughters, and a son. This is what I wonder when I am wondering how to answer the question of acceptable collateral damage.

I wonder whether Israel could have put together covert Mossad teams and assassinate Rayan. This would have averted any unnecessary collateral damage. Perhaps questionable in international law however I would assert that killing innocent men, women, and children is also questionable under international law.

I am neither pro-Israel not pro-Hamas or Palestine. I am pro-peace and I am pro-humanity. I am against the killing of innocent men, women, and children in the furtherance of any cause.

So, I pose this question, "what is acceptable collateral damage in a time of conflict?"

01 January 2009

Justice or Injustice?

The murder, and just about everyone agrees that it was a murder, of Munir Said Thalib or more simply Munir, has seen a tortuous pursuit of justice that seems to have been thwarted yet again with the acquittal of the most recent defendant in the case, Muchdi Purwopranjono.

I am looking forward to getting a copy of the judgment and reading for myself the legal reasoning of the judges in dismissing the charges and ordering Purwopranjono's immediate release. The statement that "Muchdi Purwopranjono cannot be proved legally and convincingly to have ordered the murder of Munir," as stated by Soeharto J. (no relation to the former dictator) hardly seems to be sufficient.

The investigators, prosecutors, and courts have failed to convict anyone for ordering the killing and have in the the years since the murder in 2004, on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, have managed to convict a couple of people for being part of a conspiracy. Interestingly, those convicted (Indra Setiawan, former Head of Garuda, and pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto) of being part of the conspiracy have fingered Purwoprajono as being the person to have ordered the killing.

Purwopranjono had motive, revenge. Purwopranjono had been appointed to head up the Kopassus unit (Indonesian Special Forces), but held the appointment only briefly. He was removed from the appointment after Munir alleged that Purwopranjono had been instrumental in the kidnapping and subsequent disappearances of activists.

This did not hinder Purwopranjono's ability to get himself appointed to the Deputy Head position of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). It is alleged that it is from this position that Purwopranjono orchestrated the assassination of Muir.

In essence, this decision means that as of today no-one has been held accountable for the ordering of the murder and orchestrating the conspiracy. Therefore, it is reasonable to hold the belief that there are still significant problems with the pursuit of justice in Indonesia. It seems that some people are more equal before the law than others and in some cases these people are not even accountable to the law.

It is sad all round, but perhaps it is most sad for Munir's widow, Suciwati, and his children. Who have lost a husband and a father to the murderous excesses of the state without seeing any hint of justice.

I remain the eternal optimist and hence remain confident that one day the people responsible will be held accountable for this assassination. If not, then there is always a belief that "what goes around, comes around". Furthermore, I firmly believe that "bad karma" will revisit those who perpetrate evil when they least expect it.

No Direction Home

Bob Dylan is one of my favourite artists, if not my favourite, as I have just about all of his albums in my collection and most of those have since been ripped to my laptop and mp3. So, it is probably of little surprise that I have a copy of Martin Scorsese's Dylan-mentary.

The wife and I were not up for a New Year's eve out with Will. It was not so much that we were worried about him being out, he is already a frequent traveller, but managing the crowds. So, we stayed in. In any event, we have been pretty tired as it is quite a challenge changing routines and getting into new routines to raise a kid. Nevertheless, getting back on topic, I had purchased a legitimate copy of Scorsese's film (although if I had looked for it I could probably of found a pirated copy and saved myself IDR 250,000), so I watched it overnight and into the morning.

The beauty of the film are the relatively rare footage, some of it never seen before, that has been collected and forms an integral part of the film. It was also interesting to watch and listen to Dylan not only in his own words but those of his contemporaries and peers.

The jacket to the double DVD talks about a young singer who would change popular music forever, and this is not just hyperbole but an accurate reflection of the man's contribution. It is amazing to think how far and wide one man's influence has permeated popular culture and across so many genres of music from folk to pop. He is indeed a living legend.

For any Dylan fan this is a must see film!