29 April 2008

A Face of Innocence

I cannot imagine what it must be like to spend 27 years in prison for a crime I did not commit. I guess no one really can imagine what that must be like without having lived that themselves. However, for those doing time for crimes they did not commit there are those that are willing to take up your cause in pursuit of a fair trial and hopefully vindication for your years of insisting upon your innocence.

The Innocence Project started off small and from somewhat humble beginnings has expanded into a formidable force for justice. The Project also runs a blog that provides updates on success stories, reasons why innocence projects should start everywhere, what are current projects, and a whole range of other up-to-date information on what is going on!

DNA evidence is a crucial tool in garnering convictions but DNA is proving to be equally crucial in exonerating wrongly convicted prisoners of crimes that they did not commit.

From a simple perspective of justice or doing what it right, it is difficult to understand why some law enforcement agencies are so reluctant to have available evidence re-tested to ensure that the DNA evidence is solid. This is even more difficult to understand when the results to date show that there are significant numbers of innocent people doing serious prison time for crimes that they did not commit.

Personally, if some one is on death row for a crime then the State has an obligation to ensure that absolutely all avenues of innocence have been explored before that prisoner is put to death. Even more personally, I think all death sentences should be converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty is not the answer and neither is it a practical deterrent to crime.

On another aside. How do you compensate someone for taking away 27 years of their life? You could conceivably be incarcerated for the prime of your life for a crime that you never committed!

What is somewhat ironic with this latest Innocence Project success is that it happened in Texas which just so happens to be the leading US State for State Sanctioned Killings.

Nevertheless, this post is about James Lee Woodard who was wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of his then girlfriend in 1980 and then sentenced in 1981 to life in prison. Mr. Woodard was no saint and had some prior convictions but nothing that resembled rape or murder. The worst of the previous offences was a larceny offence hardly a precursor to rape and murder.

Perhaps the lesson in this is not only to be sure before we convict a person of a crime and send them to prison for the rest of their lives but also the value of persistence, self-belief, and the desire to do good and to do what is right.

May the Innocence Project be a success wherever it goes!

Denmark - The Land of One Wife

Denmark has given an Iraqi man four weeks to decide which of his two wives he wishes to remain legally married to. The circumstances to this dilemma are interesting. The Iraqi worked as an interpreter for Danish troops while they were stationed in Iraq.

The Iraqi man had two wives, this is presumably not a problem for the Danes while they were doing their thing in Iraq. However, when the Danes decided to pull out it was decided that the interpreter was a person who would be at risk if he were to remain in Iraq. He and his two wives were granted asylum in Denmark...

This is not necessarily a life and death decision as both wives were granted asylum in Denmark, so both can stay no matter what the final decision of the husband is. But what a choice to have to make as the man has children with both women!

The choice is to divorce one or presumably be prosecuted under Danish law for offences relating to polygamy. By all reports the Iraqi man is going to divorce one of the wives rather than face a trial.

An interesting question is whether the forcing of the Iraqi man to choose is a violation of his human rights or whether the permitting of a polygamous relationship in Denmark is a violation of the wives' human rights? Nothing like a good dilemma to stir debate.

Legal Capacity to Contract

I guess if the law says you have to be 18 to be legally capable of entering into a contract then so be it! It would seem that Ashley Alexandra Dupre might just have a case against the founder of Girls Gone Wild, Joe Francis.

It seems that Kristen of Client Number Nine fame was only 17 when Joe Francis filmed some video of her which was later used for promotions and other Girls Gone Wild activities. Dupre contends she was 17 and therefore unable to legally contract with Francis for the release and use of the video and other images.

It seems that Dupre feels sufficiently aggrieved by this turn of events to file suit for USD 10 million! I suppose if she wins then she won't need to be Kristen any more except if she wants to be!

Naming & Shaming

A recent report in New South Wales (that's in Australia for my international visitors not familiar with my history) by a State Parliamentary Committee has rejected calls for the naming and shaming of juvenile offenders. This is a good move!

The issue must revolve on whether there are any identifiable long-term benefits from naming and shaming juvenile offenders, and if there is not then why change the current practice of protecting the identities of offenders. The second issue that must be considered is whether there is any additional justice for the victims of crime in seeing the juvenile offender named and shamed.

Finally, perhaps we need to ask ourselves why we want to name and shame juvenile offenders? Is it to punish the offender or is it to embarrass the parents of the offender by highlighting that they must be bad parents and have done a poor job because the child has turned out to be a criminal? If it is to shame the parents then this is the wrong approach!

Some parents try really hard to be good parents and some times it just does not work out for them no matter how hard they try. Some parents may in fact just be bad parents in terms of they do not have the necessary parenting skills to be a good parent...perhaps more government money at parent training might be an option.

The general belief is that naming a child offender will increase the likelihood of re-offending. Nevertheless, this might need to be balanced against the vindication that victims of crime might feel in seeing the perpetrator of the crime against them named. However, it is worth noting that the use of victim conferencing has been successful as the format allows for victims to directly confront the perpetrator of that crime.

In any event this is an argument that is likely to rage on as juveniles continue to commit crimes from the petty to the serious. Yet, the current law prevents anyone under 18 years of age being identified.

Indonesia and Foreign Labor

There are lots of expatriates in Indonesia. However, this is just an impression as I have not yet bothered to enquire of the Indonesian immigration services as to exact numbers but I will over the next couple of days! There are probably many expats who have a horror or perhaps even a funny story related to the trials and tribulations that are working in Indonesia and dealing with Indonesian immigration officials.

However, some of these stories probably relate to the incompetent businesses and companies that often employ them and as often seek to circumvent the applicable rules such as paying the USD 100 per month foreigner tax or employing someone in a different capacity to that which was claimed in the application process.

A recent decision from the Industrial Relations Court had opportunity to canvass some of these issues and the decision that was handed-down apparently does very little to clarify the position of expatriate labor in Indonesia but in fact makes any foreigner employed in Indonesia susceptible to the strong-armed tactics of employers. The applicant in this case is a foreigner and the claim was that more than 30 violations of the Indonesian Employment Law (Law No. 13 of 2003) were committed in the recruiting, hiring, and subsequent firing of this person.

As I said, I have not seen the decision yet and will not comment definitively until I have. But if the grapevine is true to its word, and it usually is, then this is a story I will post more on when I have it. Apparently, the decision is going to be appealed so perhaps there will be more wide-spread media coverage of the nitty gritty details for us to peruse.

28 April 2008

Anonymous Blogging

This is an old topic but one that I think is worth revisiting!

I am an avid reader of Indonesia Matters and it must be noted that the webmaster is one who prefers to protect his true identity with the anonymous moniker of Patung. However, this is not about Patung or Indonesia Matters per se but rather Indonesia Matters is a place where many prefer to blog anonymously and it is where I have found a good reason why anonymity is not always a good thing!

I am also for free speech. My previous posts attest to this. I am also generally comfortable with anonymous blogging and anonymous writing. Some great literature has been penned under pseudonyms. I am against hate speech and I am against vilification...but that's just me.

I am for a person who has the courage of their convictions to identify themselves when they are advancing arguments that are on the fringes of current debate or where those arguments are outright racist or sexist or premised on distortion of evidence or merely based on anectdotal personal opinion that does not stand up to scrutiny.

I am for people entering into open and frank debate in order to seek solutions rather than merely attempting to inflame and exacerbate old and tired stereotypes! If we are to live in a world that is truly at peace and in harmony then we need to find solutions to those things that harm us!

Thus endeth the sermon!

27 April 2008

John Lennon & Drugging Richard Nixon

It seems that a video showing John Lennon smoking some wacky weed (marijuana) and wondering out loud about slipping some LSD into the then President Richard Nixon's tea.

Nah, the fillm would seem to apparently have been shot with the permission of the late Lennon. However, the obsessive manner in which Yoko Ono has sort to protect the Lennon legacy has seen her sue to determine who owns the rights to the video.

Lennon is big business and this is just another example of that business.

Going Through the Motions

I reckon everyone reaches a point where they know they are done on something! I am done on Indonesia, I need to be somewhere else and doing something else. I have been here a long time and the last five years in the same company and doing the same job...there are no real prospects of promotion and it feels very much like treading water, a sort of going through the motions.

This year is going to be a year of change. Our family will grow by one later in the year and that sounds like the perfect time for a fresh start! We will be heading back to Australia and I am going to do a teaching qualification and then teach English, Indonesian, and Legal Studies, which sounds like as good a plan as anything else right at this point in time. Teaching offers something I am not currently getting besides a real salary for real work, it offers the chance of promotion. The Department of Education even offers scholarships in these areas so maybe I will get lucky!

This post is not about Indonesia per se but rather about the lack of progress I am making and perhaps this lack of progress is my fault. However, a change is as good as a holiday and it is time for a holiday!

25 April 2008

More Sex = More Visitors in a Statistical Sense

Sorry readers...

But in an effort to boost visitors to my blog I have decided to increase the frequency of "naughty" posts. You know the ones, the ones about sex, any and all kinds of sex, perhaps even pictures and film, maybe even a snuff movie! (Oops, I think I am letting on that I know too much about this subject matter!)...

Just kidding! Yet, as sad as it is for me, my statistics are showing a definite trend towards south, they are hardly in free-fall (probably because they are not high enough to free-fall anyway) but there is no upwards trending going on here. So, back to the point! A few posts about a teenager proposing provocatively in a swimsuit and a child genius morphing into an escort were good statistically in terms of attracting visitors. Unfortunately, my other offerings have proven to be far less attractive!

However, I am not in this game to become the most popular blogger in the universe but rather I am in it to humor myself! And humor myself I do!

Good weekend to all!

24 April 2008

Killing Our Environment and Killing Ourselves

Why is it that human beings have such an exaggerated appetite for death and destruction? This appetite includes an obvious innate desire to limit our opportunities for survival on this planet. We better hope those astro-scientist types work out practical ways for us to live elsewhere in the universe or we will soon be victims of our own excesses.

What inspired this not so cheery post is a press release from the UN that highlights the human race's propensity to destroy its environment means the likelihood of finding cures to modern diseases decreases as rapidly as the natural environment that we destroy on a daily basis.

An example of this is the Rheobatrachus or the Southern Gastric Brooding frog which was thought to produce substances that slowed acid and enzyme excretions which are a main cause of peptic ulcers! Nah, bugger me if we haven't gone and made this poor little frog extinct and with it the possibility of finding and developing a treatment for the prevention of peptic ulcers - idiots!

Just the possibility that the cure for cancer or HIV/AIDS is just sitting there out in the environment there waiting to be discovered must become motivation enough for us as a people to protect the biodiversity that we have left.

Climate change, stripping away of natural resources, environmental degradation, and the like are real and we each need to start playing our little parts in turning the tide against what will ultimately lead to our destruction!

This would be the ultimate irony for those that believe in God our ability to destroy that which was given us! It would also be the ultimate vindication for evolutionists as the cycle of life and death would fit nicely into the evolution theory of humans coming into existence and ultimately being evoluted out of existence.

23 April 2008

Celebrity Politics

The idea of using celebrity in politics is not a new phenomenon and it is not unheard of that celebrity translates to power at the ballot box. Let's face it if an actor in B-grade movies can reach the White House and become a revered political leader where people still talk favourably of the Reagan years and Reaganism then why should any body be surprised if similar things happen in Indonesia, albeit on a much smaller stage to date in the West Java elections for Governor.

The Indonesian parliament has a good cross-section of the Indonesian entertainment industry populating its halls of power. As Indonesia enters into an election cycle the political horse trading that goes on to get candidates into the fold will start in earnest. In a country with a population of more than 220 million and myriad gossip shows the reality is that celebrities are often much more recognizable than politicians.

Even where celebrities are not on the ticket they are high profile in a campaign as they come out to support various other candidates. Dangdut singers also make a pretty decent living during the election cycle because just about every campaign stop includes a show! The likes of Dewi Persik are sure to see a financial windfall over the next 18 months even if they do not endorse particular candidates or parties.

Anyway back to the point of this post. The Governor and Deputy Governor-elect in the province of West Java includes in the Deputy Governor slot Dede Yusuf. Dede Yusuf is an actor in both soaps and advertisements (his face is plastered all over the sides of buses as he flogs a headache medication), he is also a former Tae Kwon Do champion, and now a politician. His political credentials are perhaps a little slim in terms of pickings but to all intents and purposes he is pretty much a new-comer to politics as a member of the Amien Rais founded National Mandate Party (PAN).

The Governor-elect is from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and has been a member of the Jakarta Legislature for the 2004 - 2009 period. His celebrity is much lower profile than his Deputy although he has been recognized in some political circles as a bit of a shaker & mover. See, it was even possible to write a couple of sentences without even writing his name, Ahmad Heryawan.

Both the Governor and Deputy Governor-elect appear to be relatively clean in terms of not having any lingering corruption issues and not being "tainted" with too close an affiliation with the New Order of Soeharto. Why do I mention this, only because these two issues seem to resonate with voters.

The Governor and Deputy Governor-elect although not saying so publicly do not see celebrity as a major factor in their victory. Most commentators are putting the win down to superior credentials and better grass-roots organizing.

If there is a phenomenon here it has been the ability of the PKS to mobilize voters and get them to voting booths. The celebrity angle might be a factor in who was chosen but the cold hard reality is that you have to get the people from their homes to polling locations and get them to vote. PKS seems to have done this better than the other parties that are affiliated with the candidates in second and third spots.

Heading into a general election cycle this should be a warning to the bigger parties such as Golkar and the PDI-P that the 2009 election will not let them rest on their laurels as big parties they are going to have to mobilize their considerable resources to getting the people to polling stations or some of these newer parties are going to steal their thunder.

However, it was interesting to see that the President put a little bit of perspective into the debate by suggesting that when it is all said and done they were but a Governor and Deputy Governor elect and would have to operate and run West Java in line with national policy and objectives. This was based on the President's belief that he,and he alone, holds the mandate to govern from the people and in essence they should toe the national line.

Yet, the power of celebrity is this, the incumbent managed to run in third place out of the three pairs running, even though he should have been able to capitalize on his incumbency. The second place-getters included a former Soeharto era Minister, an retired army officer, and a relatively high profile post-army life, in Agum Gumelar.

The Governor and Deputy Governor-elect could not even vote in the election because their identity cards register them as residents of Jakarta and not West Java! So, obviously there are no requirements to be resident in the electorate at the time of the vote. Admittedly, Bandung is not that far from Jakarta, but all the same as a matter of principle one would have thought elected office would require residency.


I have been spending too much time surfing the Internet and simply not enough time doing the work I am supposed to be doing! Perhaps it is time to change course and become a professional blogger...a sort of sell my soul to the blog devil and commercialize everything that I do and try and make a few bucks off my blog. Although, having a quick look at my stats it is not likely to be a very profitable venture!

But anyways. In my Internet travels I have come across plenty of stuff which has piqued my interest including some stuff on Islamo-fascism. It is a term I had heard in the past but had not really paid much attention to, but perhaps I should have been paying more attention to it, maybe we all should be paying more attention to it!

The definition:

Islamofascism is a controversial neologism suggesting an association of the ideological or operational characteristics of certain modern Islamist movements with European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism. The word is included in the New Oxford American Dictionary, defining it as "a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century". Critics of the term argue that associating the religion of Islam with fascism is offensive and inaccurate.

The thing that I see as being important here is a sort of "how will this play out?" particularly when the positions adopted seem to be diametrically opposed at and on almost all levels.

The simple argument for reform in Islam as I see it, or at least understand it, revolves around the position that the Qur'an is a gift from Allah, it has been recorded exactly in the manner that it was given to the Prophet Muhammad, and in essence this is the undistorted and perfect words of God, so why tamper with perfection.

In contrast and the flip side of this argument, and equally valid, is that the modern world is placing new demands on Islam to modernize its teachings in order to reflect modern society. These demands are being met with strong and vigorous resistance which is not always peaceful and non-violent. Simply, the Muslim societies that developed some 1400 years ago were vastly different to those that we encounter today.

Who will win this argument? That is the $64 question! But I do not see this being a rational, peaceful, and accommodating debate for the hearts and minds of Muslims throughout the world.

To be sure what inspired this post is my interest in religion, peace, co-existence, and harmony, plus having just read through, in part at least the site of Muslims Against Sharia and their blog. The cynical part of my brain fully understands that conflict and controversy is good for business but it is not good for people! It is especially not good for those people who live in conflict zones. It is also not good for those people willing to stand up and speak their minds irrespective of whether they are courting controversy for some other reason or hold legitimate beliefs in the positions that they advocate. The picture is something I pulled off the Muslims Against Sharia site.

As I have posted many times we as people need to enter into dialogue to address those issues that divide us, but ultimately there must be action to put "right" those things that the dialogue highlights as being in need of some correction.

22 April 2008

Tattoos Too

Some of my Better Half's skin art!

The Miracle of Life

Does it really matter whether life was created by an omnipotent God or whether it just happened as some freak of nature?

Thoughts of fatherhood and whether I will make a good one...

Depression, Addiction, and Suicide

Surfing the Internet as one is prone to do, perhaps this is an addiction in itself, I have done a little reading about depression and suicide. I guess this was because I have been thinking a little bit about when melancholy becomes depression? A good site for learning about depression is Beyond Blue, it is an Australian based organization and well worth a visit.

The key is recognizing the signs and getting treatment. Depression is a serious illness and the solution is not always "chin up, life's not that bad, things will get better".

I have also been thinking about when something becomes a full-blown addiction from just being regular use? When does binge drinking, for example, become anything more than a night out on the turps? Or is binge drinking already an addiction in and of itself. My interest in this stems from a recent Australian government announcement to direct funds to an initiative that is going to tackle the problem of binge drinking.

On the suicide front, I have not been thinking about taking my own life or having someone do it for me in the form of suicide by cop, but rather I have been thinking about the motivations for someone taking the ultimate step.

Sorry for the rather sombre tone of this post. Just feel that encouraging debate on these issues and bringing them into open discussion is a worthwhile endeavour.

21 April 2008

Muslims Against Sharia

There is definitely a need to learn more about groups purporting to represent the interests of others. Muslims Against Sharia have "arrived" on the scene and it will not be too long before the to and fro starts on whether they really are Muslims or just part of a broader Zionist conspiracy about Islam and what exactly is it that they represent.

Any attempt to reform Islam has traditionally been looked on with distrust and the fact that the Muslims Against Sharia site has a dedicated email address for death threats is an interesting way of dealing with any backlash, real or imagined.

Just a little bit of reading uncovered that some of their associations and contributors are neo-conservatives and other right-wingers. Does this discredit the positions adopted by Muslims Against Sharia, No! But it does beg the question why weren't these associations disclosed up front?

I guess time will tell and history will judge.

Interesting symbol though all the same.

Learning Languages

A personal opinion piece!

I think that learning at least one other language in addition to your native language should be compulsory. Therefore, simply the Departments of Education around the world must invest in language education.

I am lucky in that I have an affinity for languages and learn them quickly, just lucky I guess. It was like that when I started to learn French and it was like that when I learned Vietnamese. The problem with language is that if you neglect them you lose them! You might re-acquire them quickly but without continual use and practice the languages slowly disappear.

I have just started to re-acquire some of my previous French and Vietnamese language skills and have started to try and learn some Arabic. I have also decided, for personal reasons, that I would like to learn Balinese.

Why should language be compulsory? Simply, because there is so much of a peoples' culture tied up in their language. Perhaps if we knew the languages of others we could better understand their cultures, the things that make them tick, their views on the world, and their outlook on life, perhaps then through understanding we may find peace in our time!

Forever the optimist :D

A good week to and for all!

Ahmadiyah - A Dilemma of Qur'anic Proportions

The Indonesian government is between a rock and a hard place in an area with convoluted laws, regulations, and decrees seemingly in direct opposition to guarantees provided under the Constitution and Pancasila. No where to turn and much to lose!

The simply reality is the government would seem to have the power to ban heretical sects of any religion under the auspices of maintaining public order and harmony, particular where the views of a group where counter to those of the mainstream. Ahmadiyah tends to hold views that are not within the mainstream of Indonesian Islam and perhaps Islam in general and have been deemed blasphemous and heretical.

If Sunday was any indication the ability of hard line groups like the FPI (Islamic Defenders Front) and the HTI (Hizbut Tharir Indonesia) to get thousands out into the street means that the government has one of two choices; be seen to be pandering to hardline views of Islam and ban Ahmadiyah or put in place protections that allow Ahmadiyah to continue unimpeded by those that would seek to destroy it!

This is a dilemma for many reasons. In a cynical sense, there is a general election coming up and being seen as being soft on issues like this will mean that swinging votes will tend to go towards parties seen with strong Islamic credentials. PKS (Prosperous Justice Party) seems more likely to benefit from this shift than any other parties.

Further, the legal implications and the test that this conceivably poses for judicial independence and reform. If the Constitution does provide protections in terms of freedom of religion then this will be a stern test of whether the government is able to live up to this constitutional ideal.

Finally, law and order; is the government going to have the commitment to ensure that law and order is maintained. The tone of the Sunday protest included suggestions that if the government did not dissolve Ahmadiyah by government decision then the protesters would take the law into their own hands and dissolve it themselves. This is a nightmare waiting to happen particularly if the police try and enforce the law and in doing so shoot those seeking to forcibly disband Ahmadiyah contrary to prevail laws and regulations or where police are seen to be complicit in allowing any kind of forcible disbanding to occur.

One of the more novel moments of the protest was a comment to the effect that Ahmadiyah had interfered with the human rights of the protesters by disturbing their tranquility in the practice of their faiths. This is novel for a number of reasons but none more important than highlighting some key points of human rights and democracy, namely: you cannot please all of the people all of the time. But taking this argument to the logical extreme then the practice of any faith that did not concur with the faith as practiced by the FPI and HTI must be deemed to be impinging on their human rights.

The NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) approach is to enter into dialogue with deviant sects, explain the error of that sects ways, and then encourage them back into the fold--back to the true path of God.

This seems destined to get messier before a final resolution is found!

Yemen and the Qur'an

I have been reading this interesting piece in TheAtlantic.com which dates from 1999 and discusses the discovery of fragments from early versions of the Qur'an and suggests that the Qur'an is no different from other religious texts. Specifically, the claim seems to be that further academic study of these fragments will lead to an ability to place the Qur'an into a historical context...

Interestingly, there appears, at least to the author of the article, similarities between the Qur'an and the Bible. Of particular note is that the Qur'an was not in a written form at the time of the Prophet's death and that there are Suras that were not included (kind of like the "missing" gospels - Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code anyone?).

Unfortunately, further Internet search has only turned up minimal articles and comments on this of note. I will do more reasearch and perhaps post again.

The idea of frank, open, transparent debate on this subject is intriguing. I just do not see how serious academic debate can be had without it being labelled anti-Islam or some kind of Zionist conspiracy to belittle Islam and the Muslim experience. In this regard it is similar to Jewish claims of anything that questions the Jewish experience as being anti-semitic.

Religion and academic study and debate; are they compatible?

I am, albeit slowly and surely, learning more about those things that interest me. Islam is one of those things...The above photo is of some of the Yemeni Fragments and can be found at this link.

Have a good week!

Blogspot, Telkom, and the Indonesian Government

To be honest I am a little bored of having to use a proxy server as often, if not more often, as being able to directly access my blog through my ISP, Telkom Speedy. As some of my colleagues say, it would be nice to think that this was just a simple case of incompetence and overall bad service! However, there is only so much that one can tolerate before looking for better service, more consistent service, and value for money!

I did not start blogging for any real serious reasons but rather just for fun and to amuse myself! It seems that I have invariably started to amuse, annoy, or offend others into the bargain, which I find amusing in itself that anybody bothers to read the combination of silliness and seriousness that I put into cyber space from this locale. But, thanks though for continuing to stop by and comment.

Now, because I do have a small and dedicated readership (you know who you are), I am going to become a little more serious about the whole thing! I have registered a domain name, therabexperience.com, which is not up and running yet (I only registered like 10 minutes ago)! However, I will continue to post here in blogspot.com while access is available :D

More updates to follow when I have something to update of course!

19 April 2008

Minister of Communication and Information, Fitna, and Circulars

A rather innocuous looking letter from the Minister of Communications and Information regarding the blocking of sites and blogs that host and show the film produced by Geert Wilders, Fitna, is a letter that has serious consequences for those of us that use the Internet as a means of communication.

The letter itself is based on Article 21 of the Telecommunications Law (No. 36 of 1999) which prohibits the broadcasting of material that impacts negatively on relations between religions and harmony (in the public order sense). Article 21 permits the government to suspend telecommunication providers activities if they broadcast, or continue broadcasting, after being informed that certain material is objectionable.

The Telecommunications Law itself does not explicitly state how the government is to do this and whether a Circular is within the scope of the provision. There is probably a sustainable argument that Circulars in the legislation sense are not binding or would require other legislative instruments to give full force and effect to the intent of the Circular. The cynics among us might just view this as appeasement of those clamouring for Fitna to be banned and for Wilders to be punished for his alleged blasphemy.

This letter was not issued based on any of the provisions of the recently passed Information and Electronic Transactions Bill.

It is beyond the scope of this post to debate the merits or lack thereof of Fitna. However, the Minister of Communication and Information has established a precedent of how it intends to respond to objectionable material, and that is to restrict it as far as possible.

Unfortunately, it seems that some Internet providers and network access points have decided to completely block access to certain sites. Some has gone as far as to completely block access to You Tube, My Space, Meta CafĂ©, Rapidshare, and other sites in order to comply with the Minister’s letter. This seems a little extreme as by completely blocking access to a site means that ‘all” the material is prohibited from entering Indonesia and this is clearly not the intent of the original instruction from the Minister.

It seems that businesses have decided that there is less impact on their bottom lines by blocking the whole rather than putting in place a filter that potentially could slow down their system functions and capabilities.

The other consideration is that those with a real interest in the film have already downloaded it and could conceivably host it locally or attach it to a mass email in order to distribute it. The letter and response from a number of telecommunications companies highlights the difficulties that the government and providers will encounter in selective blocking of sites and material.

For subscribers of providers that have blocked access completely to certain sites it is unclear what recourse they might be able to follow in order to restore partial access to material that has no relationship to the banned film.

This may not be enough to stir serious debate on future censorship of the Internet in Indonesia but it is certainly food for thought for those businesses that conduct or rely heavily on the Internet in the performance of their respective businesses.

The letter was issued on 2 April 2008.

As a postscript to this issue.

The government has already backed down with regards to the generalized blocking of sites. However, it would seem that some providers are still trying to work out ways in which to block material. I know from personal experience that Telkom speedy has been tinkering with its services as I am periodically blacked out from blogspot.com. However, the last few days the tinkering has resulted in not much more than overall bad service as Friday and Saturday have seen sporadic connectability!

18 April 2008


My TV viewing habits often reflect the things that are important to me! As it so happens, in my wife, I have found a kindred tattoo spirit...so, we are therefore regular watchers of Miami Ink, LA Ink, and the most recent addition to the Discovery Travel & Living channel, Tattoo Wars.

With the theme being tattoos, I though I might add a couple of pictures of future tattoo projects, which I am going to have to get in before the kid arrives as disposable income is sure to take a dive in terms of the amount available to dedicate to inking my canvas!

Don't worry dear readers, I am not about to rip of the shirt and shorts to photograph my current artwork and photograph them for your undoubted viewing pleasure. Rather as noted earlier variations of the designs above are projects in motion.

Alchemy & Druidic Tradition

I am a reader and a quick scan of my many bookcases will reveal an interesting mix of subject matter. Perhaps some of my readers might be surprised by this one. The subject matter is alchemy and Druidic tradition. Why, you might ask...and that is a good question!

I have always been interested in the esoteric and the exoteric which has led to a collection of books on these matters. As I get older I am gaining an increasing fascination with alternative medicine. Do not get me wrong here, modern medicine has many benefits, but perhaps there are great healing powers contained in nature that we need to rediscover or discover for the first time (too much National Geographic -- I should spend more time in the office and less time watching TV)! However, my interest in this pre-dated the Da Vinci Code!

But back to the post at hand. I suppose my Welsh ancestry is coming to the fore or something and this is an incarnation of that history, who knows (and who cares). Yet, I have resolved to learn more about acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, and other alternative medicinal practices.

I am currently reading about the properties of various herbs, flowers, and trees. Some of this stuff I knew (it was locked away in my mind somewhere), like garlic (galleg) is good for the digestive system and it also wards of evil (this I probably learned from watching too many vampire movies as a kid!), and stuff that I did not know!

The following list contains a few of these (Welsh name in parentheses) and there physical and magical properties.

Lavender (Lafant) -- treats migraine, exhaustion, and nervous disorders -- invokes love, peace, joy, and healing.

Mint (Mintys) -- treats stomach complaints and nausea, antiseptic -- protection and healing (the Druids most sacred herb).

Marjoram (Mintys y creigiau) -- treats coughs and intestinal problems -- Happiness and relieves depression.

Honeysuckle (Gwyddfid) -- treats headaches and coughs -- increases psychic ability.

Daffodil (Gwaew'r brenin) -- reduces swelling (bulb is narcotic) -- increases self-esteem and binds fidelity and love.

White Clover (Meillionen wen) -- increases skin sensitivity -- Empowers projection and increases psychic ability.

Scottish Thistle (Ysgall) -- treats nervous complaints -- protection, vitality, increases libido.

St.-John's-Wort (Y gantwll fawr) -- treats depression, wounds, sprains, and bruises -- wards off evil (predominant healing herb).

Sage (Sage gwyllt) -- treats catarrh and nasal infections -- wisdom and immortality.

The list goes on! Perhaps as I learn more I will bore you to snores with more postings on my alternative medicine journey.

In the meantime keep healthy!

17 April 2008

Faith & Evidence

Been doing a little reading and thought this might be something worth pondering among friends or a broader audience...

The statement of "faith being inversely proportional to evidence" is interesting for its simplicity!

Simply, with more evidence we would need a corresponding reduction in the amount of faith required to support an argument. In contrast, where there is a reliance on faith there is the inference that the position being proferred lacks sufficient evidence.

I pose this faith & evidence question with respect to God and religion. I only do so because I recently read a statement to the effect that "when are human beings going to acknowledge that the presence of God is all around us"...I am not sure what presence needs to be acknowledged here but I am guessing that it refers to the idea that the world in which we live had to be created and that it could not just "be"!

State Sanctioned Killings in the US to Resume

The Supreme Court in a 7 - 2 vote rejected an appeal that the current form of lethal injection used to put death row inmates to death regarding its constitutionality; simply, the method is legal and constitutional.

The appeal hinged on whether the method breached an inherent right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision is interesting as it includes seven separate opinions. This is indicative of a court with sharply divergent opinions and reasoning. This should also translate to more appeals regarding constitutionality. Whether the court accepts the appeals is a different story.

More to follow once I read the decisions.

(the photo of the Supreme Court is from my personal collection)

Married and Divorced at 8 Years Old

It is one thing to be appreciative of cultural differences but forcing 8-year old children into arranged marriages just strikes me as being plain wrong! An 8-year old marrying a bloke who is 30 years old is sad. This is not an issue of difference in age, I have nothing against a 50-year old marrying someone who is 18 years old if this is what they want to do as consulting adults. I do take issue with parents who force their children into arranged marriages at 8 years old!

It would seem that a Judge in Yemen also has a problem with the concept albeit the decision handed down is interesting. In Yemen parents can sign their kids over into an arranged marriage where the child is under 15. However, the marriage cannot be consummated until the child reaches puberty. I am sure that there are probably cases where children reach puberty at 8 years old and they are probably as rare as hen's teeth!

The judge apparently sympathised with the girl and granted her petition for divorce. Her testimony as a child of trying to flee a man intent on having sex with her was undoubtedly harrowing. The man for his part provided testimony to the fact that "she is my wife and I can do whatever I want with her". Although the girl claimed rape in marriage, she was never likely to be successful on this front as Yemeni law apparently does not recognize rape in marriage. The judge got around this by stating that the girl had not reached puberty. It should be noted that Yemeni law does not provide a punishment for those that consummate a marriage before the girl reaches puberty.

The interesting part of the decision is that the judge also ordered that the girl's family pay compensation to the now ex-husband! No reasons were offered but presumably this was for the inconvenience of having to go through the divorce. The child was also removed from the custody of the family!

I am going to have to read more about Yemeni law!

16 April 2008

Sex & Controversy

This post is not going to be all that entertaining for you! Rather it is an update on my ongoing and individual research on what attracts traffic to my site.

So here is a little update on what my statistics are telling me:

The post on the Exploitation and Sexualization of Children, which features a picture of a 13-year old in a swimsuit, has been a really big driver of traffic to my blog (and it continues to be). What can I deduce from this -- ants to honey!

The other post that has done pretty well is the one that includes the homoerotic depiction of the Last Supper. I have some other more offensive pictures on file by the same artist including the one where the Roman soldier is providing Jesus with a good little fondle. Unfortunately, Jesus does not have a lot of say in the matter as he is nailed to the cross!

What have I learned my fellow bloggers...sex sells and it pays to be controversial!

I lie, I did not really learn that but it sounded good!

I already knew that and my stats now confirm this to be the case...

Islam & Democracy

Now what follows is by no means the definitive debate on this subject. However, it was interesting to me for two reasons: one that the debate occurred in Australia and secondly my personal belief that frank and open discussion is the only way we, as a people, can overcome our differences and live in a world where there is peace!

I do not paste this to offend but if anyone drops by and feels the need to comment, then go for it, as I said frank and open discussion!

What follows is cut and pasted in its entirety as it appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald.

IT was a debate over one of the most vexed issues of our times - one that pitted not only ideas and opinions against each other, but entire civilisations.

In front of a packed audience of 1200 passionate souls, a panel of experts on politics and Islam opened the Intelligence2 debate series by ripping into the proposition that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

The security guards and flyer-wielding campaigners at the doors gave some indication of the fraught nature of the subject matter from the outset. And those on stage did not disappoint, taking the discussion from the soaring heights of Islam's philosophical antecedents to the cold, hard reality of suppression under Sharia law.

Having told another Sydney audience earlier this week that Islam would dominate Europe, the director of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes, immediately provided a cutting criticism of the world's second largest religion.

"Islam is undemocratic in spirit," he said. "It takes a lot of learning to have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association. These are things that are learnt over a period of time and it is that which the West has achieved and which Islam is a long way from learning.

"Yes, there are Muslim states which are democratic in form, but true democracy is yet to take root. The great obstacle to this change is the fact that in the Middle East the social system is fundamentally tribal and that obstructs the development of the key requisites of democracy."

The rebuttal from the Pakistan-born director of the University of Western Australia's Centre for Muslim States and Societies, Samina Yasmeen, was a cool cloth to Pipes's fire.

"You will see what you want to see and if you want to identify Islam as incompatible I have no doubt that you will continue seeing that," she said.

"How is it, though, that Muslims in non-Muslim societies are able to get on so well when Islam is incompatible? I would argue that Muslim majority states do show a lot of tolerance, not only of the Muslim community, but also of the non-Muslim community."

Amina Rasul, a human rights activist and director of the Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy, followed the theme. "What the West should not do is criticise states which are not democratic while supporting despots who suppress human rights because it is in their economic benefit," Rasul said.

"There are 800 million Muslims living happily and successfully in democratic nations - why is it that the extremes are always focused on?"

The Herald columnist Paul Sheehan brought the question into stark relief by comparing a trip to Mecca with a trip to Rome.

"When you visit the Vatican, one thing that is for certain is that you will be allowed in," Sheehan said. "When you visit Saudi Arabia the checks at the airport and for those travelling into Mecca are not just for security reasons, they are to prevent non-Muslims from coming in."

Finally the statements were brought back to first principles by Waleed Aly, the young lawyer, writer and spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria.

"My opponents have defined terms such as Islam and Sharia law to suit their arguments and in so doing have ignored the myriad interpretations of these terms."

In the end, the audience had the final call and it delivered a victory to hope - but only just. A poll conducted as the audience entered found 38 per cent for the affirmative, 42 per cent for the negative and the remaining 20 per cent undecided. In the tradition of many a democratic poll, the numbers had tightened by the end of the night - with the proposition going down by a narrow margin of 52 to 48 per cent.

"The response to this debate has been phenomenal and I've been trying to find an explanation for this overwhelming response," said Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics Centre. "For the past decade people have not really engaged with these issues. People have formed hasty judgments and not engaged with the details. They've been more focused on their own concerns in their community and in their backyard. But there has been a change in mood in Australia."

Indeed, it could have been a hostile affair, but there were no howls from the audience. Sheehan referred to threats against Pipes before the event and the need for security to protect him. As it turned out, the guards had little to do.

Not even Michael Darby could get a reaction in the foyer afterwards as he handed out pamphlets on "how you can ensure Australia remains a Christian nation". Darby said: "I may have handed out some to Muslim people but I can't tell who is Muslim. I can say ladies with scarves did not rush me."

The IQ2 debate series is a partnership between the St James Ethics Centre, The Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and the City of Sydney.

Viral Marketing

It is being reported that Indonesia and the US are getting close to a deal on sharing samples of the bird flu virus. This is a good thing presumably because it will allow for vaccines and treatments to be developed and the medicines and vaccines developed will be provided cheaply to developing nations.

This development is also interesting because it was only recently that the Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, claimed that the US was conspiring with the World Health Organization to force developing nations into buying expensive medicines, drugs, and vaccines. Her book, Saatnya Dunia Berubah, Tangan Tuhan di Balik Flu Burung (Time for World Change, The Hand of God Behind Bird Flu), ruffled a few feathers (pun intended)!

The book has been hotly debated in various blogs because not only were the US and WHO conspiring, but the US was also using the bird flu virus to create biological weapons. One for the conspiracy theorists out there!

But with only two Indonesian provinces being free from bird flu, then it is likely that Indonesia stands to gain from this arrangement providing both sides keep their promises and commitments to the other.

Men in Underwear

No, this is not an Indonesian version of the spoof film "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" of 1993 (bugger me, was it that long ago?) but rather a brazen early morning robbery in Tangerang (a satellite city off of Jakarta). Yes, eight fellas in nothing but their Calvin's managed to rip off a Tangerang businessmen of some 500 million Rupiah.

They tied up the maid and then ransacked the house. Photo of one of the suspects is attached above...

My questions is this: How hard would it be to see eight fellas running round in their Calvin's real early in the morning? I have seen some strange things in my adopted home but I gotta say that if I saw these fellas, I might not have thought they were robbers, but I would have noticed for sure as you might see the odd underwear clad jogger but a whole club of undies wearing joggers would be odd!

Perhaps they needed the money to buy some clothes!

Arab Investors and the Jakarta Monorail Project

The activity at the House of Representatives (DPR) over the past week or so in passing legislation may actually pay off in both the figurative and literal senses. The DPR managed to pass a bill on Syariah-based Bonds which sets out the basic regulatory framework for the issue of Syariah Bonds or as they are more commonly known, Sukuk. This it seems has caught the eye of Muslim investors (Dubai and United Arab Emirates) who are keen to make halal investments and this provides an opportunity for that.

The Jakarta Monorail project has been a fiasco from the start. It is scheduled for completion in 2010 but that just is not going to happen! But it might just get finished if investors can be found. However, it is worth noting, as Dilli has done on his blog (picture also stolen / borrowed from Dilli's Blog), that if investors are going to come on board then they need to do so fast as some of the pylons that are supposed to support the monorail have started to mysteriously disappear.

I have to say I am not sure how you make a huge pylon disappear but it is probably a good David Copperfield or David Blaine or Cris Angel illusion!

The monorail was part of the comprehensive Jakarta traffic management plan. But the fact that the monorail has been plagued with problems from the outset brings into question the seriousness of the government and the comprehensiveness of their plan.

Anyone who has tried to travel around town using public transport soon comes to understand why people prefer private cars! If you add into this mix a little bit of rain then it just becomes traffic chaos. Will the monorail alleviate some of this chaos, who knows, but it is up in the air (literally and figuratively) so perhaps it cannot do any more harm!

Yet, the reality is, even with potential Arab investors wanting to come on board, it remains unclear as to whether the Central or Jakartan Governments want to back the monorail financially as the difficulties so far would be indicative of some serious risk management concerns.