30 July 2010

You Get What You Vote For...

The beauty of a democracy is you get what you vote for.

And, if you get taken in by the charm offensive of candidates about how, once they are elected, they are going to serve your interests because you are the constituents and they serve only at your pleasure, blah, blah, blah (how cynical am I tonight?), then you could end up with this view on a regular number of plenary session days in the Indonesian Parliament.

If you want to read about the lazy Indonesian legislators, and their excuses for excessive absenteeism, then head over to The Jakarta Globe. The best excuses to date have been that parliamentarians work too hard and that they have permission letters from their parties to be absent. It sort of reminds me of the permission notes I write for my students when they want to leave class to go to the toilet.

But, if you just want to have a chuckle about the empty "people's house" then the picture is for you!

Sinta and Jojo -- Nobody

I figured I would look around on YouTube and see what else these two celebrities in the making have been doing in their spare time aside from studying (apparently they are students in Bandung somewhere). Judging by the views that these videos are getting on YouTube, and the fact that they have already made it to TV having been interviewed, and one of them has been granted a full university scholarship, it would seem that uploading a few videos lip-synching has been well worth the effort. Quite simply these girls are no longer nobodies but somebodies.

However, it was nice to read that these girls seem to be fairly well grounded. It seems their YouTube fame has inspired offers to record an album and star in a sinetron (Indonesian Soap Opera), but these offers were turned down with the girls stating that they have no singing or acting talent whatsoever. Perhaps Manohara should have thought about that because hot having any talent was not something that stopped her from starring in a sinetron.

It is funny how the world works, innit?


Sinta and Jojo Singing Keong Racun...

Why is a lip-synched song about a poisonous snail so popular? This version has attracted over one million hits on YouTube. Indonesia never ceases to amaze!

Viva Indonesia (and Sinta and Jojo as well by the looks of things)!

Why the World can do without the Taliban...

If you want to read about the genesis of this article in Time Magazine, and the article itself follow this link.

Otherwise, the picture can do the talking on this one.

29 July 2010

The Bakrie Award...

The Bakrie Award is designed to recognise Indonesians who have made significant contributions to the greater Indonesian community.

However, it would seem that not all award recipients are thankful and grateful for the "honour" bestowed upon them. The award has already been rejected by two past winners: Franz Magnis Suseno and Goenawan Mohammed. Suseno rejected the award before even going to a ceremony to get it. Goenawan handed his back.

However, in conjunction with the big announcement that Bakrie Center Foundation was funding, and generously so, the creation of a Chair for Southeast Asian Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, there was also an announcement of this years winners. The 2010 winners included Sitor Situmorang and Daoed Joesoef. Unfortunately, for the Bakrie Center Foundation both these winners said they were not interested in the award and did not want it, in fact both stated that the Bakrie's could keep their awards. The award comes with IDR 100 million attached.

The various reasonings for the rejection noted that the spirit of the award was not reflected in the conduct of the Bakrie's themselves with respect to the Sidoarjo mud extrusion. The original news is in Indonesian and can be found here.

Maybe it is about time that the Bakrie family reached the point where they just said, "bugger it!" And, then paid out the claims and had some publicity that could be spun positively. The fact is most people believe that it is a Bakrie company that is responsible for the extrusion and not an earthquake. There is a limited number of ways you can spin bad publicity before it just becomes a stone in your shoe and a sizable irritant going forward. Time to shoulder-up, take of the shoe, shake out the stone, pay the people of Sidoarjo what they are owed, and then get on with whatever it is that the Bakrie's do.

Blog Housekeeping...

Dear All...

I seem to have a lot more followers than I have had in the past. I had not really been paying all that much attention of late. However, if there are any out there who would like me to return the favour and follow them back, then let me know, and it will be so.



The Bakrie Chair for Southeast Asian Studies...

This is a real interesting piece of news for me. It is interesting because it is one of those head shakers. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has announced that it has accepted Bakrie money through the Bakrie Center Foundation to create a Chair of Southeast Asian Studies in Washington DC. The Chair is for a yet to be recruited Senior Associate. Applications are open at the moment if anyone is interested in being part of this. Check out the Carnegie Endowment website.

Seeing this is my blog, and my blog is about opinion, then I am going to offer one. Throwing money at the establishment of a new chair at the Carnegie Endowment does not absolve one of the sins of the past. The reality that the Bakrie family and the Bakrie family companies, and by default the Bakrie Center face is that the good people of Sidoarjo are still yet to be properly compensated for their losses and the harm that they have suffered as a result of the mud extrusion caused by unsafe and illegal drilling practices of a Bakrie family company.

I have no problem with the creation of the chair. It is a positive move that will allow for dedicated research to be done. But, as I said, this does not make right the wrongs done to others.

According to Anindya Novyan Bakrie, head of the Bakrie Foundation and CEO of Bakrie Telecom:

Working out of the world-class Carnegie Endowment, the Bakrie chair will contribute policy relevant research by revealing key political, economic, and socio-cultural trends in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The senior associate will address the unanswered questions of the region and become a reference point for policy makers in the United States and the international community.”

You can read all of the speech at the Carnegie Endowment site.

NOTES (these are the notes attached to the press release)

The Bakrie Center Foundation (BCF) is led directly by Anindya Novyan Bakrie and the third generation of the Bakrie family. Its primary objective is to provide Indonesia’s best and brightest with a chance to study for a higher education at some of the best universities at home and abroad. It is a private sector initiative to identify and develop leaders in Indonesia, creating a talent pool that will eventually drive economic development and growth. 

The BCF is an integral part of the established Yayasan Bakrie Untuk Negri (BUN) in philosophy and values. Initiatives complement and expand the work of BUN which has pioneered several philanthropic and educational efforts in Indonesia, including the establishment of Bakrie University, a full-fledged undergraduate institution. All its efforts go back to the deep-rooted conviction of its founding father and enduring mission of the Bakrie Group: to give back to society and build a more prosperous Indonesia.

The Carnegie Asia Program in Beijing and Washington provides clear and precise analysis to policy makers on the complex economic, security, and political developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

Titanic II -- The B-Grade Sequel...

Some films are just not meant to have sequels. Titanic would be one of those. Nevertheless, this did not seem to bother Asylum Studios which have written and produced Titanic II. My guess is that it probably did not cost a lot to make, judging by the trailer, and the fact that it is a straight to DVD release.

Anyways, enjoy the trailer.

Schapelle Corby's Sentence to be Reduced?

It has been a while since a Schapelle Corby (photo courtesy of AAP) related post. So, now would seem an appropriate time to make one, particularly considering that there is a very solid likelihood that a large sentence reduction is on the cards. How large remains to be seen, but the Jakarta rumour mill is working overtime, and all indications are that it will be significant.

To be truthful, no one is commenting publicly on this that would be quotable in a verifiable sense. And, stranger things have happened with sentence cuts and other remissions that seemed destined to happen. So, fingers crossed for Ms. Corby and her family that this is something that comes to fruition.

Schapelle Corby lodged a clemency appeal to get herself released on humanitarian grounds. There were fairly solid grounds for the appeal. It is clear that the prison years since 2004 have taken their toll mentally and physically. She is definitely never going to be the same, but one never knows, she might get some semblance of normalcy back to her life on release. The Indonesians have acknowledged her depression and have treated it. The family and other supporters have claimed for a long period of time that Schapelle's mental illness is significantly more serious than 'mere' depression and that she needs to be repatriated to Australia and treated here.

It would seem that the Indonesian Supreme Court has been swayed by the petition and has supposedly recommended to the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that a significant sentence reduction be granted. The ultimate decision on clemency petitions rests with the president. However, it is uncommon for the president to go against the recommendation of the Supreme Court in a case like this. Nevertheless, it would seem unlikely that it would be reduced to time served with an immediate release to follow. However, it is worth noting that this is not outside the realm of possibility.

The Indonesians have clearly made their point on the seriousness of drugs and drug smuggling, and an immediate release would be seen as a good will gesture by most. There will still be those that argue she should never have been in Kerobokan in the first place, but that is probably a hypothetical argument for later because what has been done cannot be undone.

And, for these people the continued bashing of Indonesia as a backward barbarian third world nation lacking compassion will go on unabated. It might be worth considering what the priorities are here; seeing Schapelle free or bashing Indonesia, and determining how best to go forward with any media campaign associated with Schapelle Corby's release from prison.

Another possibility is that the original 20-year sentence will be cut in half. And, with expected remissions to be granted in August and December for Indonesian Independence Day and Christmas respectively, it is possible that Corby will be free towards the end of this year or very early next year.

Good luck to her. It would seem that her desire to have a child as a free woman is coming that much closer to becoming a reality.

28 July 2010

Indonesia's Pornography Law & Full-Frontal Nudity...

I wonder...

Does this image of a nude sculpture violate the provisions of the Indonesian Pornography Law?

What about this photo of Aline Tumbuan?

Or this one of a woman in / from Bali?

Or this one of Syahrini (Isn't that KD former husband sitting next to Syahrini)?

It's MUI Fatwa Time...

Pinch me, pinch me, I must be asleep and dreaming. The MUI has just issued a fatwa on infotainment (gossip shows) and sex change operations, stating that both are prohibited under Islam. I would like to say wake up and smell the coffee, but I am reluctant to remind them that they almost banned Luwak Coffee last week. It is probably best not to give them any ideas, heaven forbid they will be issuing a fatwa next week banning the MUI.

Fatwas are man's way of feeling important in God's world. The cold hard reality is that if God is real then s/he certainly does not need the assistance of mere mortals in the application of God's laws. I would reckon God can probably sort this one out on his / her own. In any event, where does man get off thinking that he has the requisite skills to determine and then decide what God has in mind? May the wrath of Allah come down on you, and swiftly!

According to the crotchety old men at the MUI responsible for this silliness, it is forbidden for Muslims to gossip. The rationale is that gossiping requires Muslims to expose the private details and lives of others in the public domain. Ah, yes it does. Good one fellas, you worked that one out all by yourself. Now, some gossip is indeed factual.

For example, the father of Sheila Marcia Joseph's child has recently been exposed publicly. The name of the father does not yet appear on the child's birth certificate yet. So, I am wondering why discussing such gossip is prohibited in Islam. Perhaps one of my Muslim brothers or sisters can enlighten me as to where in the Koran it says that factual gossip is prohibited.

Not satisfied with banning gossip, the MUI has gone the whole nine yards and stated that profiting from infotainment or gossip is haram. What? So, if a company advertises during an infotainment show then it has broken some law in Islam? Wow. Nevertheless, it appears that there are some exceptions, albeit very limited. If the gossip is to warn people then it is permitted, it is mubah. Presumably this means that gossip such as the recent Nazriel "Ariel" Irham, Luna Maya, and Cut Tari videos would fall under this exception as the gossip clearly highlights the dangers of filming yourself bonking your brains out.

My guess would be that the MUI would have been better issuing a fatwa about defamation, slander, and libel. But, no matter, anything that the MUI issues is not legally binding on Indonesian citizens. Indonesians cannot be worldly punished for ignoring the silly fatwas issued by the MUI.  It all comes down to whether Indonesians truly believe that the MUI is the sole interpreter of God's words on Indonesian soil. If not, then fatwa away boys!

What is truly funny about this whole infotainment fatwa was that the MUI had intended to discuss welfare issues, but dropped welfare in favour of outlawing gossip shows. This clearly shows that the MUI cares more about populist issues and getting their names in print than they do about the religious care of their flocks.

The other fatwas issued covered the trade in organs and marriages of convenience. I am an organ donor. The fatwa prohibits the poor kampung fellow from selling a kidney to a rich Singaporean willing to pay USD 50K. However, it does not prohibit organ transplants And, it does not prohibit Muslims from receiving a non-Muslim organ. Although, any transplant does need to be witnessed by two Muslim doctors. I wonder how a Muslim would feel about getting a kidney from a Jew? Interestingly, the fatwa considers animal to human transplants and canvasses the idea of transplants from unclean animals in an emergency situation.

The final worthy mention is the fatwa on sex change operations. Once again, there is an exception here; sound medical reasons. Any takers on "sound medical reasons"? This must require a diagnosis from a psychologist along the lines of, "yes, he was born male, but he identifies only as a woman."

No apologies for the length. The point probably could have been made this way:

These fatwas are unnecessary as Indonesians are more than capable of working out these issues on their own and without the involvement of the MUI.

I wonder when the MUI will get around to issuing a fatwa banning the FPI?

Ho hum...

The Buddha Bar -- More Protests...

Some things come and go, and this is one of those; protests against the Buddha Bar in Jakarta. This really is making a mountain out of a molehill. The idea that it is in some way threatening interfaith relations and national unity do not bear out.

The only relationships that it seems to be threatening are those of the protesters who cannot seem to cope with the concept of a Buddha theme for a resto, cafe, and bar.

The current argument is that the name of the bar is an insult to Buddha and Buddhism. My guess is that Buddha would probably be telling the protesters to chill out and meditate a little, you know search for a little enlightenment, devote their human energies to something that is important and worthwhile.

The protesters have decided that if the governments of Jakarta and Indonesia are not going to revoke the business permits of the franchise holder, then the next best course of action is to congregate outside the French Embassy and demand that the French government do something about it because the trademark name is owned by a French company.

The biggest beef of the protesters is that using the name and image of the Buddha is an insult. This insult is further exacerbated by the fact that prostitutes hang out their. Now, for them to know that the bar is either frequented by prostitutes or overrun by them would require the protesters to have some intimate knowledge of the joint. Perhaps they are disgruntled customers?

One of the protesters even went so far as to suggest, "What's next? Christ Bar, Islam Bar, Hindu Bar?" Now, there is an idea. I would probably go for Jesus Bar myself. Let's face it, Jesus supposedly turned water into wine. Not just a little bit of wine but a lot of wine. So, the "Jesus Wine Bar" would seem to be aptly named. Now, for the Islam Bar. Why not? Not all bars have to serve alcohol. It could be a coffee bar. Maybe it could serve up coffees from places like Turkey and pastries from the Middle East. A Hindu Bar might need a little more thought...

There are so many important issues that need the dedicated attention of Indonesian citizens, this is not one of them.

Ho hum...

27 July 2010

Clown Funerals...

I am having one of those days where my internet travels have taken me to some strange places. These travels allow me to view strange things. I have got to say this is one of the stranger ones I can recall. I guess, like everyone else, clowns die. And, when a clown dies he has to be given a proper farewell (aka funeral).

It is hard to know whether one should be laughing or crying when looking at these pictures. Personally, I was just shaking my head and wondering what thoughts would go through your mind if you were standing in the cemetery and saw any one of these images unfold before your eyes...

The images are available here, here, and here.

Moonwalking in Wal-Mart...

The video is a mere 9 seconds long and is over before you know it. You will have to, and want to, replay it a number of times.

Very cool! I wish some one had moonwalked in front of me in Woolworths earlier this evening, it would have put a smile on my dial for sure. Feel free to share it round.

Miley Cyrus vs. Hannah Montana

It seems that little Hannah Montana has decided that being Miley Cyrus requires a much more adult look. Although, it would seem that adults are not buying her records in the same numbers that the child fans of Hannah Montana were.

Anyways, this is what Miley is up to now. The photos were found at the above link under the heading "Miley Cyrus Gives It To Her Fans Doggy Style". It is certainly a different image for her. I hope it works out for her.

Here are the happy snappies showing the new look. These photos are sure to reinvigorate the debate about the sexualization of children, particularly when one considers that traditionally the Miley Cyrus fan base is predominantly tweens. It has been suggested that her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, approves of the more contemporary adult look.

I will leave you to make up your own minds.

The Morgan Freeman Chain of Command...

Checking out the daily Buzz Feed I came across this rather funny little poster.

It would seem that Morgan Freeman can play just about anyone and has been just about everyone. I am not sure about the location of the pimp though. He sort of seems a little out of place where he is at the moment. It would seem that being a pimp is higher up the chain of command than driver.


26 July 2010

Indonesia Wins...

This is excellent news!

Indonesia sent a rather accomplished team of secondary students to Zagreb, Croatia, to participate in the 41st Physics Olympiad. The team: Christian George Emor from North Sulawesi, David Giovanni from Tangerang, Banten, Kevin Soedyatmiko from Jakarta, Muhammad Sohibul Maromi from East Java, and Ahmad Ataka Awwalur Rizqi from Yogyakarta took the competition by storm and scooped four gold medals and a silver medal. Awesome effort considering there were 376 participants from 82 countries!

In a country that is knocking on the door of 250 million people the odds must be in favour of there being a good number of incredibly gifted people living in the midst of that burgeoning sprawl of humanity. This goes to show that some of them have been uncovered. However, perhaps with a functioning Department of Education, a comprehensive education policy, and proper funding Indonesia would be uncovering so much more talent from among its ranks. There is no reason, bar one, that Indonesia should not be at the forefront of all kinds of research and innovation; the incredibly inefficient government.

It is with sincere hope that these kinds of achievements encourage the government to commit more funding to education and training.

In the meantime, congratulations to the whole Indonesian team. You have done yourselves and your country proud.

How To Take A Penalty -- Spanish Style...

Ezequiel Calvente showed one and all how to take a penalty in the recent U19 European Championships. I wonder how long it will be until we see someone have a go at this in one of the big leagues or senior championships.

From Yahoo Sports and here.

25 July 2010

"Rape By Deception"...

You have to give it to the Israeli courts, they will be creative in their jurisprudence if it means protecting some absurd sanctity of Jewishness and purity. If you tell lies and mistruths or you misrepresent something, like who you are for example, you might be guilty of deception. But to say you are someone you are not, or to lead someone to believe you are someone you are not, seemingly gets you in a position where you can be guilty of rape by deception.

In essence, if you embellish your personal story to get laid, then you get laid and the other person finds out that you are not who or what you say you are, then you are guilty of raping that other person because they would not have willingly engaged in sexual relations with you if they had known the truth.

This brings us to the case of Saber Kushour. It is a story I came across as I plough through the news online. I found this story at The Guardian here. The article is based solely on the account of Kushour.

The story is a sad tale because Kushour is a married father of two, and irrespective of the outcome of the case he acknowledges that his stupidity has harmed his family.

Kushour is an Arab Israeli who speaks fluent Hebrew without an Arab accent, and obviously passes for a Jew in some circumstances. Perhaps he now wishes that he did not in hindsight. Kushour has been sentenced to eighteen months in jail for the rape by deception of a Jewish woman.

The sex was consensual at the time and lasted a mere 15 minutes. Kushour's case is on appeal and attracting considerable attention in Israel for the underlying racist nature of the sentence and what this says about justice in Israel, and perhaps what is morally acceptable to Israelis in general.

Why has Kushour been sentenced to prison? This is a crude tale, an adulterous tale, where a single Jewish woman propositions a married Arab Israeli man and then has sex with him on a rooftop. To be fair the Jewish woman does not know that Kushour is married. But, Kushour is married and seemingly figured it was a good idea to avail himself of an opportunity to have a casual sexual encounter that his wife would never find out about. Unfortunately for Kushour, the Jewish woman when she found out that Kushour was really an Arab Israeli and not a Jew she lodged a police complaint claiming that she never would have had sex with him if she had known he was an Arab Israeli and not a Jew.

So, what was the legal reasoning of the judge, Zvi Segal, in this case that would allow a decision like this to be reached:

'Judge Segal conceded that it was not "a classical rape by force". He added: "If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated. The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls."' (from the Guardian).

The problem with this reasoning is that the woman was clearly not thinking about the sanctity of her body or soul when she engaged in the consensual sexual activity. The reality is she picked a man up off the street and then had sex with him on a rooftop. The judge has seemingly gone above an beyond in constructing his decision based on the need to protect the public interest from smooth talking criminals.

It would seem that Kushour's crime is that he suggested to the Jewish woman that he was a bachelor interested in a long-term relationship. In addition to the failure to be explicit in saying to the Jewish woman. "before we have sex you should know that I am an Arab Israeli, are you still interested in proceeding with our sexual encounter?" However, it must be pointed out that the Jewish woman did not ask about Kushour's lineage either.

The judge has then decided that the Jewish woman would not have 'co-operated' if she had known that Kushour was not a bachelor, and presumably she definitely would not have proceeded had she known he was an Arab Israeli. Yet, I would argue that the simple fact that she picked this man up while he was out buying cigarettes and then had sex with him on a nearby roof suggests that she was not all that interested in a period of courtship, marriage, and then sexual relations.

Kushour might be an adulterer but he is not a rapist.

If I can find what the appeal court decides in this case I will add a postscript to this post. If the appeal court upholds this decision it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to argue and introduce it in other jurisdictions.

Invisible Tree House...

An almost invisible tree house has been built.

Now this is very cool. The tree house is supposedly really green and eco-friendly according to the owners. The owners of this particular one are the TreeHotel. If you're interested in seeing them, then you can find them about 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

However, I am wondering how eco-friendly it is to birds.

Anyways, here are the pictures.

Racism in Australian Politics...

This is a lesson on how to get yourself disendorsed in a heartbeat as a candidate in a federal election.

David Barker was the Liberal Party's candidate for the seat of Chifley. Chifley is a safe Labor seat at the moment. As a matter of fact, it is so safe that it has not been held by anyone but Labor since it was created in 1969. It has been held by the current member, Roger Price, since 1984. So, it was unlikely to change hands at this election anyways.

Nevertheless, this was no deterrent to Barker who considered himself a pretty good shot at winning the seat. After all, his opposition from the Labor Party in this election is a Muslim, Ed Husic (as an aside I heard on the Channel 7 or 9 news this evening in relation to this story that Husic was a non-practising Muslim, whatever that means), and Barker firmly believed that Australians and especially those in the electorate of Chifley would not vote in a Muslim.

Barker, like any other Australian, is entitled to his opinion. He is entitled to this opinion even if it is wrong, misguided, and perhaps even offensive to some. However, in the context of the election, these are extreme views and posting them publicly in Facebook backed the Liberal Party, who had endorsed him as their man in Chifley, into a corner. The Liberal Party could not, and cannot. afford to be directly associated with such extreme views. Yet, it might be argued that the Liberal Party's hard line approach on policy on asylum seekers and migrants might suggest that they trying to capitalise on the idea that there are elements within the Australian community that feel threatened by migrants and outsiders.

I read during the week that Pauline Hanson might be interested in rejoining the Liberal Party if Tony Abbott, the current Liberal Leader, was to extend her an invitation. My guess is that she should not hold her breath waiting for that invitation. Yet, it is worth remembering that Pauline Hanson was elected to Federal Parliament after tapping into community fears about multiculturalism and migration.

Barker was not satisfied with just going after his Muslim opposition, he saw the need to go after the current Prime Minister for being an atheist. According to Barker, Australians are not ready for Muslims in parliament and Australians have a real problem with their government being led by an atheist. Barker is clearly on a mission from God. It would seem that his God wants him to be the saviour of Australia and reset this fine nation back on the path to Christian righteousness.

For Barker, this is not a question of faith. See, Barker believes that every Australian is entitled to a faith of their choosing but if you choose to be Muslim then you should not be in parliament. Furthermore, if you do not believe in God then you should not be in parliament at all either, and definitely not leading the government.

My personal opinion, and it is anecdotal at best (I have not done the research, even if it is out there), is that Australia is not an inherently racist country. I believe that Barker's views are a minority in the community. I am not naive enough to argue that they do not exist. I would argue, and argue passionately, that Barker's views are minority views. The majority of Australians have embraced multiculturalism and the benefits that this has brought us as a nation. That same majority would also understand that multiculturalism has not always been smooth sailing and that as a nation there are still problems we face.

However, Australia in that regard is no different from any other nation on earth that has a rich history of accepting migrants. Let's face it, the vast majority of Australian citizens can trace their family history to an original migrant if they look hard enough.

The Leaders' Debate -- Gillard Just...

The "Great Debate", or the not so great debate depending on your interest in Australian politics, was won just by Julia Gillard. Tony Abbott put up a much better showing than many thought possible. Nevertheless, the most illuminating moments associated with this debate was that there were no illuminating moments. The reality is that neither Gillard or Abbott offered up anything substantial from what we already know about them.

The debate was the same, but the worms were different. Channel 9 was running a worm that suggests Gillard comprehensively trounced Abbott by some 63% to 37%. The Channel 7 worm had it much closer at 53% to 47%. Personally, I think the Channel 7 worm had it pretty much right. Interestingly, both worms were true to expected form and fell along gender lines. Most women going for the female Prime Minister and most men going for the male leader of the Opposition.

Neither leader was able to deliver a significant blow. In fact, both came across as overly cautious and unwilling to make any big statements about themselves, their beliefs, or what real changes the Australian people will enjoy under either a Labor or Liberal (Coalition) government. Maybe the lack of a third party option in the debate, like the Greens, might inspire people to seek out that option prior to the election. The Greens under Bob Brown have seemingly become an increasingly attractive option for those disillusioned with the main parties.

Yet, one of the most significant things for Labor to consider is the response to Gillard's failure to be specific on the ouster of the former PM, Kevin Rudd. The worms tracked instantaneously lower suggesting that people have an issue with the way that the leadership was spilled. Maybe the pencil pushers over at Labor Headquarters will need to put some spin on this and get it out into the electorate. The leadership spill might be better confronted head on and called as it was. Sometimes the truth will set you free.

The thing that stuck me about the debate, and to which I alluded earlier, is that there is not a whole lot of difference in the policies of either party or leader. This is probably more of a problem for the Liberal Coalition than it is for the incumbent Labor Government. The reason is a simple one, why change governments if there is not going to be any real change in either policy or direction? If it is going to be the same old, same old then perhaps it is better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

It is too bad that this seems to have been a one-off debate. Another debate or two might have been worth a look-see.

Indonesian Heroes -- Achmad Mochtar...

Indonesia is a wonderful country. Indonesia is a country filled with many wonderful and accomplished people. Indonesia is also a country with a rich history. It is in consideration of this that I post this little news piece discovered on my daily surf through Internet news. The post is in stark contrast to the less than rosy picture I have been painting with the posts about SBY and his ineffectual presidency.

Achmad Mochtar is not necessarily a name that jumps from the page as an easily identifiable Indonesian hero. However, he should be recognised much more widely for his sacrifices for the nation and her people. And, perhaps, this may now begin to happen.

Achmad Mochtar was executed by the Japanese in 1945. His beheading was to perpetuate a cover-up of a failed Japanese experiment that resulted in the deaths of some 900 Indonesian forced laborers. The experiment was the testing of a tetanus vaccine. The wide-scale experiment was performed on the 900 Indonesians to test whether the vaccine was safe before it would be administered to Japanese troops.

Mochtar was one of Indonesia's greatest scientists and was held in such high regard that he became head of the Eijkman Institute of Medical Research. Mochtar and his associates were working on medical research that was also looking at the possibility of creating and administering a tetanus vaccine. However, it is clear that the vaccine that poisoned the Indonesian forced laborers was the Japanese one. This is where the story takes a tragic turn for Mochtar and his staff.

In an attempt to cover-up the incident the Japanese quickly blamed Mochtar and the Eijkman Institute. The Japanese arrested all of the Eijkman staff in October 1944. The staff were tortured and mistreated. However, as quickly as they had been arrested, the staff of the Eijkman were released. Mochtar though continued to be held. Mochtar was subsequently beheaded, his body crushed by a steamroller, and his remains tossed into a communal grave.

Research conducted by a clinical research scientist from Oxford University, Kevin Baird, has found that Mochtar had taken the blame for the failed experiment on the proviso that the Japanese released all of his staff.

Achmad Mochtar deserves to be recognised for his sacrifices.

He was a martyr in the true sense of the word, he was a patriot, and a true Indonesian.

Maybe the president, the parliament and those in high public office in Indonesia could learn a thing or two from the sacrifices of Achmad Mochtar.

Trivia for a Sunday Morning...

Because I know you want to know!

  • A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.
  • No two spider webs are the same.
  • The Neanderthal Man's brain was bigger than modern man's.
  • It is estimated that at any one time, 0.7% of the world's population is drunk.
  • A cow gives nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
  • The electric chair was invented by a dentist.
  • Ancient Egyptian priests plucked every hair from their bodies, including eyebrows and eyelashes.
  • Donald Duck comics were banned in Finland because he does not wear pants.
  • A snail can sleep for three years.
  • The largest number of children born to one woman is 69 in Russia.
  • Some lions mate over 50 times a day.
  • A study of 200,000 ostriches over 80 years did not record a single case of an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
  • If you sneeze to hard you can fracture a rib. If you try to suppress a sneeze you can rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck and die.

Enjoy your Sunday!

24 July 2010

Mobile Speed Cameras -- Cynical Revenue Raising...

How stupid does the New South Wales government think the citizens of this fine state are? I have nothing against reducing the road toll, I have nothing against the idea of people being required to drive at the speed limit or getting fined if the exceed it. However, the idea that the introduction of mobile speed cameras in NSW is anything other than a revenue raising drive to fill holes in the budget is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of NSW motorists.

Call me a cynic, but whenever the camera is set up to photograph you first and then notify you that your speed has been recorded is not a behavioural modification exercise in encouraging people to slow down, but rather it is a blatant exercise in raising revenue. So, when the NSW Minister of Transport gets up and says, "(But) certainly we'd be happy if not a single dollar, not a single cent were raised from digital mobile speed cameras," then you know he is telling fibs.

The reality is that the NSW government includes in its budget monies that it anticipates in collecting from speeding fines. To this end, the 2010/2011 budget papers estimate that there will be an increase of some AUD 137 million in fine revenue. The only real significant change in collection is the introduction of covert mobile speed cameras.

As I said, call me a cynic, but...

Moral Tragedy, Celebrity Sex Videos, and National Children's Day...

July has been a particularly fruitful month for blog posting at The RAB Experience. It is amazing what a break between university semesters can do to free up some time to devote to other passions, like my family. I might add the frequency of my blogging has benefited as well. This will come to an end though as I will be back in full-time accelerated study mode from Monday.

Looking back over this month, the tone of the posts have been particularly anti-SBY and celebrity porn-related. No dramas on either front, but I figured why not link both of these trending topics together. It seems that the president wants to link them and be linked to them. So, who am I to refuse such a request from the people's president. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono you are so not the man of the moment. It is time to give up on being the teflon populist president and think about actually doing what you were elected to do.

So, the president, porn, and national children's day within the context of moral tragedy is the topic for today's rant.

The president decided that National Children's Day was a good a day as any other to talk about celebrity sex tapes and the moral tragedy that this is. Mr. President, sir, I am sorry whether Ariel does the bump and grind with his girlfriend and videos it on a mobile phone or whether Ariel bumps uglies with Cut Tari is not a national moral tragedy that is worthy of the attention that you have given it on National Children's Day.

Is child pornography a tragedy? Yes, sir, it is! A recent example was reported in The Jakarta Globe over the last few days. This, sir, would have been a better example of a moral tragedy. The forcing of two high school students (it is now being reported that both the students in this video have been identified and are 18 years old) to perform sex acts on each other while being filmed by adults, and then having this film uploaded to the internet is a tragedy, a moral tragedy!

However, the Peterporn scandal is not child pornography. Neither is it a moral tragedy. The film is one where two consenting adults film themselves having sexual relations, or for the less politically correct, bonking each others brains out!

Is there a need to talk to children about pornography? Perhaps, does it need to be done on National Children's Day? No. National Children's Day might have been better served by the president announcing a comprehensive strategy on how his government intends to tackle poverty. Or perhaps a comprehensive strategy on education that sees every child educated in schools with quality facilities and quality teachers. There are so many issues the president could of addressed that are so much more important than Nazriel "Ariel" Irham and his sexual conquests with Luna Maya and Cut Tari, and the filming of those events.

The moral tragedy is that the children in families directly displaced by the mud extrusion at Sidoarjo have yet to be properly compensated, and subsequently the children themselves are suffering as they are often taken out of school to cut family expenditure and work to contribute to the family income. The moral tragedy Mr. President is not a celebrity sex video. It is a government so inept that it cannot make good on its promises to help those Indonesians most marginalized by the system.

Mr. President, you talk about proper education yet you do not practice what you preach. You demand that parents and teachers take a more pro-active role in educating children about what it means to be a productive citizen of the wider Indonesian community, yet your government seems unable or unwilling to confront the biggest scourge on Indonesian society, corruption. Yes, Mr. President, you are setting a wonderful example to the children of Indonesia; the status quo is OK and corruption can persist provided I or my family are not implicated in it.

Mr. President, it was opportunistic to take this occasion and degrade it by playing the porn card and hoping that this would in some way make you more popular. Nevertheless, you underestimate your people, the Indonesian people can see through the facade and your declining popularity is testament to that.

Yet, the final indignation would seem to be that the president, or some pencil-pushing policy wonk in the presidential palace decided that they should nix s declaration by children on the National Children's Day. The children came together from Sabang to Merauke and put together a declaration of the things that they consider important to them. If it is true that the interests of the children are paramount then it is about time we adults allowed them to have a voice. This declaration was their chance at having a voice. Instead the voice of Indonesian children was snuffed out so that the president could have a few extra minutes to berate parents and the nation about celebrity porn. Shame on you Mr. President.

It would also seem that vested interests played a part in this stupidity as well. The last point of the declaration put together by the children of Indonesia was a very pointed call on government to do more on reigning in tobacco and big tobacco companies that are poisoning Indonesia's children and their future, Indonesia's future.

Mr President, you talk about "your legacy", perhaps you should be talking about "What legacy?"

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

23 July 2010

"To Laugh or To Cry" that is the question?

Sometimes in my internet news travels I find myself shaking my head wondering whether any real thought has gone into what is unfolding before our very eyes.

This news piece (in Indonesian) caught my attention for no other reason than the utter hypocrisy and stupidity of it. Then again, perhaps I just do not get it, perhaps I just do not understand, and perhaps this plan makes things better.

It seems that there has been some discussion that the police are thinking of formalising Nazriel 'Ariel' Irham and Luna Maya's relationship by forcibly marrying them. The rationale here being that they have committed a sin by having pre-marital relations (sex to the rest of us). They are likely to be subject to 'social' sanctions for this offense. Now, some social relations wizard has determined that the only way to avoid this social sanction is to force the two lovebirds into marriage.

Nah, if this was a sin because they did the deed outside the binds of marriage, then how does forcing them to marry after the fact absolve them of the original "sin"? Can the marriage be back-dated to before the sex occurred? This is hypocritical and it is stupid. If these two want to get married then let them be the deciders of their own future. Perhaps if the wider community wants to sanction them, then perhaps it is time that this wider community had a good hard look at itself and thought about its priorities.

This case has been going on long enough. The police have to do their job, complete the investigation, hand off the case brief to the prosecutors, and move on. The prosecutors in turn have to do their job and get this thing prosecuted. Alternatively, a decision is made somewhere on the food chain here that Ariel, Luna Maya and Cut Tari are not going to be prosecuted because a conviction is unlikely, and let this case go, go out of the public eye.

I am forever the eternal optimist!

22 July 2010

Oh Dear, Mr. Sembiring Are You Serious?

It is a real shame that this man's name is not Titaful instead of Tifatul. This is particularly so considering the Minister of Communication and Information's fascination with banning pornography in Indonesia. But, never mind Indonesians regularly shorten their names, so from now on Mr. Tifatul Sembiring has the moniker "Tits", which is fair enough as all the letters are in his name and appear in that order...

Now, Tits has declared that he is a man on a mission, presumably from God, to ensure that all porn sites originating in Indonesia are shut down and all porn sites hosted overseas are blocked by Indonesian filtering technology before reaching screens in Indonesia. The plan calls for all these sites to be history before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan as many of us are all to aware is a month where Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and other earthly pleasures during daylight hours.

While most people are thinking that the porn ban that Tits has in mind will only effect images, and that this is not such a bad thing, they are sadly mistaken. If Tits gets his way, then even sentences will be classified and if deemed to be too rude then they will be labelled porn and prohibited. Yes folks, Indonesia is back on the path to burning books and treating its adult population like naughty children who do not know what's best for themselves. Tits is looking at getting this banning and burning thing done on a "massive" scale. It reminds me of a picture I once saw about social media 'experts'. I attach it for your viewing pleasure.

Personally, to each their own on the porn front. I have no problem with making porn more difficult to access, especially the idea of making it as difficult as possible for children to access. I have no problem with prohibiting kiddie porn. Our children need protection from this sort of material, whether that be protection in the form of ensuring they do not become the subjects of child porn or being prevented from seeing what is already out there. However, I cannot see why the government needs to regulate whether two consenting adults enjoy looking at pictures of each other in the nude.

In any event, if Tits is thinking that he is going to be successful in protecting people from themselves then he is going to be in for a rude awakening. The blanket ban, which "massive" suggests will not work. The idea that it will presupposes that purveyors of pornography are stupid and technologically incapable of adapting. This is clearly not the case.

The porn industry is not one that is about just tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, nor millions of dollars. The porn industry is a multi-billion dollar gig. The reality is that where there is a will there is a way...it is the chicken and the egg theory, or perhaps it is even simple supply and demand theory. People want porn, so other people produce it. Indonesians want porn, so somebody somewhere is going to be producing it and Indonesians are going to work out a way to get access to it.

So, Tits it is time you focused your energies on other more important issues in your portfolio. Quite simply, the big red mark you have against your name with respect to your ministerial performance to date has nothing to do with your failures relating to porn. Time to stop trying to deflect attention from your shortcomings by playing the porn card. It is time to get on with doing your job.

Maybe, this poster is something the good minister might want to consider when working out how successful this plan of his might be.

Happy fasting to you Tits!

Garuda Goes On A Spending Spree...

The Farnborough International Airshow has been a bit of a success in dollar spend terms with some USD 28 billion being spent on planes. Of this, Garuda has placed an order for six Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Garuda also managed to scrounge up enough left-over cash to place a USD 420 million order with Rolls Royce for the supply, service, and maintenance of engines for part of its fleet.

Does this mean that business is booming for Garuda? Or does it require new aircraft to ensure that it remains authorised to fly into the European zone? What interested me in this little news piece was that I recall when I was living in Indonesia that there were always financial management questions being raised about Garuda and its viability, which was interesting seeing it is the national carrier and all. So, ordering and taking delivery of six new aircraft from the end of 2012 is seemingly a pretty bold move.

I have only flown Garuda a couple of times. The service on the ground was a little 'iffy' at times, but was always excellent on the plane. I would fly Garuda again. But, I have tended to fly with the cheaper budget airlines when I have had cause to fly.

The Terminator vs. The Road Warrior (Mad Max)...

This is sure to be a much better offering than the "Predator vs. Alien" film or the other classic two franchise spin-off of "Freddy vs. Jason". This is better because it is like reality TV and involves Arnold Schwarzenegger, current Governor of California (aka 'the Governator') vs. Mel Gibson (aka misogynist, anti-Semite, racist and alleged beater of women).

Arnie was in some good comedic form at a recent gig where he was supposed to be talking to a group of utility commissioners in Sacramento about energy issues and ended up comparing Gibson to the environmental disaster that continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico.

The one-liner was premised by it seems BP has worked out how to contain the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, but "no one has figured out how to contain Mel Gibson."

Now, Gibson has been in the news over the years for his inability to control his outbursts, seemingly this is exacerbated by alcohol and more recently dementia drugs, apparently. The most recent spray was directed at the mother of his youngest child, Oksana Grigorieva.

In keeping up the game, the governor added that participants probably should turn off their mobile phones as they were expecting a call from Gibson.

Ouch, Mr. Governator! That was a cheap shot, don't you think?

Just as a side note. I have wondered whether it is possible to separate the man from his acting? I only ask because, I have enjoyed watching some of his movies. As a man though, I do not have a lot of time for a fundamentalist catholic with a family history of denying the Holocaust, who is anti-Semitic, racist (his latest rants included derogatory references to blacks and hispanics), and a misogynist. So, that's why I wonder whether I can separate the man from his acting and feel comfortable with the fact that I have enjoyed some of his films.

On another side note. It has been theorised and speculated that Gibson has been using Chantix to quit smoking. Chantix is also used in the treatment of Alzheimer's and dementia. The side effects of this drug are nasty to say the least. Not that this is an excuse because some of his behaviour and attitudes predate him taking this drug, but it is a mood changer for sure.

There are some pretty serious allegations against Mel Gibson with respect to domestic violence and abuse of his girlfriend. These allegations do, and should, attract jail time if the offender is found to be guilty.

21 July 2010

Dutch Indonesian Footballers...

I was thinking of posting something of Dutch footballers (soccer players to the rest of us) while I was watching the 2010 World Cup final the other week. The commentators on the broadcast that I was watching mentioned a number of times that there were plenty of Dutch footballers with Indonesian blood pumping through their veins. In the final, the names of Robin van Persie, John Heitinga, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were mentioned a number of times.

However, this post actually came to life as I was reading an article in The Jakarta Globe earlier tonight.

It was interesting to read that the Indonesian Football Association has a plan in place to recruit Dutch players with an Indonesian ancestry to play for the Indonesian National Team. At face value, sounds like a good plan, and why not? However, politics and bureaucracy means that this is nothing more than pie in the sky dreaming.

Indonesia's citizenship and naturalization laws and regulations are notoriously difficult to navigate. On paper, it can be argued that becoming an Indonesian citizen is easy. Nothing more than filling in the paperwork and going through the motions. Personal experience tells me that this is not the case.

However, this post is not about me, but about football players who may be tempted, or not, to change their stripes from the Oranje of Holland to the Red and White of Indonesia. One of the biggest obstacles to the idea of dual citizenship is that Indonesian politicians do not seem to be able to get their collective heads around the idea that someone can hold two passports yet be a devoted patriot to one. Sometimes, practical considerations, such as family or work, dictate  dual citizenship.

I am sure that there are some fringe players who cannot secure a regular gig in the Dutch national side that might be tempted by the prospect of playing consistent international football. However, the established stars like van Persie are not likely to be suiting up in the red and white of Indonesia.

Nevertheless, Indonesians have had a chance to see what van Persie might look like in the red and white when he suits up in the Premier League for Arsenal. My guess is that is as close as van Persie will get to wearing the red and white of his ancestral homeland.

Yet, if the Indonesians are serious about this then it requires that the government get on board and look at putting some flexibility into the current laws and regulations relating to holding more than one passport. Dual citizenship will go a long way to enticing those fringe players into considering a stint with the Indonesian national team. Otherwise, this is nothing more than a couple of old Indonesian men sitting round a table dreaming of world cup glory in 2110 when Indonesia hosts its first ever football world cup.

A couple of other notable Dutch footballers with Indonesian connections include Roy Maakay, Bobby Petta, Denny Landzaat, Michael Mols and Sergio van Dijk.

That is the Arsenal strip, but I am pretty sure that is not Robin van Persie. The body paint though seems to be the way of the future, something about aerodynamics and energy efficiency. Oh well and happy viewing!