31 May 2009

A Report on the Banality of Evil

I am currently reading "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt. I am reading the Penguin Classic version that was originally published in 1963 and the reprint that I have from 2006. I have been wanting to read it for some time, and I finally managed to get a copy from Barnes & Noble when I was in the US in late March.

What first intrigued me about Eichmann was the international law implications of his kidnapping from Argentina and subsequent trial in Israel. The idea that Eichmann was nothing more than a functionary in an evil system is also an interesting way to examine the holocaust; evil perpetrated by ordinary men and women (primarily men).

The reviews of the book are best described as mixed, with some all for the Arendt account and others highly critical of her approach and use of "facts". I guess I will make my own judgment on these issues once I have finished reading the book.

Anyway, I will add a postscript once I have finished. I should also take it of my list of books that I wished I owned seeing that I now own a copy.

Back in the Swing -- Another Schapelle Corby Update...

It has been a week of Schapelle Corby (photo courtesy of Bintoro S. Lukman) news. It is probably important for her and her family to keep her name in the news and regularly ensuring that the news is in your face. This strategy has inherent risks as the saturation could surely backfire in that there is still plenty of people who think she is guilty countering an equally large number that think she is innocent.

Personally, I think that she is guilty. The only conspiracy theory that I have entertained and continue to feel has some legs is that it was probably her half-brother who was the smuggler. I do not believe that the failure to fingerprint would prove anything further than the prosecution making an argument that she was smart enough to wipe down the bag before putting it in the boogie board bag. The idea that it was baggage handlers was just never proved.

Should she have been sentenced to 20 years in prison? That is the Indonesian law. It is high time Australians realized that you are not subject to Australian laws when you travel to foreign locales. Simply, if you get caught with drugs in Indonesia you are going to do time, this is particularly so for commercial quantities. Narcotics trafficking are likely to see you executed.

There was an interesting article in today's Sunday Telegraph making the case that it was time for Corby to be released and sent home. The underlying premise being that she would never have had to do 20 years for the same crime in Australia and that he current medical situation warrants it. The idea being that it is better for her to be sent home before she does harm to herself.

I touched on this idea in an earlier post. My take is that prison is not a holiday farm it is supposed to be tough and you are supposed to suffer from the consequences of losing your liberty and freedom to come and go as you please. This undoubtedly depresses people. In Australian prisons these individuals would generally get the necessary medical treatment. In an Indonesian prison Corby has been given the necessary medicines and been left to her own devices, this unfortunately includes not taking her medicines as prescribed.

If Corby does harm herself I am not sure that this is going to be something that harms the broader Indonesian / Australian relationship. It might cause some tension but whether it would be enough to unsettle relations long-term does not seem likely. There are probably bigger challenges to the Indonesian / Australian relationship in the form of Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (this probably deserves a post of its own -- but is a throw away line for now).

What does the future hold for Corby. The only real legal avenue in Indonesia sans any new evidence is an appeal for clemency from the president. This would require Corby to admit guilt. This is something she has not been prepared to do to date. This is a risky strategy too, as there is no guarantee that an admission of guilt will result in automatic clemency. And, given Indonesia's stance on drugs and drug smuggling it is unlikely that an admission of guilt is likely to sway the president. In any event, in an election cycle such as now and assuming there is no run-off for the presidency, it seems unlikely that any clemency appeal will be entertained until much later in the year.

The only other option on the horizon is a prisoner exchange deal. This deal would allow Australian prisoners sentenced to terms of imprisonment in Indonesia to serve out their time in an Australian prison. Nevertheless, the horizon in this instance is still some way off by the Australian governments admission. Despite news reports to suggest that progress is being made fails to recognize that the deal is far from done.

This is evidenced in a recent statement by the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, that the government would be willing to support a clemency request if Corby was to make one. Reading between the lines here would suggest that waiting for a prisoner exchange deal to be put into place is further away than a possible clemency grant.

The saga continues.

29 May 2009

Feeding Time at the Baiton House!

We went out and bought a high chair so Will could sit with us while we ate at the table. As you can see he has take to it like a fish to water. It is a lot of fun to watch.

A good weekend to all!

What is a Fair Wage for a Journalist in Jakarta?

The following was originally posted on the English language version of hukumonline, here.

The journalist profession is one that is determined by deadlines. However, a deadline must never be construed as an arbitrary number of working hours. The reality is that journalist might put in many more hours than the minimum to get their story to print on time. It is these time sacrifices that the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen / AJI) seeks to recognize in its annual report on the fair wage for journalists in Jakarta.

AJI is of the view that there are many media companies who do not adequately recognize the contributions of their journalists. In an effort to assist those companies in recognizing a fair universal wage for all journalists AJI has done the research on the company’s behalf and established a fair minimum wage.

So, for the past two years AJI has provided a guideline minimum fair wage for Jakarta-based journalists. The announcement of the 2009 minimum fair wage was made amongst considerable fanfare at the AJI Secretariat in Jakarta on Tuesday (26/05). The number, IDR 4.5 million per month, is not surprising considering that the previous year the minimum fair wage according to AJI was IDR 4.1 million per month. The 2009 figure reflects inflationary pressures. In comparison, the minimum monthly wage for Jakarta’s workers, as set by the Regional Government, stands at around IDR 1 million.

The minimum fair wage applies for all journalists that have been employed for at least 12 months and who have been appointed as permanent employees of the company where they work. The wage is based on the cost of living in Jakarta, but this is not the sole consideration. The minimum wage is based on six core components, namely: cost of food, accommodation, clothing, transportation, telecommunications (such as mobile phones) and other relevant tools of the trade (voice recorders and laptops), and insurance. These figures were gained through an AJI conducted survey.

There is little doubt that in a time of high technology that any equipment that gives a journalist an edge in meeting their deadline or beating a rival journalist to the deadline makes good business sense. However, it remains a little unclear why this is a compulsory component of a fair wage and not something that is at the discretion of employers who might not have the budget flexibility for such expenses. AJI’s response to this is that a reasonable laptop is only IDR 5 million and this is not a substantial expense for a media company.

Similarly, AJI states that the company must not only facilitate the telecommunication equipment needs of their journalists, but must also pay for the use of the equipment. A minimum requirement according to AJI is to provide a monthly allowance for calls and internet connections. This presupposes that the company has already provided the journalists with a mobile phone and a laptop computer.

In addition, to the announcement of the minimum fair wage, there was also considerable discussion of how the minimum fair wage was to be adopted. Simply, the minimum fair wage is to be used as a starting point or benchmark for negotiations between employers and journalists. Unfortunately, there was little discussion regarding what action journalists should take where employers are unwilling to come to the wage party.

Nevertheless, the basic idea is that there is strength in numbers. AJI is actively encouraging journalists to form new unions or join existing unions as a means of developing greater power in the negotiation process. This is a simple, and generally effective, take on the “united we stand, divided we fall” philosophy of unionism.

The other reason for the minimum wage level being set at IDR 4.5 million is that this is considered to be a sufficient amount that will deter journalists from accepting cash incentives to write favourable news. It goes without saying that standard practice in Indonesia currently is for those holding a press conference or other press event to provide a financial or other incentive for journalists to attend.

According to Wahyudyatmika, the Chairperson of AJI’s Jakarta Chapter, a fair wage is critical in ensuring that journalists won’t be tempted into manipulating information or write news that is biased in favour of a particular interest.

An issue that has not been openly discussed is that there are likely many media companies that will claim that they are just not financially capable of paying the AJI determined minimum wage. And, if forced to pay the AJI determined minimum wage then there may be no choice but to lay off other staff in order to balance the books.

In order to counter this issue, AJI is calling on media companies to become more transparent and share company financial information with unions so that any negotiations that journalists or their union representatives enter into can be best described as informed.

Furthermore, AJI is also lobbying the Department of Labor and Transmigration to issue a sectoral wage for journalists that sets the minimum fair wage for journalists. If the government is convinced on this front then the minimum fair wage for journalists in Jakarta would be set in legislation. This would then mean that employers would be required to justify to the relevant government authorities why they are unable to pay the minimum fair wage.

It is unlikely that AJI is going to adopt a name and shame campaign against those media companies not paying the minimum fair wage. However, AJI is encouraging media companies that are not paying their employees the minimum fair wage to consider other opportunities for their journalist staff in lieu of salary such as further education.

The debate about what constitutes a minimum fair wage for journalists is far from resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned. However, open and frank discussion can only be to the benefit of all.

28 May 2009

Will Starts Eating Solids...

Maybe I need to change the name of my blog to "The WAB Files" seeing there seems to be a lot of posts about the comings and goings in Will's life.

Will is now six months old and we have started him on solids, rice cereal to be specific. We were expecting that it might take some time for him to get the hang of swallowing solids. However, no troubles on that front as the little fella got straight into the swing of that.

It is an amazing thing to watch babies grow into children and I am expecting it will be equally amazing watching Will grow through his youth and into adulthood.

Photos from earlier this week.

27 May 2009

Schapelle Corby and Depression...

It has been a while since I found time to update on the Schapelle Corby (photo) saga. It is a saga because the media keeps it in the news and people, like me, are still reading about the comings and goings of an Australian languishing in an Indonesian prison.

Corby is coming up to her fourth year in prison. However, it seems pretty clear that prison is taking its toll on her physically and emotionally and mentally. Corby now has a history of depression. She was hospitalized for it last year and has recently been hospitalized again. It is sad in many ways because if she had committed the same crime in Australia she probably would have received a much shorter prison term. Maybe she might not have been jailed at all.

The rumours are that she is struggling and that she is not taking her medication. This only exacerbates the problems she is suffering from. The results are apparently difficulty in sleeping and generally not looking after herself. Apparently, she is also having real difficulty in communicating with others and there is a general inability to answer questions or stay focused for any length of time. It has been reported that she is taking comfort in a doll.

A hospital stay is just what the doctor ordered. However, it is clearly a case that Corby would be better served with a long-term treatment regime in a psychiatric facility where she can be properly monitored and treated. This, though, seems unlikely. Unfortunately, if the authorities do not come to the party and allow Corby to get specialized and proper treatment then this is going to become a vicious circle of periodic hospital treatments for depression.

That said, prison time has never been designed as a holiday. It is tough and as such people handle it in different ways and some people do not handle it well.

On the legal front, Corby has hired a new lawyer. The lawyer, Iskandar Nawing, has been given a mandate of getting Corby out of jail. Nawing has admitted that there is no new evidence in the case so there is no likelihood that the case will be reopened. On this front it would seem that the 16 years that remain, minus any remissions, will be served.

However, Corby has until now rejected all overtures with respect to seeking clemency from the Indonesian president. A clemency request requires Corby to admit guilt. It would be an interesting call to admit guilt at this stage. It seems very unlikely that the president would be receptive to the idea of granting clemency and releasing Corby. Even if one assumes that the incumbent is re-elected it still seems highly unlikely that he would look favourably on a clemency request.

Indonesia has always taken a hard stance on drugs and drug smuggling. To grant Corby clemency after four years of a twenty year sentence just does not seem likely. Nevertheless, the ongoing serious depression she is suffering, the paranoia, and a psychological report that states she is a danger to herself might be a tick in the column for clemency.

When it is all said and done I think there are more ticks in the rejection of clemency column than there are in the clemency column.

A Couple of Photos of Will...

A couple of very recent photos of Will and his mum.

26 May 2009


Something that came into the Inbox about knickers...

Hope this puts a smile on your dial and brightens up your day (or evening).

Little Susie goes home from school one day and tells her mum that the boys keep asking her to do cartwheels because she is so good at them.

Her mum says, "you should just say no because they only want to look at your knickers!"

In reply, Susie says, "I know they do that's why I hide them in my bag!"

22 May 2009

Is Boediono a Neoliberal?

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY as he is affectionately known by the masses has selected the now resigned Central Bank Governor and former Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Boediono, as his running mate for the upcoming presidential elections (photo courtesy of Kompas). There has been mixed reaction to the selection not only from members of the coalition of parties that declared their support for SBY in the period after the general election, but there has been considerable criticism levelled at Boediono from all quarters about his supposed neoliberal attitudes.

The word, neoliberal, is being bandied about like it is some kind of poison chalice that has the potential to sink the SBY march towards a second term. This is fanciful thinking at best considering most polls have SBY running so far ahead of the other candidates that a run-off election is looking unnecessary. In fact some polls have SBY securing more than 70% of the vote if the presidential election was held today.

Even if some of the other parties gain a little bit of traction on this neoliberal point which is a catch word for being pro-capitalism, pro-markets, and anti-little people. It has to be noted that on each of the other two tickets you have men who have made fortunes exploiting the little people and being actively involved in the free markets and the capitalist ideal. Jusuf Kalla is going to get no traction from this.

Megawati and Prabowo are also not going to gain much from running a neoliberal argument. Prabowo is, according to the recently submitted wealth reports, the wealthiest of them all. This is funny in that perverse kind of a way considering that Prabowo's whole campaign has been based on his ability to empathize with the little people, the farmers, the small scale traders, the poor. How does a man with IDR 1.7 trillion in assets and cash empathize with the daily grind that is the life of a sharecropper in the rural areas of Indonesia? When was the last time Prabowo lived from harvest to harvest in a period of sustained drought?

So, what is neoliberalism anyway. You can find an interesting article on it here. Nevertheless, most tend to agree that neoliberalism contains the following key elements: free markets, slashing public expenditure, deregulation, privatization, and replacing the idea of community with individual responsibility.

Now, the case for Boediono being a neoliberal is that he is beholden to the free market and as such a sell-out to foreign interests and must even be considered as a traitor to his own people. Somewhat extreme, but this is Indonesian politics in action, some might argue democracy in action. Boediono has pointed out in response to this criticism that he was chosen by SBY an Indonesian, and if he was beholden to foreign interests then SBY would never have selected him to be VP. This is hardly a convincing or strong argument against being neoliberal.

The better response he has made to these charges are that there is, in any economy, a need to participate in the free market. However, this is to be moderated with effective state intervention to ensure that the interests of the state and in essence the interest of the little people are protected. To this end Boediono oversaw a number of programs that were definitely pro-poor such as the Direct Cash Assistance (Bantuan Langsung Tunai / BLT) program.

However, his critics quickly point out that it has been under Boediono's watch that some 40 State-Owned Enterprises (Badan Usaha Milik Negara / BUMN) have been vetted for privatization. I am not for privatization for privatization's sake, but sometimes a poorly performing state-owned enterprise can benefit from the escape from government bureaucracy. The government can set strict rules to ensure that the assets are not completely lost or that the privatization must take into account particular interests.

In this sense, Boediono is more an economic realist. He realizes that there is some benefit to be enjoyed from the better economic management of government interests and exposure to the free market might provide greater benefits than the oft claimed negatives.

In any event, the claims have seen a heated little battle between Boediono and Kalla emerge to the fore. Kalla claiming that Boediono's neoliberal ways will see the collapse of the Indonesian economy and all Indonesians being destined to become migrant workers in their own country (awesome visualization if you can get your head around it as most Indonesians are familiar with the trauma that most Indonesian migrant workers suffer at the hands of unscrupulous foreign employers). For Boediono, his dig was that a vote for Kalla is a vote for a family firm that is destined to employ all means of state to developing and supporting the family business.

I am always keen for a little bit of to and fro during an election cycle.

The outcome here is that the SBY ticket is likely to offer up a mixed bag on the economy. Specifically, there are likely to be elements of the free market (with the emphasis being on fair trade rather than free trade) and perhaps explicit protections from an over-deregulation or privatization of natural resources, particularly those in the mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors.

Is Boediono a neoliberal?

Not 100% neoliberal.

Sydney Rain...

I do not mind the rain.

I am sure there are plenty of farmers around NSW and the rest of Australia that do not mind a bit of rain either. However, when it rains and rains this can be cause for concern. A big storm front moving down the coast of Eastern Australia is wreaking havoc causing massive damage and flooding.

Why is it that there is never an easy balance?

Nature is a wonderful thing and has amazing destructive force to boot.

Well, it has been raining for three straight days now.

The photo is of Will and I on a trip to Darling Harbour on a day when it was not raining.

21 May 2009

Facebook in Indonesia...

Facebook would seem to be on a bit of a winner in Indonesia. Indonesians consider themselves to be super friendly people and always ready with a smile. This, I would agree, is generally true, Indonesia and Indonesians are friendly.This overt friendliness makes Indonesians really willing to get into the social networking that Facebook offers up to the masses of the world.

When one considers that Indonesia has a population of more than 230 million the potential market is huge even if there is only about a third of the population that are computer literate then, once again, it would seem that Facebook is onto a bit of a winner. According to Facebook, the Indonesian subscriber base increased a whopping 645% in 2008 to a mere 831,000. Plenty of room for expansion there.

Nevertheless, this winner is not going to be without its fun and games. It seems that some Indonesian imams meeting in Indonesia have an axe to grind with social networking sites like Facebook as they are deemed to be conduits of less than moral behaviour.

In fact, if the imams are to be believed then these social networking sites encourage free sex, sex before marriage, and other illicit behaviour. I am guessing the other illicit behaviour includes the posting of compromising or sexually explicit material to contacts made through the site.

The imams have decided that they are going to instruct their followers not to visit social networking sites. This will undoubtedly require the issue of a fatwa prohibiting all Muslims from visiting the sites. The belief is that social networking sites promote flirting and subsequently extra-marital affairs. It should be noted that fatwas are not legally binding and as such can be ignored. Nevertheless, some Muslims rely on religious scholars for direction in the practice of the faith and as such feel compelled to follow the tenets of any and all fatwas issued.

It is probably a fair assessment that some Facebook users use the site in order to "hook up" with others interested in some extra-marital (or perhaps pre-marital) action. However, most of the people that I interact with on Facebook use it for purposes that have no connection to flirting or desire for some supposedly sinful action on the side.

For me, the idea that there is a whole workshop or seminar for imams devoted to social networking and the sins that it might give rise to, indicates to me that these imams really do not have enough to do or their lives are just not full enough with other things. My guess is that any fatwa on Facebook is likely to lead to a large surge in Indonesians signing up to the site to see what all the fuss is about.

The Facebook logo was found here.

20 May 2009

Will Learning to Crawl...

Will has taken a liking to the newspaper and pretty much anything else that has some colour to it. It is proving to be good inspiration to get him on the move.

Kids are truly amazing. I might be biased, but I do not think that I am, when I say that young Will is truly amazing.

It may be a big responsibility, but it is also a privilege, to be intimately involved in bringing a child into this world and raising them to face the future.

Now, that the little fella is on the move me need to make sure that we have everything baby-proofed.

Will at Five Months...

19 May 2009


The tragedy of one successful politician after another is the gradual substitution of narcissism for an interest in the community.

-- Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

With an Indonesian presidential election coming up it is worth contemplating this quote from Bertrand Russell. It goes without saying that for most individuals the drive to become a politician or to become a public servant or enter into any kind of public service requires an intense personal drive and ambition. In many respects this is narcissistic in its very nature; wanting to put yourself front and centre, to expose yourself to scrutiny, to sacrifice your privacy to the public interest. Yet, there are plenty of people who want to do it all over the world.

It is perhaps arguable that Indonesia has not reached this level of tragedy yet as there would seem to be many politicians that are still in it for their personal interests and not the community interest. These personal interests are somewhat different from the narcissim that Russell refers. Simply, many Indonesians still see public service as a politician as a means of enriching one's self rather than enriching the community as a whole.

However, if the recent wealth reports submitted by the presidential and vice-presidential candidates are anything to go by, then SBY, the current president, must be in it for the community interest and not the self-enrichment available, as he remains the poorest of all the candidates for either president or vice-president. However, he still has not lost that narcisstic streak as a recent music album release suggests. So, the tragedy has yet to be fully realized.

The leader of the pack in terms of wealth is an alleged violator of human rights and suspected of ordering the disappearance and murder of activists, perhaps running for public office and giving back to the community is a weak attempt to clear one's conscience and purge one's soul, good luck!

18 May 2009

Revolution vs. Reformasi

I was chatting to someone recently about the pros and cons of revolution and reform (or in the Indonesian context - reformasi). The point of this musing is in fact it is not a regurgitation of the substance of that discussion, but rather to leave this quote:

Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder.

-- George Bernard Shaw

God is Love -- Jesus Supports the Use of Condoms

I fully expect to offend people with the picture that leads off this post. I do not apologize for the message of this piece. Thanks to the Freethinker for illuminating this controversy for me here and here.

Sexually transmitted diseases of all types are slowly but surely decimating our collective future. The idea that abstinence is the answer has proven to be clearly not the case. The need here is to ensure that people are fully educated and therefore able to make informed decisions on their own. If abstinence happens to be that choice, then all well and good. However, if the choice is a different one, then at least those individuals will have at their disposal the knowledge that may just save their lives.

The art work is by Ben Heine, a Belgian, and was in direct response to the statements of the Pope and his fellow clergy members who seem to believe that it says somewhere in the Bible that condom use is strictly prohibited and that the use of condoms actually makes the HIV / AIDS tragedy in places like Africa even worse. The art work was posted on a site called DeviantArt. Unfortunately, DeviantArt in their infinite wisdom deemed the work too offensive or controversial or something because they removed it, and then ultimately banned Heine from the site.

I fully support the right of websites to determine their own content. However, a quick look around the DeviantArt site turns up quite a lot of art that would best be described as pornographic and perhaps even offensive to some, not to me though. So, why single out this piece of art for censorship? Come to think of it, I am not offended by Jesus wearing a condom or the idea that the Christian God is a God of Love and would be cool with a pro-condom message. This is not because it encourages promiscuity but to the contrary because it saves souls from agonizing and pointless deaths.

The right to freely express one's ideas is a core tenet of my philosophy on life. I have not and do not advocate that there are no limits to free speech, in fact quite to the contrary. However, sometimes free speech sometimes offends, and causing offense does not necessarily mean that it has crossed that uncrossable line in the sand where it is no longer protected. My personal opinion is that I can accept some people will be offended by the image, but I do not believe the image crosses the line.

Is it in bad taste? To each their own.

The Indonesian Economy in 2011 -- 8% Growth

The fun and games have begun in terms of promising the world. Jusuf Kalla (photo courtesy of Viva News and showing the current Vice President's plan for balancing the budget) has promised the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) that if he is elected president in the upcoming presidential elections that his government will deliver economic growth of 8% per year starting in 2011.

However, what is more interesting is the probable means that are to be employed in funding this proposed growth. According to Kalla 8% growth can be achieved because his government would be decreasing state spending (read slash already limited public spending) slashing public spending is most likely to impact most heavily on the poor and those less able to absorb any cuts to public spending.

The second part of the plan is a progressive tax system. It is unclear whether the intent here is to broaden the tax base or ramp up the amount of tax paid by higher income earners or simply better collection practices through enhanced enforcement of the current code. Nevertheless, it is unclear how investors or both domestic and foreign origins will feel about bearing a greater tax burden.

The next plank of the 8% growth platform is a decrease in fuel subsidies. Now, this is always a winning policy amongst the masses, not! However, it seems that Kalla believes that the conversion program from kerosene to gas has worked and that any reduction in fuel subsidies is unlikely to draw the negative public reaction that it has in the past. My guess would be that he might need to think again on this one. That is not to say I am not against the idea of a continual reduction in fuel subsidies, but rather going into a presidential election with this as part of one's election platform is risky at best and silly at worst.

The rest of the measures appear to be linked ot administrative and bureaucratic reforms. The idea of reforming the administration and the bureaucracy is a standard policy platform adopted by just about everyone. However, in the more than 10 years of reformasi to date, it is arguable how much the regimes of Habibe, Gus Dur, Megawati, and Yudhoyono have delivered on reform of the administration and bureaucracy platform. Personal experience on this front would suggest very little at the lower levels of the chain.

I guess if you are inclined to believe Kalla and his arguments for 8% growth then you should vote for him and then if enough people are convinced of his claims then you can wait and see until 2011 and see if he delivers.

My guess is though that people will still choose the incumbent president and his new vice-presidential candidate. SBY needs to hope that not everyone who supports him thinks he is a shoe-in and actually get out to vote. Don't you just love a potential upset?

How Rich are the Candidates -- Indonesia's Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates

Wealth reports always make for an interesting read and is the little person's chance for a little bit of voyeurism into the financial lives of the famous (or infamous). The Corruption Eradication Commission or the KPK is set to start verifying the wealth of the prospective candidates for both the presidency and the vice-presidency.

All of the prospective presidential candidates have submitted their reports. Only one vice-presidential candidate has submitted his wealth report. This happens to be, Boediono, the running mate of the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). May be this is indicative of the fact that SBY considers himself to be a shoe-in for the presidential election and so long as he turns up he will be a winner. It also fits the image of a man who likes to appear to be above the fray.

Prabowo and Wiranto have yet to submit their wealth reports (at least this was the case this morning). Both of these reports should make for interesting reading, particularly Prabowo's as he has supposedly generated considerable wealth since his honorable discharge from the military. Wiranto's will also be an interesting read because it will be interesting to see how a general, whose military salary was comparatively small, finds the funds to establish a political party.

What the wealth reports will highlight though is that personal wealth is not necessarily a guarantee of political success, particularly if one's goal is the big chair in the palace.

14 May 2009

Russian Caravan Tea

My current tea of choice is Russian Caravan Tea.

I think it is my current choice because of the smoky flavours of the Lapsang Souchong. However, Russian Caravan Tea is not really Russian but a blend of Oolong, Keemun, and Lapsang Souchong that was transported by camel caravans from China through Russia and to Europe. Apparently, the tea was a favourite of the Russian aristocracy, but that is not why I drink it.

I was never able to find it in Jakarta or more widely in Indonesia. However, no such dramas now that I am back in Australia.

As a matter of fact I am drinking a pot of it now.

12 May 2009

Antasari Azhar and Murder

What follows is a revised comment from this post on another topic where the question of Antasari Azhar (picture courtesy of Viva News) came up.

I have written elsewhere that where there is smoke there is most likely fire. I am going to go out on a limb and state that I am leaning towards there being fire in the Antasari case.

There are many commentators, Indonesian and non-Indonesian, who are suggesting that this is revenge and a frame-up.

In line with the smoke and fire analogy, the suggestion that this is a frame-up indicates a conspiracy of the highest order that could not conceivably be maintained and would unravel at the earliest opportunity. And, the court of public opinion might be split on guilt and the word on the street is not 100% one way or the other, but there are also plenty of people thinking that this is not the frame-up some are claiming it to be.

This is high profile and as such if it is a stitch-up as many claim, then there are so many others that could have been stitched-up other than Antasari.

Simply, there seems no point in bringing down Antasari if he is not involved.

Antasari has been caught out, at least with his pecker out of his pants and in the hands of an "educated" golf caddy who is being portrayed in the media as an excellent handler of sticks, or is that drivers, for the right fee. I cast no aspersions on the girl, I do not know her. Yet, I do not see any more happy endings on this one.

Let's face it, my reading of the news reports to date suggest, the girl is alleged to have panicked and called the police which really got the ball(s) rolling, so to speak. I would love to get a hold of her mobile phones and download the address book, they would certainly seem to be the veritable repository of contacts of the who's who of the Indonesian elite (and maybe the odd compromising photo or two), an electronic black book if you will.

The beauty of Indonesia is that it has a really short memory and the attention span is equally short. This is not something unique to Indonesia, but probably is relevant in this case. There were serious questions raised about the suitability of Antasari prior to his original appointment to the KPK. In fact, there were some interesting allegations raised about his extra-curricular activities. He was never convicted of anything and as such the allegations remain just that, allegations.

Nevertheless, this should be reasonable ammunition for the "I told you so" crowd that will inevitably appear.

However, I am far from convinced Antasari has been set up. The most likely scenario with what is available in the public domain is that Antasari was aware of corruption in a state-owned enterprise, and he probably became aware of this through Nasrudin. However, as horny old men are prone to do, Antasari was to busy getting his post-round workout with the caddy and forgot to move forward on the corruption documents and investigation. Nasrudin threatened to expose Antasari and then the rest you can probably work out for yourself.

Now all that said, I am all for due process and the Police and the Office of the Public Prosecutor still have to make their case in a court of law. If they do and Antasari is found guilty and convicted, so be it. If he is cleared of any involvement then so be it. Antasari can defend himself against the charges, through his legal team.

It is going to be interesting and fun to watch this one unfold.

Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates -- Wealth Reports

The Presidential Election Law, specifically Article 14(1), says that all presidential and vice-presidential candidates must declare their wealth by filling in the necessary form and filing it with the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi / KPK). Once the filing is made the candidate will be issued a receipt acknowledging that the wealth report has in fact been lodged.

The purpose of wealth reports has never really been to verify the wealth noted but rather as a means of ensuring that state officials do not enrich themselves during their period of public service. This is in spite of plenty of people thinking that candidates (and state officials) once they have declared their wealth must be made to justify where that wealth has come from where there is suspicion over where their wealth originates.

This seems to run counter to the idea of their being a presumption of innocence and clearly shifts the burden from the KPK to prove the wealth is ill-gotten to the person reporting their wealth.

The usual claim for unexplained wealth is that it is an inheritance. This is a good explanation because the originator of that wealth is dead and unable to explain where it comes from. Very convenient.

The obligation does not officially kick in for a candidate until they officially declare and register their respective candidacies with the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum / KPU). This registration process opened yesterday (10 May) and runs through until 16 May 2009. The KPK expects that they will start the verification process on 21 May 2009.

Once again, the verification process is to determine that candidates have reported all their current wealth rather than a fishing expedition to find ill-gotten wealth. At least this seems to be how things pan out with wealth reports.

Favourite Movies

One of my all time favourite movies is Chariots of Fire. I have a few favourites, in terms of movies, if one can have more than one favourite? I love the Vangelis soundtrack, I have always found the soundtrack to be inspirational and load it onto all things that play music and it is therefore on my iPod. The movies is a favourite because it is a feel good film but one with a message. Despite the liberties that have been taken with some of the facts, which I could list but won't (no need to bore you with the detail).

Many might argue that there is a Christian message to be had in the film, but I think the message is a much broader one; it is one of principles and commitment to an outcome and perhaps even a criticism of the anti-semitic behaviours of the time.

I admire people who know what their principles are and are able to stick to them no matter what the personal cost. I truly believe in karma and that sticking to your principles will ultimately be rewarded. I know that sticking to my guns (or principles) has cost me in the past and will undoubtedly cost me again in the future. Yet, there are some things that just have to be done.

Life is undoubtedly what we make it, so it rings true that the power comes from within, whether you attribute this to a God or some other power then so be it. However, if it makes you a better person then what can possibly be wrong with that.

The above portrait is of Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman.

Vangelis' soundtrack can be found below:

And of Eric Liddell's 400m race:


11 May 2009

Judging A Book By Its Cover...

I have waited for a long time to put words to blog on this one. There are a number of reasons, but primarily the reason was that I was too busy moving from Indonesia to Australia and then getting sorted out here. However, there now seems to be more time as we have settled in and formed some routines that allows a little more time for blogging.

Britain's Got Talent is really a mixed entertainment deal but there always seems to be a lot of singers trying to be the one that has the talent. I have always said to my Wife that American Idol would be really great if they had this amazing singer that was as ugly as [insert what suits] for the simple reason that it is human nature to judge a book by its cover.

Susan Boyle (artwork can be found here) is a perfect example of this. Ms. Boyle an unemployed 48-year-old church volunteer who might be best described as "frumpy" was a book with a suspect cover but, my lord, the content was amazing, simply amazing. The best part was the cynical laughter when she claimed that she wanted to be a professional singer and as good as Elaine Paige because what happens next proves a point; the content will always be more important than the cover. What goes around comes around!

The video of the clip from Britain's Got Talent has now seen more than 54.6 million views. I must admit that I have viewed it a number of times myself. The video is inspiring in more ways than I want to write about, but above all it is inspirational. It is also a lesson in how not to judge the content by what it is covered in.

It is also a lesson in the making of a star in the modern world. Here is a woman who had spent her lifetime looking after her mother and now her cats who finally gets a chance at singing on a much larger stage and then proceeds to slay them all. The "all" being those who doubt.

I learned my lessons early in life about judging a book by its cover. And, these are lessons that have stayed with me throughout my life to date. Those lessons are in many ways what make up my social conscience and the reason I have spent much of my life helping others.

I really do recommend that everyone have a squiz at this video clip, particularly if you have not been one of the more tan 54 million to already have done so. The video is confronting and will challenge you to think about the stereotypes that permeate much of our existence in this world.

Life is too short to judge books by their covers because if we do we will miss out on some of the most beautiful moments that life has to offer us.

08 May 2009

Eating Your National Animals

Just a short musing on eating your national animals or more specifically those animals that make an appearance on your coat of arms. This musing comes about as a result of a grocery shopping trip during the week.

One of the things that I have noticed since being back is the myriad of products available on supermarket shelves that once were the exclusive domain of specialty shops or health food stores. I am not sure that this is indicative of a more health conscious community or just a community that prefers to get all their shopping done in one spot and at the same time.

Anyway, I have noticed that my local Frankins and Woolworths supermarkets stock a wide range of kangaroo meat products from sausages to steaks. I have eaten kangaroo meat on many previous occasions. However, I was pretty certain that Dyah had not eaten kangaroo before, so I thought why not, and bought some sausages.

We ate them for lunch with some steamed veggies.

They were an excellent meal. The meat was gamey but then you would expect such when eating kangaroo meat. We have this running joke in our house at the moment about what things taste like. Will has some floaty toys that he enjoys munching on during his bath. His personal favourite is the turtle. Long story short, it has always been, and continues to be, amusing to me that when people eat some strange meat that the question is; what does it taste like? If the answer is that it tastes like chicken, then why not just eat chicken?

I have also eaten emu meat (and ostrich meat). This means I have eaten both of the animals on the coat of arms of Australia.

So, my question is this; Is there anything inherently wrong in eating the animals that take pride of place on your national coat of arms?

I could never eat the Indonesian national emblem as the Garuda remains a mythical animal as far as I can tell.

04 May 2009

Indonesian Supreme Court Circular - Drugs

In an interesting move the Indonesian Supreme Court has issued a Circular that directs courts to place drug addicts and users into rehabilitation rather than sending them to prison. The rationale is that the Indonesian prison system is not conducive to the rehabilitation process and will likely result in recidivist behaviour in offenders and this is apparently not the objective of sending someone to prison.

I am all for second chances and rehabilitation.

Essentially, the Circular directs all Chief Judges at the High Court and District Court level to consider placing addicts and users into rehabilitation centres or other acceptable places and into programs such as detoxification (1 month), a primary program (6 months), and a Re-entry Program (6 months).

However, there are strict conditions on the ability for District and High Court judges to place addicts and users into a rehabilitation situation. These conditions include that the addict or user is caught red-handed and their "stash" does not exceed proscribed limits. These limits are:
1. heroin - 0.15 grams;
2. cocaine - 0.15 grams;
3. morphine - 0.15 grams;
4. marijuana - 1 joint or 0.05 grams;
5. ecstasy - 1 tablet;
6. crystal meth - 0.25 grams; and
7. other narcotic drugs in classes I through III and psychotropic drugs in classes I through IV.

It will also require a statement letter evidencing that the individual is in fact using and that the supporting evidence does not indicate that the individual is in fact a dealer or trafficker.

If the addict or user meets these conditions then it is likely that they will now get a slap on the wrist and sent to rehabilitation rather than go to jail.

The Circular is No. 07 of 2009 and is current as of 17 March 2009.

If anyone is interested in a copy of the Circular you could ask hukumonline.

03 May 2009

Interpol, Drug Trafficking Networks, and the Bali Nine

The Bali Nine case has taken an interesting turn. However, this turn, no matter how interesting, is not going to impact on the sentences already handed down on the Bali Nine. The alleged drug trafficking network, which has seen Interpol team up with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate the drug trade in Surabaya as this is the supposed entry point for heroin and other illicit drugs.

This is interesting because the AFP should have known about this considering they claimed to have broken a major drug trafficking ring at the time they gave up the Bali Nine to the Indonesian Police.

The cooperation will obviously include the Indonesian Police and more specifically the narcotics division. It seems though that this is a new development as it is being discussed as a recent discovery.

Strangely enough with the number of local drug busts and the increasing size of these busts it is hardly surprising that there is now a belief that major cartels and international drug organizations operate in an through the Republic of Indonesia. I guess the death penalty is not the deterrent that some claim it to be.

01 May 2009

A Bus Story

Acknowledgments first. Thanks to the Treespotter for the photo and pointing me in the direction of this fine piece of journalism.

Having lived in Jakarta for a long time there is nothing that surprises me, or if it does it is not for long. Hence, the above headline does not surprise me and it is about par for the course for "Lampu Merah" which is all about sensationalism in order to keep up circulation numbers.

The headline in essence says, "Boy sees girl in tank top, masturbates, ejaculates in direction of girl, girl screams." Well, there are a couple of extra words in there but they do not change the basic context of what I have translated here.

I guess this headline tells us two things; there are crazy people all over the world who do the weirdest (and perhaps most disgusting things) and that the Indonesian press is far freer than many people have believed it to be.

I gotta say that over the course of 15 years in Indonesia, and particularly Jakarta, I have seen some pretty strange things happen on buses but this indeed takes the cake. It certainly takes the phrase "a happy ending" to an all new level.

Petrol Prices...

Some of my loyal readers might prefer the term gasoline. However, in my part of the world it is known as petrol.

This is just a short musing on the fluctuating prices of petrol in Sydney. I recall hearing about how the price fluctuated but had paid little attention to it. After all, I was living in Jakarta and not driving so it really did not make that much difference to me. Now that I have returned to Sydney and drive every now and then I tend to notice these things more.

The price over a seven day period fluctuates between 108.9 cents a litre to around 126.9 cents a litre. Now, what is interesting about this is that it does not seem to be based on any movement in crude oil prices, but rather what day of the week it is.

Tuesday is the cheapest day and Friday tends to be the most expensive day. It also helps that on Tuesday I get a discount of 4 cents a litre because I have a Woolworths loyal shopper card.

I wonder why such huge fluctuations that are not based on changes in the crude oil price are acceptable? Surely there must be a breach somewhere of some code...then again, I guess not as the practice continues.