31 May 2008


Did you know that you share your birthday with 9 million other people?

I do not know who has time to sort through the statistics to determine this. I guess there is a computer program that does the calculations. I just thought that this was an interesting little factoid that I could share.

30 May 2008

Factoid -- Diets

For me a diet has always been a case of wanting to "die" with "t". Simply, want to kill yourself on a diet then go drink yourself tea until you pull up stumps and go to the big cricketer's heaven in the sky.

However, I found this interesting little factoid, strangely enough printed on the underside of a cap from a bottle of tea -- how bizarre!

The factoid is this, "about half of all Americans are on a diet on any given day". This got me to thinking, and I will explore further to test my theorem, perhaps this is true for all western or westernized cultures. It is probably true that half of the Australian population or the UK population would also be on a diet on any given day.

However, my real thinking was, would this be true in Indonesia. I wonder if anyone has done any studies on this. I am sure there are studies for things like increasing levels of diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, and respiratory illnesses attributable to such things as change in diet and pollution and the like.

Yet, what relevance would figures like this have in Indonesia anyway when so many of the population live on less that USD 2 per day. The statistics would probably reflect the fact that more than half of the Indonesian population is on a restricted food intake on any given day and this absolutely nothing to do with dieting and body image.

So, if you are a dieter then you should be thanking your lucky stars that you have the luxury to choose to restrict your food intake because there are many that do not have that luxury...

Thus endeth the sermon!

Termites -- Rockers of the Ages

Did you know that termites eat through wood two times faster when they are listening to rock music?
Well, if you did not know this, now you do!

So, next time you are sitting in front of the old laptop hammering away on the keyboard with the rock music turned up loud you should be afraid, very afraid, because you are contributing to your own news story of the person crushed by the falling ceiling!

Therefore, for your own sake do not contribute to the delinquency of those little punk rocker termites!

It is too bad I do not have the photo-shopping skills of my blogging colleague Dilligaf because then I could have dressed these little termites up into some real punk rockers. His site is highly recommended not only for the artwork but for the man's personal and unique take on the happenings in this part of the world.

Indonesia's Rich List

With pending recessions throughout the world and economic hardships facing many people, it is with that in mind that I make this post. The most recent edition of Globe Asia, June 2008, is a Special Edition focusing on Indonesia's 150 richest people.

The net wealth of the 150 richest has risen from USD 46.6 billion to USD 69.3 billion with an average wealth rising from USD 311 million to USD 488 million and the average age of the list has risen from 43 to 44.

The most obscene, yes obscene, mover on the list is the now Coordinating Minister of Peoples' Welfare, one Aburizal Bakrie, who has seen his family's wealth jump from a meagre USD 1.05 billion to a much more staggering figure of USD 9.2 billion. Much of this is the result of growth in the energy sector and the demand for commodities. Yet, it is worth noting that he also has extensive interests in property and telecommunications. Why is this obscene? He is the Coordinating Minister of Peoples' Welfare and his welfare is so much better than everyone else's. I do not begrudge rewards for people who work hard and I am sure that he makes his contributions to charity and the like.

Nevertheless, to see such a huge jump in wealth while the people of Sidoarjo continue to be shuffled about from one place to another and never being paid the compensation that they are due for the catastrophe that is the mud flow, seems to me to be just plain wrong. By most accounts one of the Bakrie family companies is responsible and the Presidential Regulation seems to suggest that the Bakrie family company is to blame and has apportioned blame to them (whether a Presidential Regulation can do this is a different argument for a different post). Yet, it seems that the Bakrie's are having trouble meeting the compensation payment schedules as mandated under the Regulation.

I have to say this is obscene because the man and his family are making their wealth predominantly exploiting Indonesian resources, natural and human, yet despite assurances to the contrary, do not seem to be able to make reparations to those that have suffered in the Bakrie Family's pursuit for cash!

The other notable entry for my mind on this list is Hutomo Mandala Putra, or Tommy Soeharto, at No. 61 with a net worth of USD 253 million. This is not bad for a fella who is allegedly corrupt, who is a convicted felon as a result of his ordering the assassination of a Supreme Court judge hearing one of his cases, and failed rally driver (don't know why the last one is important in terms of wealth but what the hey). If there is anything positive to say about the Soeharto children it is that the rich list clearly highlights they are no longer holders of influence and riches like they once were. However, maybe all the wealth is still stashed away overseas in secret bank accounts -- my guess is that the family will always be comfortably filthy rich!

There will be more to follow on this rich list and what it means as I see it (not that any of you care how I see it -- it's my blog so I can do what I want, right?)

29 May 2008

Megawati and the Little People

The fact that Megawati is still somewhat of a political force in Indonesian is testament to the cult of politics in Indonesia. I was going to work the other day and passed this huge banner promoting Megawati and her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle. What was interesting about this banner was the size of the figure of her father, Soekarno. Soekarno has been dead since 1970 but it seems that even after all of these years Megawati's political legitimacy is intricately tied to that of her father.
Is she a legitimate contender for the 2009 Presidential elections, possibly. What is scary about this is she has had a crack at the Presidency before and it was not a particularly successful tilt and getting Indonesia back on track to prosperity. Nevertheless, in the period since her departure in 2004 she has been a sporadic critic of the current regime. This is likely to change in the lead up to the General and Presidential elections in 2009.

Most recently Megawati has been voicing her criticisms of the 'direct cash assistance' or 'bantuan langsung tunai' being provided to the poor of Indonesia who are most affected by the recent jacking up of fuel prices. Her main criticism is that the government is creating a culture of handouts and poor people willing to do nothing but line up for these handouts.

A valid criticism on face value. However, what it the Megawati plan to alleviate the suffering? The plan seems to be provide prosperity, better education, world peace, security, social justice, and the returning of pride to the peoples of Indonesia. This all sounds great, but where are the policies? How are these great aims costed? Can they be realized?

Hopefully, this election cycle the public will not be lulled into this idea of security through promises that are never realized. The little people need serious help through serious policies that provide proper long-term solutions. Supporters and potential supporters of Megawati must realize that a vote for Megawati is not a vote for Soekarno. She might be her father's daughter but she is certainly not her father!

China, Tibet, and Sharon Stone

The fact that celebrities are always hungry for just that, celebrity, it must not be surprising to see Sharon Stone throw herself into the thick of things in the fight for a Free Tibet. Yet, this might come at some cost, personal and professional, to her. However, one might argue that this is in fact karma.

The 12 May earthquake that struck China was devastating in terms of not only the destruction of infrastructure but in human life! The official death toll is now above 68,000 and is expected to continue to rise.

The Sichuan province where this quake occurred has been beset by aftershocks and the biggest current fear is that dams in the area have become unstable and are likely to burst. The Chinese government is currently evacuating people from in and around the most seriously threatened dams. So far some 160,000 people have been moved and that number could swell to more than 1.3 million in the worst case scenario.

The idea that there is 50,000 Olympic sized swimming pools of water that could be released in a catastrophic dam burst is difficult to visualize in terms of the sheer scope of what that would look like.

With more than 45 million people affected by the quake and some 5 million homeless the idea that this is bad karma coming back to level the score is in bad taste. The idea of what goes around comes around in individual cases may be acceptable but when the bad karma to which you claim affects the lives of so many innocents then there are issues of common human decency to be explored.

I think that Tibet should be free of Chinese rule. I think that Tibet should be independent. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has recently been on the record stating that he only wants greater autonomy to be afforded to the people of Tibet rather than independence. Whether he harbors other desires for an independent Tibet he is not saying so publicly at the moment.

Back to Sharon Stone. A brief interview with her where the comment were made has appeared on You Tube where she is claiming that the destructive earthquake that caused such huge loss of life was just a case of bad karma coming back to haunt China for the way that it has mistreated Tibetans.

The response has been swift. Chinese biggest theatre chain has decided to ban her movies from their theatres. This will severely limit the revenue that her films will take in Asia's biggest film market.

I guess though that bad karma is true as the remarks she made have also come back to haunt her as well. I am all for people expressing their personal opinions and beliefs. I am more than happy for Sharon Stone to express her disgust at the treatment of Tibetans by the Chinese government. I am a lot less sympathetic to comments that justify the extent of the human suffering on karma alone.

This in no way belittles the suffering of the Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese. The idea that bad karma comes back to haunt you might logically be applied in reverse, that is maybe the Tibetans have done something to deserve their bad karma.

Thinking before one speaks is always good advice!

28 May 2008

Map Jack -- Roving Cameras

For any one that is not familiar with Google's Street View technology, then this is likely to scare you even more! Google has a service know as Street View, which is essentially small hatchback cars with a camera attached to the roof that then cruises the streets taking happy snappies of generally unsuspecting people. This strikes me as kind of like unscripted reality television at its worst. Not surprisingly a few civil libertarians and people snapped were a little upset at the invasion of their privacy.

To Google's credit they have developed automatic face-blurring technology that prevents easy identification. However, if the person viewing the picture knows who you are then face blurring technology might not save you any embarrassment.

But back to Map Jack. Map Jack offers a similar service and the template used is the Google Street View template. However, there are several additional navigation features that make it fun and the pictures are of a high resolution.

The service so far has photographed six cities that it has since uploaded to its site. Of the six, four are US cities and there are the Thai cities of Chiang Mai and Pattaya.

Without a doubt there will be some privacy concerns here, particularly as the resolution of the imagery is high. However, if for example you have been snapped on a public street coming out of a "massage" parlour, then the obvious question is has your privacy been invaded and how so, if you feel that it has?

Obama and Clinton - Who Wins?

It is always fun to watch democracy in action and the pundits dissect and deconstruct every little piece of the puzzle. It is also fun to watch when there are a number of possible firsts at stake, including a former President with a shot at becoming First Gentleman.

The race for the White House and who can win is a pollster's dream. Right now in the head-to-head polls it seems that Clinton has the edge on McCain in the General Election and McCain has the edge on Obama. This assumes two things: First, the election is held today and, Second that Obama's number won't improve once the seemingly inevitable happens and Obama gets the Democratic Party nod.

The fun and games will continue for a little while yet as there are still a few more primary contests to be held and a Democratic Rules Committee meeting to determine what is to happen with those currently disenfranchised voters of Florida and Michigan. However, the never shy of the spotlight former President, William Jefferson Clinton, in support of his preferred candidate, who just happens to be his wife, has warned the Democratic party to get with the program and see that Obama just cannot take McCain in the General Election and Hillary can!

So, the slogan is "Hillary Can and Obama Can't!"

The dream ticket that some propose of Obama and Clinton cannot happen, it would never work! This is in spite of my tendencies to never say never! If the Clinton's truly believe Obama cannot take this thing this year then why bother getting onto the ticket? The idea that 2012 is but four years away seems to make better sense. You have the "I told you so" argument about 2008 that you would never have to mention. Maybe any jostling for the VP slot is tacit recognition that maybe, just maybe, Obama can and will pull this thing off and become the first African-American President of the United States of America.

I do not know about anyone else but I will keep watching the drama unfold. It is more exciting than an Indonesian sinetron anyway (personal choice and preference)!

A Camden Update...

The reaction in the press has been swift and this reaction has reached not only Indonesia but much further afield to the like of the United Kingdom from whence us convicts originated from many a generation ago!

As I posted earlier, it seems that there are others that are also of the belief that the ability of the Camden Council to reject the proposal based on traffic concerns seemed all too convenient and a little too political.

Since the decision last night a huge wooden crucifix has been erected on the site and a passage from the Bible affixed to it that reads:

"David and Goliath. The battle is won. This is the King of Kings Land. Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. (Eph 6:18)."

Let me play Devil's Advocate here for a bit and raise a few questions.

Some of the interviews with local residents reflected that the happiness that they felt with the rejection of the development proposal had nothing to do with planning issues but an intense desire not to have Muslims in the community because they would build Mosques, ghetto-ize Camden, and make Camden a hot bed of fundamentalist Islamic activity.

1. Is Australia truly a multicultural nation or is that just lip service to an ideal?

2. Isn't it true that racism is alive and well in Australian small towns with limited numbers of migrants?

3. Would this planning / development proposal been rejected if the school was to be an Anglican, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish school?

4. Isn't it true that schools have always been built in rural areas and usually on farm land converted for that purpose?

There are probably a thousand other questions I could ask but these four will suffice for now.

I am certain that the Quranic Society will appeal this decision to the Land and Environment Court and I think they have a good chance of winning. It seems the objections on which the Council based its decision play more to political expediency than good development sense.

There is also a history in the sense that the last time a similar case came before the Court where a development application was rejected by the Baulkham Hills Council for an Islamic Prayer Hall for reasons that it did not fit the community profile, the Council decision was overturned by the Court. The prayer hall has been built!

For Australia to really move forward and become a leader in community relations we have to escape this culture of fear and religious intolerance.

27 May 2008

You're Probably A Redneck If ...

Thanks to Jeff Foxworthy and this page! Some of these are classic stereotypes and they are not posted here to offend but follow on from my last post on being labeled a redneck!

1. More than one living relative is named after a southern civil war general.

2. Your front porch collapses and more than six dogs are killed.

3. You ever used lard in bed.

4. Your home has more miles on it than your car.

5. You think that potted meat on a saltine is an hors d'oeurve.

6. There is a stuffed possum anywhere in your house.

7. You consider a six-pack and a bug-zapper high-quality entertainment.

8. Fewer than half of your cars run.

9. Your mother doesn't remove the Marlboro from her lips before telling the State Trooper to kiss her ass.

10. The primary color of your car is "bondo."

11. You honestly think that women are turned on by animal noises and seductive tongue gestures.

12. You stand under the mistletoe at christmas and wait for Granny and cousin Sue-Ellen to walk by.

13. Your family tree doesn't fork.

14. Your hairdo has ever been ruined by a ceiling fan.

15. Your mother has been involved in a fistfight at a high school sports event.

16. You've ever barbecued Spam on the grill.

17. The best way to keep things cold is to leave'em in the shade.

18. The neighbors started a petition over your Christmas lights.

19. Your brother-in-law is your uncle.

20. You have refused to watch the Academy Awards since "Smokey and the Bandit" was snubbed for best picture.

21. Your only condiment on the dining room table is the economy size bottle of ketchup.

22. The rear tires on your car are at least twice as wide as the front ones.

23. You consider "Outdoor Life" deep reading.

24. You prominently display a gift you bought at Graceland.

25. You use the term 'over yonder' more than once a month.

26. The diploma hanging in your den contains the words "Trucking Institute."

27. Your mother keeps a spit cup on the ironing board.

28. You've ever worn a tube top to a wedding.

29. Your favorite Christmas present was a painting on black velvet.

30. You think that Dom Perignon is a mafia leader.

31. The most commonly heard phrase at your family reunion is "What the hell are you looking at, Shithead?"

32. You think that beef jerky and Moon Pies are two of the major food groups.

33. You think that Campho-Phenique is a miracle drug.

34. The first words out of your mouth every time you see friends are "Howdy!" "HEY!" or "How Y'all Doin?" (If they respond with the same... they're a redneck too!)

35. You have more than two brothers named Bubba or Junior.

36. Your father encourages you to quit school because Larry has an opening on the lube rack.

37. You think a Volvo is part of a woman's anatomy.

38. You think that the styrofoam cooler is the greatest invention of all time.

39. You've been too drunk to fish.

40. You had to remove a toothpick for wedding pictures.

41. You've ever used a weedeater indoors.

42. You have a rag for a gas cap (on a car that does run.)

43. You look upon a family reunion as a chance to meet 'Ms. Right.'

44. You have to go outside to get something out of the fridge.

45. Your richest relative invites you over to his new home to help him remove the wheels and skirt.

46. You've ever financed a tattoo.

47. Your idea of a 7 course meal is a bucket of KFC and a sixpack.

48. You go to a tupperware party for a haircut.

49. You have spray painted your girlfriend's name on an overpass.

50. Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand.

51. Someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

52. Your Junior/Senior Prom had a daycare.

53. The directions to your house include "turn off the paved road."

54. Your dog and your wallet are both on chains.

55. Your kids are going hungry tonight because you just had to have those Yosemite Sam mudflaps.

56. You owe the taxidermist more than your annual income.

57. You have lost at least one tooth opening a beer bottle.

58. Jack Daniels makes your list of "most admired people".

59. You won't stop at a rest area if you have an empty beer can in the car.

60. Your dog can't watch you eat without gagging.

61. You have a Hefty bag on the passenger side window of your car.

62. You have a very special baseball cap just for formal occassions.

63. You have to scratch your sister's name out of the message "for a good time call..." because you feel guilty about putting it there.

64. Redman sends you a Christmas card.

65. You bought a VCR so you could tape wrestling while you are at work.

66. Your dad walks you to school because you are both in the same grade.

67. Your wife has a beer belly and you find it attractive.

68. Your house doesn't have curtains, but your truck does.

69. You have started a petition to change the National Anthem to "Georgia on My Mind."

70. You call your boss "Buddy" on a regular basis.

71. You consider your license plate personalized because your dad made it in prison.

72. You have been fired from a construction job because of your appearance.

73. You need one more hole punched in your card to get a freebie at the House of Tattoos.

74. You need an estimate from your barber before you get a haircut.

75. After making love you ask your date to roll down the window.

76. The biggest fashion risk you take is which plaid you'll wear to the 4-H Fair.

77. You have flowers planted in a bathroom appliance in your front yard.

78. Someone in your family says "Cum'n heer an' lookit this afore I flush it."

79. Your wife weighs more then your refrigerator.

80. You mow your lawn and find a car.

81. If going to the bathroom in the middle of the night involves putting on shoes (if you have them) a jacket and grabbing a flashlight.

82. You go christmas shopping for your mom, sister, and girlfriend, and you only need to buy one gift.

83. You are still holding on to Confederate money because you think the South will rise again.

84. You consider pork and beans to be a gourmet food.

85. You have to go down to the creek to take a bath.

86. You participate in the "who can spit tobacco the farthest contest."

87. You roll you hair with soup cans and wash it once a year.

88. You consider a three piece suit to be a pair of overalls, a plaid flannel shirt and thermal underwear.

89. There is a sheet hanging in your closet and a gun rack hanging in your truck.

90. You think the Mountain Men in deliverance were just "Misunderstood."

91. You've ever made change in the offering plate.

92. If the fifth grade is referred to as "your senior year."

93. You consider a good tan to be the back of of your neck and the left arm below the shirt sleeve.

94. You own at least 20 baseball hats.

95. You know of at least six different ways to bend the bill of a baseball hat.

96. You can change the oil in your truck without ducking your head.

97. When you run out of gas you put gin in the gas tank.

98. Your biggest ambition in live is to "git thet big'ole coon. The one what hangs 'round over yonder, back'ah bubba's barn..."

99. Three quarters of the clothes you own have LOGOS on them.

100. When you leave your house you are followed by federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobbaco and Firearms, and the only thing you worry about is if you can loose them or not.

101. You have 5 cars that are immobile and house that is.

102. You gene pool doesn't have a "deep end."

103. "Honey? Are the lights out? Is the door locked? Is the parking brake set?" is what you hear right before you and your wife/girl make love.

104. Your 'huntin dawg' cost more than the truck you drive him around in.

105. You'd rather catch bass than get some (if you can't guess...)

106. You have a Hefty bag for a Car/Truck convertable top.

107. Your belt buckle weighs more than three pounds.

108. You think that safe sex is a padded headboard on the waterbed.

109. You have an Elvis Jello mold.

110. You own more cowboy boots than sneakers.

111. You've been to a funeral and there were more pick-ups than cars.

112. You have a picture of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, or Elvis over your fireplace.

113. You just bought an 8-track player to put in your car.

114. There are four or more cars up on blocks in the front yard.

115. The theme song at your high school prom was 'Friends in Low Places.'

116. It's easier to spray weed killer on your lawn than mow it.

117. You think that John Deere Green, Ford Blue, and Primer Gray are the three of the primary colors.

118. You've ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister's honor.

119. You idea of talking during sex is "Ain't no cars coming, baby!"

120. Your vehicle has a two-tone paint job--primer red and primer gray.

121. The tobacco chewers in your family aren't just men.

122. Yer mom calls ya over t'help 'cause she has a flat tire...on her house!

123. The ASPCA raids yer kitchen.

124. Ya have to check in the bottom yer shoe for change so ya can get grandma a new plug of tobacco.

125. Foreplay consists of slipping off her saddle.

126. Ya can't get married to yer sweetheart cause there is a law against it.

127. Ya celebrate groundhog day (cause ya believe in it!)

128. You've been on TV more than 5 times describing the sound of a tornado.

129. You fish in your above-ground pool, especially if you catch something!

130. When a sign that says "Say No To Crack!" reminds you to pull up your jeans.

131. Helping your cousin, Billy-Bob, move into his new place consists of the wheels off his doublewide.

132. Your beer can collection is considered a tourist attraction in your home town.

133. You know you're a redneck if you wake up with both a black eye and a hickey.

134. Getting a package from your post office requires a full tank of gas in the truck.

135. "Buck Naked Line Dancing" isn't a videotape, it's "Ladies Night" at the local bar.

136. Your wife wants to stop at the gas station to see if they've got the new Darrell Waltrip Budweiser wall clock.

137. You dated your daddy's current wife in high school.

138. You're moved to tears everytime you hear Dolly Parton singing "I Will Always Love You."

139. Dolly Parton reminds you of the 'Grand Tetons'. (of course this is a very sophisticated sophisticated redneck joke... if you laughed... you must be a redneck, only they will get this one.)

140. You grow Vidalia onions rather than considering them a gourmet item.

141. Your Momma would rather go the racetrack than the Kennedy Center.

142. The most serious loss from the earthquake was your Conway Twitty record collection (you insurance man is one too if he pays you for it.)

143. You actually made a pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight with Alan Jackson.

144. You have spent more on your pickup truck than on your education.

145. You've ever hit a deer with your car... on purpose!

146. You can tell your age by the number of rings in the bathtub.

147. Your mom gives you tips on how to sneak booze into sporting events.

148. You've ever parked a Camaro in a tree.

149. Exxon and Conoco have offered you royalties for your hair.

150. Your dad is also your favorite uncle.

151. The blue book value of your truck goes up and down depending on how much gas it has in it.

152. Your classes at school were cancelled because the path to the restroom was flooded.

153. On your job application under "SEX" you put "As often as possible."

154. During your senior year you and your mother had homeroom together.

155. You're a lite beer drinker because you start drinking as soon as it gets light.

156. On your first date you had to ask your Dad to borrow the keys to the tractor.

157. Your parakeet knows the phrase "Open up, Police!"

158. You saved lots of money on your honeymoon by going deerhunting.

159. In tough situations you ask yourself, "What would Curly do?"

160. Taking your wife on a cruise means circling the Dairy Queen.

161. You think the last words to the Star Spangled Banner are "Gentlemen, start your engines." or "Play Ball..."

162. Your child's first words are "Attention K-Mart shoppers!"

163. Your wife's best pair of shoes are steel-toed Red Wings.

164. You have a color coordinating rope that ties down your car hood.

165. You bring your dog to work with you.



Redneck Hillbilly and Smart Arse White Imperialist

It seems that my comments on another site, IndonesiaMatters, have generated a couple of new claims to fame. I am now a redneck hillbilly and a smart arse white imperialist. Those of you who know me personally might be grinning right about now, those of you that are frequent readers of my ramblings and personal musing here might be thinking WTF! Some people like IndonesiaMatters and others do not. My good friend Tree is one who is not a big fan!

For me it is always a good read because it highlights the best and worst of our human existence, it is controversial, it is confrontational, and as a result never really dull. It is also probably the only place I can go on the Internet and be called a redneck or an imperialist.

I guess my passive resistance philosophy doesn't cut the mustard with everyone.

Just in case you are wondering I am not offended at being a redneck or an imperialist. It is kind of amusing in that perversely funny sad kind of a way. I have been labeled this way because I commented on another commentator's assertion that Chinese Indonesians have superior DNA to their Javanese counterparts and made a comment that Hitler also though his DNA and that of the Aryan Nation was far superior to that of the Jews. This was then interpreted to mean that I had labeled all Chinese Indonesians as little Hitlers in waiting, just not true!

However, it is what it is! The idea of superior DNA in one race is indicative of racism and degenerates into racial hatred, the idea was wrong then and the idea is wrong now! My whole life has been fighting for the underdog, fighting against injustice, and fighting for what I believe to be right. So, to stand accused of being a redneck and a white imperialist strangely enough put a smile on this man's dial!

What is even more interesting is that having an opinion and commenting on the May 1998 riots in Indonesia made me into a smart arse white imperialist! Bizarre...

As Uncle Ned always used to say (and until his dying breath)...Such is Life!

Now it is time to get on with life now that I have enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame as a redneck hillbilly and smart arse white imperialist.

Multi-Cultural Australia?

It is being reported that the Camden Council has rejected a development proposal submitted by the Qu'uranic Society (the spelling is how it is the story -- but I would have thought Quranic or Qur'anic -- that's just me though) to build a 1200-student Islamic School on land it bought in the Camden area. Camden is located south-west of Sydney.

The Mayor, Chris Patterson, issued a statement immediately after the vote was taken saying that the decision was one based solely on issues of traffic management and the loss of agricultural land but most definitely not on religious grounds. Although I have not read the planning reports, and the planning reports recommended that the Council reject the proposal, it does sound all a little convenient.

The Council received some 3000 submissions on the proposal and only 50 were for the development. So, even if the planning recommendation was to permit the development the Council would have been between a rock and a hard place with almost 3000 residents rejecting the proposal. Some suggest that the community was divided over the application. However, the breakdown above would suggest that any suggestion of community division is a bit of a furphy. If the community was truly divided on the proposal then those community members that were for the development did not make their support all that well known.

The interest in the vote saw some 200 Camden residents attend the meeting and apparently a loud cheer erupted when the Council confirmed that it had rejected the proposal. Community feeling was definitely not running with the Qu'uranic Society on this school development.

Anti-proposal rallies attracted up to a 1000 people! This culminated in some one deciding to impale a couple of pig's heads on spikes and string an Australian flag up between the heads. This to me sounds very un-Australian for a land that prides itself on tolerance and acceptance of difference. The spiking of the pig heads also does not seem to have any relevance with the land and traffic issues identified by other stake holders, the intent was to offend and to stake claim to the land as Australian land.

The Qu'uranic Society can appeal the decision to the Land and Environment Court. However, this would require the court to not only overturn the decision but to go against the reports submitted by the Department of Primary Industries, the Roads and Traffic Authority, and the NSW Police who all rejected the proposed development.

A more likely scenario after spending AUD 1.5 million on acquiring the land and a further AUD 250,000 on the proposal is that the Qu'uranic Society will sell up and seek land in a more favourable Council area where there are unlikely to be primary industry or traffic concerns.

I wonder home multi-cultural is Australia really? Is this just an isolated incident or is it endemic of a much wider-spread of fear and loathing to that which we might not understand or that we fear?

The residents of Camden have spoken!

100 Years of Oil

The beauty of the Internet is that I learn a little something every day in my travels through cyber space. One of the things I learned was that yesterday, 26 May 2008, was the 100th anniversary of the discovery of oil in the former Persia or modern day Iran.

So, it is fair to say that it was a discovery that changed world history and made lots of people very rich!

Who would have thought that such a discovery would lead to wars, violence, green house gases, the destruction of the environment, and myriad of other problems. But then again who would have thought at the time that oil would allow societies to ramp up their industrialization and become powerhouses of manufacturing and technology. Perhaps it is true there is always an argument for good and evil, the light and the dark; Alfred Nobel knew this better than most and we have an annual peace prize along with other Nobel Prizes on offer as testament to the evil inherent in all good when abused.

Rather than continue this rant into uncharted territories of my brain, the point really was to highlight that the 100th anniversary of the discovery of oil has just passed. Now, is a good a time as any for some reflection on from where we have come and to where we are heading.

The key players in this discovery over time have been William D'Arcy, Winston Churchill, Burmah Oil Company, Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, British Petroleum or BP, among others.

Race Politics -- Personal Musings

I have been having one of those mornings where I have not been able to sleep. In order to avoid doing work, I surf the Internet. I have been reading a little about race politics, playing the race card, and whether the US is a post-race nation. This got me thinking, probably no surprise to those that know me best, about how this debate would play out in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Constitution of 1945 would seem to support an argument that any Indonesian citizen born in this country, Indonesia, has a right to become its president. The Indonesian term is "orang asli" which loosely would translation to original person, and herein lies the problem. Does the term refer exclusively to indigenous Indonesians or does it also include the important and vibrant communities that trace their respective ancestries through to China, India, and the lands of the Middle East? Even more interestingly is does it include Indonesians who trace their ancestries to European roots who were born and raised in Indonesia from birth?

There has traditionally been a feeling that the highest office in the land was only opened to pribumi or indigenous Indonesians. My problem with this is that Indonesia is a socio-political construct and as such who is indigenous in this sense? Some have even gone as far as to say that one must be Javanese to gain the highest office. Unfortunately, for those that believe this, Soeharto chose one B.J. Habibie to be his Vice President. When Soeharto stepped down and Habibie became President these arguments were no longer valid. Habibie was was not Javanese.

The point of posting is not to write a 50-page tome on the merits or lack thereof of race-based politics. I can publish that research in a journal if it is good enough! Rather my intent here is in light of recent violence between religious followers and between ethnicities within Indonesia, perhaps an evaluation of race relations and politics is warranted.

I feel that Indonesia must sooner or later stand up and stare down those who flame the tensions simmering within Indonesian communities. This stand has to be one for tolerance, acceptance, and unity.

Many will argue that Indonesia is about being diverse but unified (or as some claim fragmented but one) yet this is hardly played out in real life. There must be a time where Indonesians identify not as pribumi and non-pribumi, or as Arab Indonesians, or Indian Indonesians, or Chinese Indonesians, but rather as "Indonesians". Maybe there is a need to return to a more literal understanding of the ideology of Pancasila (Five Principles).

After more than 60 years of independence Indonesia is still squabbling about race, about religion, and about tolerance! The founding fathers and mothers of this nation are undoubtedly rolling in their graves!

University of Indonesia and Jessup 2008

The University of Indonesia (UI) and their participation in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition for 2008 was a revelation in a number of truly positive ways. I have been on the record before saying that I did not think that this was the best team that UI had produced. I had even said I would be surprised if they would do as well as some other UI teams of the past.

The Jessup competition is the most prestigious law moot competition in the world. To do well in the competition takes an incredible amount of drive and determination mixed with a will to win and desire to be the best that you can be in international law and legal practice.

I am glad to say I must not only eat a little humble pie but must gobble down quite a lot of it!

The team won the National Rounds back in February 2008 and thereby earned the right to represent Indonesian in the International Round in April 2008 in Washington DC. The National Rounds were particularly close this year and looking forward this means that future representatives from Indonesia can expect to do well at the international round.

Indonesia was coming off a year, 2007, where it had not done so well in terms of team performance but had managed to claim the best oralist in the world trophy through the efforts of Hanna Azkiya. This year my hopes were even less and fortunately were proved to be unfounded.

The UI team had two oralists in the top 30 of the world this year; Rivana Mezaya at No. 3 and Edwina Utamidewi at No. 31. Both excellent achievements. This was an achievement in and of itself, but even more impressive than this was the fact that UI emerged from the preliminary rounds as the 3rd best team in the world.

Unfortunately, the UI team was knocked out in the Octo-final round by the University of Auckland out of New Zealand. However, this is still an excellent result and something very positive to build on into the future. It is only a matter of time now before UI raises the Cup in victory as the Overall Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition Champions -- maybe 2009 is that year!

26 May 2008

Cannabis Tokyo Customs

Here is one for the WTF file or more politely know as the 'are you kidding me' file!

It appears over this past weekend that a training exercise for sniffer dogs at Tokyo's Narita Airport has gone a little bit wrong. Customs in their infinite wisdom slipped a bag of the wacky weed into an unsuspecting air travellers bag on that persons arrival from Hong Kong.

The idea is that the sniffer dogs would be deployed and they would find the dope, a shocked but relieved passenger would then have the whole exercise explained to them, and then all and sundry would go on their respective merry little ways.

Unfortunately, for customs and the sniffer dogs the bag was lost. So, somewhere in Tokyo there is a very confused, and perhaps happy, traveller who has opened their luggage to find themselves a bag of green. Let's hope it is a traveller that knows what to do with it! And that would obviously be to return it to a concerned Tokyo Customs office at Narita Airport.

Travel Warnings for Indonesia -- Dangerously Beautiful

I found this sticker floating around the office. So, I am guessing that they are being handed out somewhere. Or perhaps as is the more usual way in Jakarta, they are being stuck directly on cars or buses! I borrowed it and have scanned it to share!

Anyway, in light of the recent decision by the US to lift its travel warning to Indonesia I thought this sticker exhibited an excellent sense of humor in taking the mickey out of travel warnings in general. I must admit that I have not read the US travel warning / advisory so I am not 100% certain it is Indonesia wide and there might still be some exceptions.

So, this is my contribution to the travel warning issue.

Superheroes Past Their Prime

I guess small things amuse small minds. Nevertheless, I found these cartoons to be very humorous indeed. Everyone grows old and I guess superheroes are no different to the rest of us!

I believe these cartoons are from the mind of Donald Soffritti. I stumbled across his blog in my travels and the cartoons are great. I cannot read it all because it is in Italian and I do not speak or read any Italian yet (I plan to learn)...

Funny Cartoon

Keeping with the cartoon theme. My blogging colleague Rima has this uncanny ability to find really funny crap and then post it to her blog. I should probably not be such a lazy bastard and surf the Internet and find funny crap of my own but hey Rima does such a good job at finding it in the first place so I figure why not just steal it from her and re-post it in my own blog with credit?

I have always thought that this particular line should be in the pick-up artists Hall of Fame! What is more classic than a line that involves a shadowy organization and a place to park your member until such time as the said shadowy organization disappears. The line is universal in that you simply insert the name of your local shadowy organization and you have a line for the ages!

Childhood Memories

There are so many of them but the beauty of the Internet is that, every now and then, it allows you the opportunity to go back and visit one and enjoy it immensely. When I was a kid I was a big fan of Kimba the White Lion. I am still a fan and one day I hope to make my kids fans! Some might say it was just a cartoon but alas it was much more, it was visionary!

The story follows the life and times of Kimba, an orphaned white lion, and describes how animals and people can work together. It is sort of a pre-cursor to the environmental movement that followed. And it must be noted that there are plenty of allegations that Disney' Lion King is a pretty direct rip off of the Kimba story. So, perhaps there is an argument to be made for Kimba being timeless! Or is it just a case of the "Circle of Life"?

I do not intend to use this post as a defence of my cartoon or Japanese manga watching habits nor do I want to use it as a pitch to sell someone else's DVDs. I do however want to introduce people to something that is fun and something that I still even enjoy to this day in spite of being a 38 year old man!

I have embedded some You Tube clips below for your viewing pleasure!

25 May 2008

The Indonesian Supreme Court

The spat between the Indonesian Supreme Court and the State Audit Board headed up by Dr. Anwar Nasution has been an up and down ding dong battle with the Supreme Court seemingly coming out on top for now. The problem revolves around how the Supreme Court is to report the revenue it generates from court fees. This revenue is categorized as non-tax State revenue and in theory does not have to be reported in the same manner as tax revenue. However, it seems unconscionable that this revenue is not to be reported or accounted for at all!

The reality is that the Supreme Court is balking at an audit because it knows that it cannot account for all of the revenue collected. For most statements to the effect that all of the money has been legitimately spent on administrative matters like case management and photocopying rings a little hollow if this has not been properly receipted. If other tax payers are held to account and required to document their claims, then it is reasonable that State institutions be held to the same standard.

Indonesian Corruption Watch (I can link you to their site but it has been hacked by the Free Kosovar Movement and after more than a month the site still has not been repaired) is reporting that the Supreme Court has collected somewhere in the vicinity of IDR 31 billion and to suggest all this money has been utilized only for photocopying and filing purposes and some court administration procedures beggars belief. The Supreme Court should and must be able to do better than that. It is worth noting that the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice (photo above) are on record as to having agreed to be audited once the government passes legislation to that effect. This agreement is one that goes forward and therefore meanings any indiscrepancies or past abuses will be immune from the audit process.

In an era of legal reform both in the laws themselves and the institutions involved, the Supreme Court's approach is not one that rings true of this spirit of honesty, transparency, and equality of justice. For this reason alone it is no wonder that people remain skeptical of the Court's commitment to true reform!

Protesting in Jakarta

I read with interest that the "opinion" piece in the Jakarta Post today was about responsible protesting and the fact that protesters no longer seemed to care about the people that their protesting would affect. This now seems to be standard fodder for many editorialists and opinion writers. It is a line that has been trotted out before and one I have commented on elsewhere in my blog. It is also something that has been trotted out by Globe Media in their flag bearing publication "Globe Asia".

The gist of the argument is that street demonstrations and protests cause traffic jams, traffic jams make people late for work and negatively impacts on business, these negative impacts cost money, and money lost means investors are likely to rethink whether or not to invest in Indonesia. Yeah, right! Pull the other chain in plays Dixie!

The whole point of protesting is to exercise a democratic right to do so and to hold your government accountable. Can it be inconvenient, yes. Should it be inconvenient, yes! The reality is that the only time some of us might ever think about an issue is if it directly impacts upon us. Being caught in a traffic jam and being late impacts upon us. But instead of being angry at the protesters, perhaps this anger should be directed towards the government that allowed conditions to get to a point where people felt that their only recourse was to demonstrate and protest.

So, the protesters threw some Molotov cocktails. This is hardly a reason to ban protests altogether! It is an excuse though to stifle the democratic rights of the masses. Those that break the law by perpetrating violence threw such methods as the destruction of property must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent permissible under the law. Peaceful demonstrations no matter how inconvenient must be permitted. These demonstrations and protests are legitimate means of expression and calling the government to account.

The Jakarta Post singles out the recent actions relating to the proposed and now happened fuel price hike. The protesters have legitimate concerns here as to their ability to live without additional government assistance and the proportional impact of the price rise on the poor compared to the more affluent.

I have not seen the Jakarta Post jumping up and down about the inconvenience caused by protests staged by the PKS in support of Palestine! This is also a worthy cause, but if we are going to characterize the argument into one of convenience, then any protest in support of any aim that results in a traffic jam should be frowned upon. Once again this clearly misses the point of protesting and taking your demands to the street.

The Jakarta Post's solution to this problem is to restrict protests and demonstrations to public parks such as in and around Monas. Why not go the whole nine yards and allocated special days for protests to be held in the out-of-the-way surrounds of the Ragunan Zoo. The Jakarta Post then goes even further with this gem:

"It is high time for Indonesians to avoid such past practices for changing the state leadership to the more modern, constitutional means: the five-yearly democratic election."

This I am guessing is a suggestion that protests and demonstrations should be banned altogether and the only permissible protest by the community must come at the ballot box and only every five years. Maybe the Jakarta Post should be telling Zimbabweans that the best way forward is not street protests but accepting your fate and then voting the office holders out at the next election.

If the Jakarta Post is not in the mood to go that far, why not editorialize something much closer to home such as the inept generals of the Burmese regime, who in their citizens' moment of most critical need they are ummmming and ahhhing about whether or not to let foreign aid workers in. Maybe street protests, although sometimes violent and violently suppressed by authorities are the best way to bring attention to one's plight.

The right to protest is a democratic right and this must not be curtailed for reasons of convenience. Maybe if we all paid a little more attention and demanded a lot more of our elected governments then protests would occur a whole lot less frequently! The photograph is courtesy of the Jakarta Post and photographer Ricky Yudhistira.