27 February 2011

The Answer to Teenage Sex: More Mosques...

Sexually active young people is hardly a new phenomenon. Maybe the 'scope' of what we read about in the news now is that teenagers themselves are more open about talking about their experiences than they have ever been in the past. So, this might be a case of teenagers being more truthful about their extra-curricular activities for statistical purposes.

Nevertheless, the moral and religious crusaders go to great lengths to tell us that this is indicative of a failing society and that the beginning of the 'end of days'. This leads to obvious "answers" to be put forward by these individuals. The answers always involve religious and moral instruction in places of worship.

So, there is no surprise when the Mayor of West Jakarta, Burhanuddin,  reckons that the best way to combat casual sex amongst teenagers is to build more mosques and indoctrinate them on all things religious and moral.  To each their own. In my mind, the best way to address this issue is to ensure that our teenagers are indeed educated. However, that education is not one of religion or morality. The education, or lesson, is one of responsibility. If you are a teenager and you are dead keen to have sex then it will be almost impossible for adults to prevent it from happening.

Assuming that others are of a similar view, then the issue is one of ensuring that teenagers know the risks and consequences of engaging in pre-marital sexual activity. If the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI) are to be believed, then there are some 32% of Indonesian youths in the 14-18 years of age in Indonesia's larger urban centres of Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan and Yogyakarta are engaging in sexual activity. Once again, the most critical component of any response to this is to ensure that youngsters understand the risks and consequences, and then act responsibly and from a position of being forewarned and forearmed.

It seems a little naive to think that the solution to this "issue" is one of building new mosques and mandating that youths attend special sessions on pre-marital sex. I wonder whether these are non-denominational sessions or Burhanuddin is only concerned about young Muslims and their sexual appetites? One would have imagined that pre-marital sex is a community issue and not one that is exclusive to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism.

I guess to be fair, one must give Burhanuddin a chance to show that his plan is capable of teaching these youths about safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and responsibility amongst the expected God prohibits unmarried teenagers from having sex (and if you do so then you are going straight to hell!)

There goes another RAB Experience rant and rail.
Ho hum...

Vigilante Justice: How Much is Life Worth?

How much is a life worth?

It is a question that could be asked in any number of contexts, including vigilante justice. It must be said that vigilante justice is not something that is exclusive to any one country or any one period of history. The choice of Indonesia, and in particular Aceh, in this example represents nothing more than my interest in Indonesia.

It was not surprising to read a story in The Jakarta Globe about the killing of two men accused of stealing ducks in the village of Lawe Serke in Aceh. It is not surprising because since my first day in Indonesia way back in 1993 there has always been news stories of vigilante justice. One of the first things I remember was advice to call out "thief" if I was ever pick-pocketed or the victim of a burglary or similar.

The story is a relatively simple one. Lawe Serke village has a duck rustling problem. Ducks are going missing in increasing numbers. Therefore, the villagers decided that night patrols were the way to go. It goes without saying that when the night patrol spotted some unknown men roaming in the village that the patrol immediately suspected they were the duck rustlers.

The suspicion was spot on. Two of the three men they caught had ducks with them, eight to be exact. The two men that were caught, Hajidsu and Jabar, were then attacked with whatever the villagers had at hand. Some of the weapons that were used were knives and machetes. Both men were killed where they were found.

Samsuar, the Village Head, justified the violence and subsequent murders by stating that the villagers had sustained significant losses over the past month to the duck rustlers. The police position was that "people must not take the law into their own hands".  Although, the police are saying that they are treating the killings as a serious criminal offense, but perhaps more telling is that the police have not yet identified any suspects in the killings.

So, how much is a life worth? Seemingly, four ducks!

26 February 2011

Smoking Gets Even Tougher in New York City...

I guess I am having an unhealthy night...

New York City under the guidance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public indoor areas way back in 2002 (has he been in the big seat that long already?). This caused a little bit of a public outcry about the trampling of smoker's rights. However, that has seemingly passed. Nevertheless, it has taken the Bloomberg administration a very long time to become emboldened enough to take the next step and ban smoking in open public spaces.

Bloomberg has signed a law that bans smoking in all city parks, beaches, public plazas and boardwalks. If you get caught smoking in any of these places once the law comes into full force and effect, in about 90 days, there is a USD 50 fine. I am a non-smoker, so in the big scheme of things a ban of this nature bothers me nought. Yet, the reasoning for the ban is to protect non-smokers from the dangers of passive smoking. Now, I am sure most people can appreciate that passive smoking or being forced to suck-up the second-hand smoke from a smoker's cigarette in a confined space like a bar or restaurant is considerably different from smoking in a large open space like a beach.

I am no scientist, or chemist for that matter, but is second-hand smoke in a large public place a serious threat to non-smokers? On a slightly different tangent. Where are smokers going to be able to light up their cancer sticks and take the years off their collective lives?

After all, if I am not mistaken, tobacco is a legal product and those who wish to indulge in the habit are, and must be, allowed to do so. So, I wonder, where does Mayor Bloomberg and his health-conscious pencil-pushing tobacco banners proposing that cigarette smokers go to feed their nicotine cravings? Is the expectation that smoking becomes an exclusively home-based activity? Then again, perhaps the next smoking law will ban smoking in all private homes where their are children present.

I have always been intrigued by the argument that smoking is a human right and that restricting where it can occur is tantamount to violating the civil liberties of smokers. I am not quite sure where the balance is for those who do not smoke. So, do the human rights of smokers trump the human rights of non-smokers?

Considering, the ongoing onslaught against smokers to reduce the places where they can indulge, perhaps the answer is to take the plunge and go the whole nine yards; make smoking illegal, make tobacco illegal.

California to Collect Sales Tax on Medical Marijuana...

The latest figures that are circulating suggest that the State of California is collecting somewhere between USD 58 million and USD 105 million in tax revenue on medical marijuana sales of between USD 700 million to USD 1.3 billion. First things first, USD 1.3 billion in retail sales of medical marijuana is a whole stack of wacky weed being smoked to ease and alleviate the pain and trauma associated with illness, injury and disease.

The State Board of Equalization, those pencil pushers responsible for deciding who pays sales tax, has determined that dispensaries for medical marijuana are not exempt from paying sales tax. In fact, the article in the LA Times makes the suggestion that some of these dispensaries have been a little on the recalcitrant side in not paying as they should be.

If you are wondering why I am writing about this, then here is the point. I have argued for some time that it is about time that governments made a judgment call on marijuana. If it is argued that tobacco is suitable for sale  in spite of increasing amounts of evidence on how bad it is for one's health and the burgeoning flow on costs of providing medical treatment to smokers, then similar arguments can be made for the good ol' 'Mary Jane'.

Perhaps if the state regulated the marijuana trade, there may be a decrease in marijuana related crime. It removes the black market for the product and allows it to be taxed. If governments do not want people to be able to afford it, then tax it at a high rate. In Australia the tax on cigarettes is pretty high. As I was lining up to pay for petrol today, the young woman in front of me was buying a pack of cigarettes. I thought cigarettes were expensive but I did not realize they were like AUD 15+ for a pack of 25.

I am definitely not advocating smoking here. What I am arguing is that there is no common sense in allowing tobacco and alcohol to be legal while other similarly harmful products such as wacky weed are illegal. If people choose to harm themselves by ingesting products that are known to be harmful to them such as tobacco and alcohol (in excessive amounts) then why not allow people to make those similarly bad choices and tax those products as well?

To each their own, I guess.

22 February 2011

Teaching: 9 to 3, And Taking It Easy...

It is always with a chuckle that I listen to people saying how easy it is to teach and what a cushy gig it is. After all, as a teacher you only really work from 9am through to 3pm, and you get all these holidays as well. The chuckle is that these people have absolutely no idea what it is to be a teacher nor what is involved in getting the "job" done. I always encourage others to pick up the torch of education and come on board and illuminate the lives of our future leaders. My selling point is always, "where else does one get to shape the future of our world?"

Teaching is not a 9am through 3pm gig. It might be, give or take, the time that you are face-to-face with students. But these hours do not include the time one spends preparing lessons, researching material and content, working out ways to engage students, ongoing professional development and learning, behavioural management of students, and after-school activities whether they be staff meetings or sport and homework centre for the students. It really is a case of "only if". Only if teaching was a 9 to 3 gig how nice would that be?

The beauty of teaching for me is a many-faceted thing. There is no denying that there is a lifestyle choice in that I can have a little bit more control of my out of school time. For example, from 8.00 through 16.00 I am pretty much in school for meetings, teaching,and more meetings. However, after those hours if I want to spend time with my wife and son, I can. If I do spend this quality time with them in the afternoon and early evenings, then it is in the full knowledge that any research and lesson planning or other preparation that needs to be done will be done so after that. When one asks around it is probably not going to be all that uncommon to find teachers still putting the polish on lesson plans or detailing with administrative stuff late into the evening.

All that aside, the motivating factor for me to get into formal teaching was a desire to make a difference. I have been in the school that I am in now for a very short period of time, but I already feel that I am starting to make a difference. Over time I am confident that this difference will become substantial. As I said, what other profession gives you the day-in, day-out opportunity to shape the future of the next and succeeding generations. Magic!

Oh well, time to go...there is lesson planning to be done and some polish to be applied based on "things" that have happened today. Always thinking, always adapting, always learning.

Ho hum...

21 February 2011

The Government, The Internet, and A Little Revolution...

This came via the Treespotter via the Hammer of Truth.

Has technology changed the face of revolution?

SBY (AKA Save Bakrie, Yudhoyono) & Development...

I have not posted much lately. This has nothing to do with writer's block or similar ills that plague us all every now and then. Rather, it was a conscious decision to hide behind being "too busy" at work to blog. The truth though is more along the lines of getting a little bored with bagging SBY all the time. But, some things that the president says really are worth commenting on and this is one of them.

It seems that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has had a "No Shit, Sherlock" moment. This little moment came when the president was signing-off on an accelerated economic (or is that eco-comic?) development plan at the State Palace in Bogor. It appears that SBY (Save Bakrie, Yudhoyono) believes development in Indonesia has failed during his tenure because of five illnesses. The five illnesses is a pretty convenient number as it fits the same basic framework as Pancasila or the five basic principles that the modern state of Indonesia is founded upon.

What Stupid Bloody Yudhoyono is doing here is passing the buck. He is the classic "buck-passer". He is the consummate "I am the president, so it is someone else's fault" type of guy. Simply, why take responsibility when you think that Teflon is a genetic trait?

The five illnesses plaguing Indonesia are:

  1. an inefficient bureaucracy (dealt with by black-balling the best performing, and reforming, Minister he had and forcing her to a post at the World Bank);
  2. regional governments (to be dealt with by removing direct elections in favour of central government appointments);
  3. investors who promise the world and then do not deliver (hmmm, didn't SBY come to the presidency promising the Indonesian people the world and delivering it to his family and friends?);
  4. a flawed legal system (the system is not the problem, the enforcement within the system is the problem, as is an inefficient and hands-off president who allows the institutions of state tasked with combating corruption to be undermined by special interests); and
  5. unhealthy political interests (what the president really means here is that he has been held hostage by the short and curlys by these very special interests, and happily so).

It seems like the events in Tunisia inspired events in Egypt which have further inspired others in the Middle East to express their collective desires for change. I wonder how long it is until the Indonesian people feel it is time to express their collective displeasure at a government that promises much and delivers nought? Maybe it is time that the masses returned to the street with a view to re-invigorating reformasi and finishing that which was started in 1998?

Ho hum...

Sherlock out!

18 February 2011

Late Night Collarenebri...

OK, so the hazy moon was bothering me. So, I went out and took a few more photos. I am not sure that this is much better. Although, confession time, I did do a few things different. The first one was a "portrait" shot with some flash involved. The second one was done at a much slower shutter speed and with the use of a tripod.

The third one is my study at 10.45pm. This was taken from the road. If you are wondering, Collarenebri is at least 75kms from the nearest town of any size and more than 140kms from a reasonable-sized town. That said, we are about 95kms from some good opal country up at Lightning Ridge. Anyways, there is not much traffic, so I set the tripod up on the road and took the photo. The photo is not bad considering my very amateur status. I am posting it for no other reason than the Free Papua Flag that you can see hanging from one of my bookcases.

Papua Merdeka! Free Papua! (But I digress)...


I should add that I am using a little Casio point and shoot job, an Exilim. Good enough...

Collarenebri Central School -- Generation One -- Closing the Gap...

If you watch one thing today, then watch this.

This is why I came back to teaching.

This is a rap that Collarenebri school students put together. It has become a very highly acclaimed piece of art. They performed it last year at the ARIA ceremony at the Opera House down in the 'Big Smoke' (aka Sydney). They have received numerous requests to perform it elsewhere.

My personal view is that these students need to be nominated for a ""Deadly". A Deadly is an award for excellence. In some forms of Aboriginal English the word deadly means excellent.

We are going to be working on a new rap this year. Hopefully, we will work on new raps every year. The students love getting involved and it has been a very positive influence on the students, the school, and the community as a whole.

The video is courtesy of Desert Pea Media.

All of these students remain in school.

Enjoy your weekend.

Rear View Girls...

Now that it has been done, one is left wondering why it had never been done before.

Rear View Girls - Los Angeles is a video that two New Zealanders who are living in LA put together. The video has gone viral on YouTube and I post it here for ease of access. However, I encourage you to go visit them on YouTube and watch it there. So, far almost 1.2 million others have made the trip.

To be honest, I am not sure how they rigged the camera, but it is pretty clear from the shots in the video that most of the guys had no idea what was going on. Neither did the women who were caught holding that lingering glance a little too long.

Oh, the video. right. The basic premise was that men ogle the bums of women whenever given the opportunity to do so. It does not matter whether they are single or partnered, wearing a suit and tie or board shorts and riding a skateboard. The two young women, Jessie Gurunathan and Reanin Johannink (interesting names as well), who made this film were of the belief that if given the opportunity to look, then men would not be able to help themselves but to look.

The most humourous one must be the one where Jesus gets caught taking a sneak peak and then stealing a second glance as well. Go Jesus! I guess it has been a while since he had the opportunity to ogle Mary Magdalene...but I digress!

The outcomes of that belief are pretty self-evident on the video.


New Moon...

More from Collarenebri.

This is from a little earlier this evening. There is a fair bit of cloud in the sky at the moment. At least this is my excuse, and I am sticking to it, for the hazy looking new moon. It is already 9.30pm here and it is still a little humid and still pretty warm. It has cooled off a little from the peaks earlier in the day though.

My second week at Collarenebri Central School is done and dusted. I am really enjoying it out here. To be honest, I am enjoying it much more than I thought I might. The students are great, the staff is excellent, and the community is very supportive.

A new moon for a new beginning.

Enjoy your weekend (one and all)...

Collarenebri Sunrise...

I have been thinking of converting my blog into nothing but education related posts and the places I work. This has more to do with the enjoyment of what I am currently doing and where I am currently living. Collarenebri, or Colly to those who are more local than I, is a pretty small town.

It has been mainly hot weather of late. However, the past week or so has seen the temperature very pleasant in the early morning. Although, I am told that come full winter it will be pretty cold.

Anyways, this is the sunrise I enjoyed earlier this week.

15 February 2011

The Legitimacy of the Obama Presidency...

It is funny in that perverse kind of a way to watch Republicans dodge, but not really, questions of Obama's citizenship and subsequent legitimacy with respect to being president. The latest Republican to play the double talk game is none other than House Speaker John Boehner. It is equally funny in that perverse kind of a way that Republicans still imagine that this is an issue that is going to be a major vote getter for them in the 2012 presidential elections.

Nah, Boehner hedged his bets as he is often seen doing on tobacco. Boehner's argument is in essence that he believes Obama is a citizen and a Christian. Now, according to Boehner, if the good ol' state of Hawaii says that Obama was born there then that is good enough for him. On the is Obama a Christian or a Muslim front Boehner is much more non-committal and merely says that he takes the president on his word. After all, in Boehner's mind President Obama has stated he is Christian so that will have to do for now.

The real funny here is that rather than being unequivocal in stating that the question of Obama's citizenship and religion is a non-issue, a dead issue, Boehner goes on to say that the American public is entitled to believe whatever they want. This is indeed true, Mr. Speaker. If Americans want to believe that no US man ever landed on the moon and that it was all a big hoax constructed in a studio in Hollywood somewhere as an elaborate ruse to fool the Russians that they had lost the space race, then they are entitled to believe that too. Similarly, if Americans want to believe that there are a couple of aliens on ice at Roswell or in Area 51, then they can do that too.

The fact that democrats lost so much ground at the mid-terms was not because they did, or continue to do, a woeful job in government. Rather it is a reflection of the inability of democrats to remobilise the 2008 base that swept Democrats into power and Obama into the White House. There is no guarantee that the Democrats will make the same mistake twice. The balancing factor here is that the current state of the economy and Obama's difficulties in following through on some of his election campaign rhetoric means that it must be easier for Republicans to mobilise their base, including the fringe represented by the Tea Party.

But, as the Speaker of the House, the responsible move would have been to be unequivocal that Obama is a citizen, this is no longer an issue and Republicans will not be using it to question the legitimacy of the President. One would have thought that Republicans would have believed that Obama's domestic and international track record since 2008 provides more than enough problems for the Democrats that there is no need to resort to fear-mongering about citizenship and Obama's supposed Muslim faith.

All that said, I remain an interested observer.

Populist Politics At Its Worst: Tony Abbott, Foreign Aid, Islamic Schools...

Tony Abbott has shown his true colours while simultaneously showing why he is unfit to be Prime Minister of Australia; he simply does not have Australia's long-term and strategic interests at heart. The man who wants to become the man who makes "shit happen" rather than just talking about when and why "shit happens" has decided that an easy and populist target for cuts to the foreign aid budget is a successful Australian program that helps build and fund Islamic schools in Indonesia.

This racist and xenophobic policy about flip was cased in a need to strengthen Australia's natural disaster relief fund coffers in opposition to the Gillard Labor Government's attempt to introduce a special tax levy to fund the AUD 5 billion in repairs that flooding has caused in Queensland.

To be honest, I would rather not pay the levy. But, also in all honesty, I would rather pay the levy than see an aid program that has Australia's long-term interests and security in the region at its core disbanded because we might have to pay a few extra dollars a week in tax.

The reality is that Australia's involvement in building and providing ongoing support and funding for the Islamic schools program in Indonesia is a positive one. These are schools that provide an alternative opportunity and an alternative message to those being offered by the pesantrens of the fundamentalist and radical fringe of Islamic belief populated by the likes of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir (Bashir).

The Abbott proposal is nothing short of a race-based policy that takes money from a program based on the difference of the recipients. It is justified through the use of terminology that makes it sound as if these schools, and the aid program itself, are primary supporters of an Islamist network intent on destroying the Australian way of life. One almost gets the impression that Mr. Abbott is suggesting that there should be some degree of moral outrage on the part of Australians that their tax money is being channeled to those hell bent on destroying us. This is populist rhetoric designed to play to the fears of a select group of Australians.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister wannabe is misrepresenting the facts and by default the truth. These schools are Islamic schools. They are not Islamist. I would argue that there is a difference, at least in terms of the connotation of the two words. Islamic merely indicates that the underlying belief is Muslim in nature. Whereas, and in contrast, Islamist suggests that these schools are breeding grounds for some sort of fundamental revivalist and ultra-conservative Islamic belief structure that is a "clear and present danger" to our free democratic ideals. Mr. Abbott has chosen his words carefully and to play to the base fears of those receptive to his message.

The withdrawal of Australian aid to these schools is narrow-minded and a step backwards.

Tony Abbott has already proven that he is not the man Australia needs with his finger on the button when the shit really does happen.


14 February 2011

The 1965 Freedom Ride...

It is hard to believe that it is 46 years this month that the Freedom Ride of a group of young activists brought the cold, hard reality of racism, segregation, and the poor state of Aboriginal / Indigenous health, housing and education into the living rooms of ordinary Australians who had consciously or sub-consciously turned a blind eye to the challenges facing our indigenous brothers and sisters.

The Freedom Ride is being recreated this year. This Wednesday will see the 2011 activists passing through Collarenebri where the school will receive them and allow them to talk to the students about those times, the present and the future. I am really looking forward to it and I know that the students are looking forward to it to. It is more than just a period off to many of them.

An interesting factoid is that the group that organised the original Freedom Ride came about because of some stinging criticism of a protest that activists at the University of Sydney had held in support of US Civil Rights and the plight of African-Americans in the early 1960s. This criticism was essentially that it is all fine and dandy to be supporting those in the US in their struggle for equality, but how about you all devote some of that zealous exuberance of youth to advocating for those problems afflicting your own backyard.

From this criticism was born Student Action For Aborigines (SAFA). The group was led by Charles Perkins. Another notable face in the crowd was current Chief Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, Jim Spigelman. And, the rest, as they say is history. Hopefully, the students will soak up a great deal of this history through the process.

I just remembered, it is also Black History Month in the US...

It's Bald Bieber Time...

Yes, I know, there is something very wrong with how that sounds!

It seems the Bieber-meister (or is that monster?) has a new film out. In order to promote this exceptional foray onto the silver screen he has been doing the rounds of some of the best shows in town, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live, and most recently Jimmy Kimmel Live. I like Jimmy Kimmel, he is a funny guy. He is also responsible for this really funny skit with Matt Damon taking the piss out of himself as Jason Bourne. It ends with "who the f*&k is Jimmy Kimmel. I remember it still.

I am sure that the Bieb's latest antics are going to cause quite a lot of teenage girl angst. But, that will pass because what is about to be described only happened in skit world.

Justin Bieber shaved his head. On this front, I am with Kimmel, he looks like a teenage Lex Luther. The Bieb's seems to think he looks more aerodynamic and a lot like Michael Jordan. There is one thing you can say about Bieber; the youngster is not short on confidence!

McDonald's vs. Toni Jack's...

There is probably a good legal article in this dispute somewhere. But, truth be told, I do not have the time to read everything I need to in order to find it. But, maybe I will, it seems the interest might be in why the name Toni Jack's was chosen.

However, it would seem that the one-time franchisee, Bambang Rachmadi, of the McDonald's restaurant in the Sarinah Building in the heart of Jalan Thamrin in Jakarta had a falling out with the franchisor. In essence, what was once a landmark site and attraction for tourists and locals alike ceased to be. The dispute started back in 2009 and was to all intents and purposes resolved today.

What better day than Valentine's Day to signal the restoration of love between franchisee and franchisor.

It is hard to imagine the Sarinah building without Mickey D's. For as long as I can remember it has always been there. To see something else there would have been unsettling. After all, it was perfectly situated for the late night munchies. Not only was it close to the office, it was also close to lots of entertainment venues in that part of town.

Now that the Golden Arches are back in Sarinah it is time to start planning a holiday to Jakarta. It just would not have been the same without the famed restaurant in the fold.

Maybe the burgers are better at Toni Jack's? Sounds like an ad...for "Hungry Jack's"!

Ho hum...

13 February 2011

Why Teach?

I have always been a teacher, the only difference now is it is a bit more formal with a Masters degree and a professional qualification. I have often been asked why I do not blog more about my experiences. The reality is that I work in a really small school in a really small town and my students, like anyone else, are entitled to a little bit of privacy. I also believe that building rapport and respect with students requires a certain amount of trust, and to blog about that seems to violate that trust in my mind.

I will say this though. My current crop of students from Year 7 through to Year 11 are an excellent bunch. Hopefully, I will be able to impart some knowledge and hopefully I will be able to do that in such a way that is engaging and fun.And, just maybe, they might all learn a thing or two that they did not know previously.

In a more general sense, I am going to write about my own struggles and challenges. For example, working in a school that is Smart Board ready and having never been trained on how to use a Smart Board at university.

The school where I work is committed to professional learning and professional development. So, it is quite a relief to know that the professional support needed is just a few steps away with a knowledgeable executive team of many years experience.

Yet, on a personal level, professional learning and development aside, a real challenge in a small school is maintaining high levels of engagement in small classrooms of students with a variety of learning styles. If anyone is looking to find a location where there is little or no pressure on keeping class sizes small, then head to a small rural or remote school. I have classes ranging from 3 students through to 12 students.

The reason I chose to teach was a simple one, and for me it was a real "no-brainer", if you want to make a difference and influence the future, then you teach. I always get a chuckle from the saying "those who can, do; those who can't, teach!" Because any teacher out there worth their salt knows that teaching is a much more difficult skill than just fronting up each day and going through the motions. Quite simply for value to the community teachers are exploited and under-valued in the extreme.

Teachers teach for many reasons, but one thing that I have found common to all that I have met is a belief that it is a noble profession that can facilitate positive changes in the lives of those that we encounter in the classroom. That facilitation might not simply be teaching a young person to do calculus or something about English or history, it might be providing them with the self-belief and confidence in their own ability that they can make a positive contribution to their community or the world.

I am back teaching high school now. However, it is with a great deal of pride that I look back and remember a few past students who have gone on to make very significant and positive contributions to their communities.

I am looking forward to the challenges that will present themselves irrespective of whether they be creating programs of study that are engaging and fun for students who might not have ventured far from where they were born or showing them that there is a whole world beyond Collarenebri that is awaiting their arrival. The good fortune for me is that these students are already recognised and accomplished (having attended the Arias and all -- I have not attended the Arias!). So, the challenges will be for me and not my students.

Teaching is not an easy gig, but it is a worthwhile one, and one that is destined to be rewarding.

Obama, Indonesia, and Egypt...

I like Barack Obama. If I was an American I would have voted for the man. But, Mr. President, you are letting your 3 plus years in Indonesia go to your head and cloud your judgment. Indonesia is not a shining example that Egypt must follow as an example of how to transit from a dictatorship to democracy.

Perhaps you and your team need to revisit some of your perceptions of Indonesia. The reform process in Indonesia has been slow and very drawn out. There are still huge swathes of the population living on or below the poverty line. Religious fundamentalism and extremism continues to rear its ugly head. And, Mr. President, this is in spite of your claims back in November that Indonesia was a shining example of religious tolerance and pluralism in the Islamic world. Seriously Mr. President how do you think Indonesia's religious minorities such as the Ahmadis and the Christians are feeling about that in light of the recent violence that has been perpetrated against them?

Corruption is still rife in Indonesia. So rife, in fact, that it is almost an every other day occurrence. The scourge is pervasive and persistent. So much so that the president of Indonesia opts to stand idly by and claim professional distance while the primary platform of his mandate is eroded from around him by those who put him into power in the first place.

Nah, if the citizens of Egypt have the sense, and I am sure that they do, then they will not be looking towards the world's largest Muslim nation for any serious substantive pointers regarding a transition to democracy. Hopefully the Egyptian people will not suffer the same fate as Indonesia's long-suffering citizens.

On a final note, Indonesia has not successfully managed the aspirations of the people. In fact, the persistent pandering to special interests and Muslim fundamentalists has meant that extremism is on the rise. The military and police, and perhaps the whole law enforcement apparatus, are nervous. So, if success is gauged by the fact that Muslim groups are now openly canvassing the idea that it is time for the democratically elected president to resign and move out to pasture, then, yes, Mr. Obama, Indonesia is the shining example that Egypt needs to follow.

Then again, this might be why SBY is claiming responsibility for getting Hosni Mubarak to resign for the good of the Egyptian people...

SBY Taking Credit For Hosni Mubarak's Resignation?

Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but how desperate is SBY and the Democrat Party? Marzuki Alie of the Democrat Party, and Head of the House of Representatives, has stated unequivocally that SBY sent a personal letter to Mubarak suggesting that he step aside. The letter was delivered by hand by Special Envoy Hassan Wirajuda.

Apparently, the substance of the letter went along the lines of "Hey Hosni, better take on the Indonesian example and step aside and let the hand-picked Veep take over." "And, it is time to start stashing those billions in hard to find places so as to live your life out in peace and comfort. Take our boy Soeharto, we protected him all the way to his grave." "Final point mate, the sooner you do this stepping aside thing, the sooner I can start doing the rounds and claiming credit for myself as the instigator of your smooth resignation and the movement of Egypt to greater democracy". "Peace Out! Your main man in Indonesia, SBY! Salam!"

Funnily enough, SBY also suggested that Egypt establish an independent election authority to administer free and fair elections. I would be guessing though that Mubarak and his cronies, including his family, would not be giving the proverbial "rat's" about what happens after they squirrel away their billions and bugger off to Monaco or wherever.

But, the biggest chuckle was reserved for the statement that these initiatives at brokering Egyptian peace are enshrined in the 1945 Constitution, and as such Indonesia, and SBY, has an obligation to participate. This maybe so, but the reality Mr. President and Mr. Alie is that Indonesia has some serious constitutional problems at home. For example, the increasing persecution of religious minorities and a president that continually fails to fulfill the mandate granted to him twice. Maybe cleaning up one's own backyard may in fact be more beneficial to a greater majority of Indonesians than claiming credit for cleaning up Egypt's backyard.

I would reckon that the Egyptians got this far without SBY, then they are probably more than capable of going the distance on this one by themselves. In any event, what Mr. Alie and others fail to realise is that 1998 Jakarta and 2011 Cairo are two very different sets of circumstances. Perhaps, it should be Mubarak sending a personal letter to SBY about how to manage his own departure from Indonesian politics!

The idea that Indonesia has transited to democracy is a little premature. Let's face it money politics and corruption are still prevalent. Even more concerning is that the Ministry for Home Affairs is leading the way, with the agreement of a democratically elected president, in winding back the opportunities for Indonesians to elect their leaders at a local level in favour of having those leaders appointed by others.

The whole idea that SBY had any significant role in resolving events in Egypt reeks of desperation, it reeks of a president trying to map out a future tilt at some role on the international stage as a statesman of some repute.  To make it on the big stage might require some success on the domestic stage, and those successes are few and far between, and of late have been non-existent.

Mr. President, rather than getting your point men to claim success on your behalf in Egypt why don't you focus on securing minority rights for Indonesians at home? Why don't you focus on ensuring that those facilitating corruption are punished? Why don't you focus on ensuring that the people of Sidoarjo get fair and full compensation for their losses? The list probably can go on and on and on, but you get the point. Because if you don't then maybe the next letter you receive will be a letter of condolence from Hosni Mubarak commiserating on your unfortunate removal from office with more than half of your second term to go!

Happy Sunday to y'all!

12 February 2011

Save Ferris...

I recall that I enjoyed Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I also enjoy this version of "Come on Eileen" by Save Ferris. Is it as good as the original by Dexy's Midnight Runners? You can be the judge of that.

I am not really sure that I have ever been into Ska Bands, or even ska bands out of Orange County in California, but Monique Powell is a fabulous singer (in my opinion). Let's face it, I have only just learned that one can be ska-punk or ska-pop...

"Reform Unplugged"

A shout out to Treespotter who has made a post already using this title. I have been toying with the idea of writing a piece on how the events in Egypt over the [almost] past three weeks is perhaps a lesson that Indonesians could heed, some Indonesians more than others. Conversely, the reform that Egyptians so overwhelmingly crave could do with a shot of reality, particularly regarding the pace of managed or guided reforms. A managed reformasi process is something that all Indonesians are all too familiar with. On that note, anyone looking for an interesting read on the similarities, head over to Jakartass.

The other reason for the 'unplugged' title is that I have been chilling out to a couple of unplugged albums; Bob Dylan and Neil Young. And, the lack of creativity that I have suggested that something 'unplugged' would make a good blog post.

Hosni Mubarak was a tyrant, a dictator, that has supposedly amassed a fortune somewhere in the vicinity of USD 40 to USD 70 billion over the course of almost 30 years of power. He has done this at the expense of his people. It is little wonder that critical mass was reached and protests began. I have always wondered why tyrants and dictators never come to realise that if they shared just a little they would always get a few more years at the helm. To be honest, all these people could have used a few pep sessions with Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew on how to properly stage manage democracy, or at least the semblances of it.

But, I digress.

The reality for most Egyptians, as it was for most Indonesians in 1998, is where to next? The King is dead, sort of. He will move, most probably out of Egypt and retire with his ill-gotten billions. Some will be returned as a small gesture. But, for those ordinary Egyptians struggling on, or below, the poverty line the cold, hard reality is that change or reform will be slow. If Egyptians want to get a good idea of what not to do, at least with respect to pace, then they should look to Indonesia. In the more than twelve years since Soeharto stepped aside after violent street protests and handing the reins of power to his deputy, much has changed and much has stayed the same.

The positives are that Indonesians enjoy greater freedoms of sorts, and except if you are an Ahmadi [minority rights, not!], including the freedoms of speech and expression. Indonesians have enjoyed an opening of the political process to a degree and experienced, by most accounts, a free and fair presidential election. Sadly, this has seen a succession of presidents elected who have been unable to deliver on the promise of the 1998 protest movement.

Gus Dur, despite his good and honourable intentions was a populist at heart who did not really have the heart to make the tough decisions. Megawati, well, "nuff" said. And, the incumbent, SBY. So much promise and so little progress. To Egypt, SBY shows how hard it is to remove entrenched special interests and how those interests continue to hold sway over how Indonesia's new-found democracy operates.

Unfortunately, the coming of democracy has  not seen a reduction in corruption levels or any significant improvement in the bureaucracy that channels that corruption. There is nothing like statistics to hide poverty or the careful manipulation of numbers to lower the threshold in order to hide those living on less than USD 2 per day. What Egypt has to look forward to is entrenched interests who pull their collective heads in in the after math of the killing of the king and biding their time.

For all the steps forward that Indonesia took in the post-1998 period with the establishment of a corruption eradication commission and the pursuit of those special interests it was only a matter of time before the special interests fought back. It appears a compliant [and complicit] president was the only trigger needed to convince those special interests that the ball was in their court.

Egypt does not want reform. Egypt needs complete and fundamental changes to the way the business of democracy is done. Ordinary Egyptians do not want to leave this important business to those schooled in the ways of the old master, Mubarak. Let Indonesians tell you how that turns out. The reality that Indonesians now understand is that letting those schooled in the ways of the previous master means that the practices remain entrenched and the mechanisms and skills required are absent for real change to occur. Skip a generation, the protests were led by the youth let the young leaders of the movement assume control over its ultimate destiny.

Maybe, there is a lesson for SBY in the protests that have rocked Egypt to its core. Listen to your people, listen to their aspirations, after all they are the ones that elected you and they are the ones that you work for. A presidency of unrealised promise might be just the right trigger for a renewed push to "reformasi -- part two".

I guess the reason reform works so slowly, or not at all, is that there is no clear separation from the past. Perhaps the French realised this and that is why the opted for a revolution.

Yes, it is a messy post. But, it is really just a rambling rant ;)

Image courtesy of Dave Granlund.

11 February 2011

Lea Michele of Glee Fame: Too Sexy For Her Teenage Fans?

It is confession time. I have not yet sat down and watched anything Glee related. That said, I have an idea of what it is about based on my travels through cyber space. So, it is interesting that at least one Glee star, Lea Michele, finds herself the subject of a little more controversy.

The main characters of Glee did a very sexy high-school themed photo shoot for GQ. The GQ shoot ruffled quite a few feathers and was slammed for promoting pedophilia. However, this latest storm is a storm in a tea cup and is not really worth the space that will be devoted to it.

Here is the nuts and bolts of the latest controversy/ Glee is a high-school themed show where the lead actors are not high school students but adult actors playing teenage roles. One of those actors, Lea Michele, recently did a sexy cover shoot for Cosmopolitan Magazine. It was only sexy because the cover shot was Michele in a plunging neckline dress which accentuated her breasts. Sadly, this has left some 11, 12 and 13-year-olds dazed and confused as to why none of their classmates are so sexy and able to carry off a dress of that calibre. Parents are up in arms all over the place. It is almost as if the principal sat down with Kindergarten and told them that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real.

Lea Michele is a 24-year-old adult. If she wants to pose in a plunging neckline dress that accentuates her assets, then so be it. She is an adult and the target audience of Cosmo magazine is contemporary adult.

Any parents with confused teenagers, rather than blaming Michele, how about you sit them down and explain a few things. Perhaps, one could start with Glee being fiction and that the people playing the parts are actors, and some of those actors are in fact adults.

Ho hum...

Is Musical Talent Genetic...

This is Ben Taylor. Ben is the son of Carly Simon and James Taylor.

And, if your not sure, then take a look at Sally Taylor, Ben's sister, as she performs with dad.

I really like all their music offerings. I have a whole stack of James Taylor records, a few Carly Simon records, but none from either Ben or Sally. This is going to change in the very near future.

Court Then Clubbing...

Lindsay Lohan is taking some stick for wearing this dress to court. The main beef with the outfit is that it would be equally at home on the dance floors of most nightclubs, and perhaps more appropriate. Lohan was in court facing a charge of felony grand theft. It is alleged that Lohan lifted a USD 2,500 piece of jewelery, a necklace, from a jewelery store in Venice Beach, California.

Lohan has pleaded not guilty and released on USD 40,000 bail.If convicted, Lohan faces, possibly, a few years in the big house.

I guess this is one of those stories that whets our collective appetites for celebrities coming off the rails and crashing and burning frequently in the public eye. For Lohan, it is sad that a career that started with such promise has fizzled out through self-destructive behaviour.

So, what about that dress...is there a little bit of Basic Instinct and Sharon Stone happening there. Hopefully Lohan did not recreate the most famous scene from that movie for the benefit of the judge.

Ho hum...

10 February 2011

Cars, Paint, Accidents: Don't Do it!

If you have ever wondered why you should not carry paint in your car, then here is your answer.

I think these are doing the rounds of the email at the moment. It is going round with the subject line reading something along the lines of "always put the paint in the boot". It also includes a spiel that says the ambulance driver would not let the female paramedic out of the ambulance because she was laughing uncontrollably and that was unprofessional.

Ahmadiyah As A New Religion?

Can it really all be that simple?

Can it really be as simple as the Ahmadis standing up and saying, "OK, we are a new religion", and "please leave us alone"?

If you were prepared to accept the word of Priyo Budi Santoso, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and member of Golkar, then it is. It would seem that the Democrat Party of SBY is also suggesting that the establishment of a new religion will resolve the violence, the murder, and the mayhem. Well, at least, this is what Imran Muchtar is saying.

However, if the recent attacks on churches in Temanggung is anything to go by, then declaring a new religion is hardly going to be a cure for the violence being perpetrated against the Ahmadis. If mobs can go on the rampage and burn churches because a Christian man does not get the death sentence for blaspheming Islam, then this clearly does not bode well for the Ahmadis.

The Ahmadis are a sect of Islam. Perhaps not a sect that is accepted as being mainstream, but a sect all the same. If they were to branch off and call themselves a new religion this hardly resolves the issue. The core beliefs of the Ahmad remain Islamic in nature. The reality is that even if the Ahmadis were to spin themselves off from mainstream Islam, they remain Islamic in nature. For example, when King Henry VIII decided that the Catholic Church was becoming less agreeable and accepting of his needs, he decided to create a spin-off of the Roman Catholic Church and call it the Church of England.

Now, the Church of England is Christian in its orientation and beliefs. There are a few Virgin Mary issues as I understand it, but to all intents and purposes it is a Christian belief system, a Christian church. So, it does not really matter whether you are Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Church of England, Protestant, Mormon or Quaker there is an argument to be made that these are all sects of the Christian faith. It would also seem reasonable to me that even if the Ahmadis were to separate from mainstream Islam and declare themselves a new religion that they would remain in a technical sense a sect of Islam.

The answer to the Ahmadi issue is for Indonesia and her citizens to live by that creed that is encompassed in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or the idea of having unity in diversity rather than continue down the road of intolerance and indifference to human life and existence.

Once again, the Ahmadis spinning themselves off from Islam will not resolve the violence.

Ho hum...

The James Taylor Experience...

James Taylor's story is an inspiring story of one overcoming his struggles, and ultimately finding peace with himself.

The Evolution Of A Corruptor...

Something that I picked up off Facebook...

Good to see that Indonesians, even in these testing times, have a sense of humour.

Valentine's Day "Banned" Again in 2011...

The fact that the crotchety old white-robed backward looking Islamic scholars in various parts of Indonesia take the time to consider Valentine's Day each year is testament to the pervasive nature of the celebration. However, the vast majority of Indonesians have too little time to take stock of fatwas and other edicts issued banning Valentine's Day. The vast majority probably do not do anything out of the ordinary. It is just another day in a busy calendar.

It seems that Valentine's Day falls foul of the defenders of truth and the ways of the Prophet because it is a Western celebration of love. And, that is haram or forbidden in Islam. I wonder if it is dangerous because it is thought to be a western tradition and those western kafirs would do anything they could to undermine Indonesia or is it just that because it is about love it might promote promiscuity and, heaven forbid, free casual sex. I have been told there is no aphrodisiac quite like a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates. But, that said, as Forrest used to say: "life is like a box of chocolates, you never quite no what you're gonna get".

Traditionally, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) have banned Valentine's Day on the basis that it is the same as proselytizing.

My guess is that most Indonesians will take no notice of the warnings and go about their daily lives as they would have if no fatwas were issued. I am also thinking that Cupid will not be deterred either come 14 February.

Ho hum...

Carolina In My Mind -- James Taylor...

I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It is amazing how passionate and loyal one becomes to one's school. But, there is nothing quite like watching James Taylor sing "Carolina In My Mind" live at the Dean Dome (nor is there anything quite lining up for days for tickets).

Every time I hear this song it takes me back to Carolina and leaves me with a smile. They were great times. This song is a real "pick me upper" for me, and I am sure for many others. Everything that I own that is programmable has this song pre-loaded into it.

This version is one James Taylor did live with Sirius|XM Satellite Radio as part of their Artist Confidential series. I have, sadly, lost contact with many of my friends from that period. Others, I am still in contact with. Most I am sure do not read my blog. Suffice to say I remember them all fondly. So, to all those UNC alumni out there, thanks!

Funnily enough, having watched UNC drop a 16-point lead over Duke I do not feel so bad having listened to Carolina In My Mind a "few" times.

And for the real fans, here is a 1972 live version of ""Carolina In My Mind".


08 February 2011

Violence in the Name of Religion: Indonesia Burns...

I have been sitting here in front of the laptop and pondering whether or not to wind-up and go off on another rant about religious intolerance in Indonesia and the mockery that a small number of supposed followers of Islam are making of claims that Islam is a religion of peace and that the Prophet Mohammad was a man of mercy. The reason I sat here for hours on end is a simple one. Indonesia is a wonderful country, it is a country populated in the great majority by men and women of moderate beliefs and who are truly accepting of difference.

My dilemma was, do I write another piece slamming the ineptitude and spin-doctoring that the government perpetuates in order to make the victims of heinous crimes the guilty parties while the perpetrators of the crimes are given a free pass, presumably to paradise.

However, that has passed. The reality for me is that half of my family is Indonesian. My son is Indonesian. So, in all ways that I can figure I have a vested interest in seeing Indonesia become a nation where the state motto of unity in diversity is not just a motto but rather a creed that all Indonesians believe in and are prepared to practice. A creed that sees those that violate the tenets of the concept of unity in diversity punished, and punished severely.

Indonesia is at a crossroads. These are crossroads that require resolute leadership. The question is whether vested interests will allow for the unitary state that is the Republic of Indonesia to prevail in the image that it has been envisaged to be over the best parts of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The choice that faces Indonesia is one of truly accepting the unity in diversity principle or an increasingly rapid descent into fracture and, for want of a better word, "Balkanization" and ethnic cleansing as warring factions struggle to establish supremacy over their parts of what was once Indonesia.

The choice is a stark one for SBY and his minions if he is indeed to be the leader that so many had hoped he would be. But, perhaps, an even starker reality for SBY is that critical mass will have to come for the vast majority of Indonesians who profess to being moderate and tolerant. This critical mass will say "enough is enough", this is not what we signed up for, we are a peace-loving people who just want to go on about our lives and business free from persecution and fear.

That day is coming!

If your interested in what triggered this particular musing...

here, here, and here.

Just as an aside, I am wondering how President Obama feels now after having been so pronounced in his praise of Indonesia's religious tolerance being an example to the whole world?

Ho hum...

07 February 2011

What the Indonesian Government Really Means...

Religious freedom in its most basic essence, at least as I see it, is the idea that people are free to worship whatever they want and to be free from interference from others as they practice those beliefs. So, when Indonesia talks about religious freedom and a constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom is it really talking about this kind of pluralism or is it merely lip service and empty rhetoric? It is, as the past two days have shown, lip service and rhetoric. The government under SBY (Silly Bloody Yudhoyono or is that Stupid Buffalo Yudhoyono? I would go with the first because the second is a bad rap for all those good hard-working buffaloes out there making the lives of ordinary Indonesians better!).

The attack on the Ahmadiyah sect yesterday in Cikeusik in Banten was an example of murderous mob violence and the impotence of Indonesian law enforcement agencies to deal with this sort of extreme violence. The video is circulating on YouTube of the attack. And, apparently YLBHI has a full 30-minute version of the attack as it unfolds. The fact that a video exists is testament to one of two things: the pre-meditated planning that was involved that someone thought it necessary to videotape the incident for future reference or the nature of the communities in which we live that technology is cheap and everywhere and citizen journalism is but a mobile phone away.

SBY in his usual non-committal way whilst wearing a very serious face has suggested that there needs to be an investigation into the attack. The courageous leader then went on to say steps should be taken to prosecute anyone found to have violated the law. Uh huh! Mr. President, three men have been brutally murdered, these murders have been captured on video, so it is fair to say that numerous laws have been broken and there is video evidence of who was involved. Maybe your next step should be to get the FPI-affiliated National Police Chief you appointed to appoint Habib Rizieq to lead that there investigation! Incompetence breeds incompetence and unfortunately your administration is rife with incompetence. Even more unfortunate is that incompetence starts at the very top.

Let's face it, your first step has been to push the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Djoko Suyanto (aka the "Joke") to be your point man on the government's response to this. Sadly, his sum total contribution has been to remind Ahmadis to respect a joint ministerial decision that banned them from practicing their beliefs. Simply, the government is spinning this tragedy as one that could have been avoided if the Ahmadis would just allow the government to run roughshod over their constitutionally rights.

To be fair, the Joke did start off with saying that the government condemns the violence. Yet, the rest of the statement clearly shows that the government is looking to cast blame not on a mob intent on mayhem and murder but a small band of 25 followers of a sect that is of negligible threat to the broader practice of Islam in Indonesia.

But one has to question the method to the madness that is the SBY administration. Julian Aldrin Pasha, the SBY spokesman (hell of a job that one; chief spin doctor for a fraud), has said that the president has instructed the National Police Chief, Gen. Timur Pradopo, and the Religious Affairs Minister, Surydarma Ali, to head out to the site of the violence and explain to the public what went on and why. It is a no-brainer to work out where the government is going on this one, isn't it?

Perhaps Timur can explain how "embracing" FPI is beneficial to religious tolerance in Indonesia while Ali can busy himself with explaining how a small sect of limited followers can develop into a threat that is obviously destined to cause fractures in the unity of the Republic.

Perhaps it is time for SBY to stop worrying about protesters bringing buffalo to demonstrations and start working like a buffalo himself. Sadly, the people of Indonesia have been subject to a fraud of huge proportions since 2004.

The reality is that 2014 cannot come soon enough!

06 February 2011

Organised Mob Violence in Indonesia in the Name of Islam...

I love Indonesia. It is my second home. My wife, Dyah, is Indonesian and my son, Will, will always be aware of his Indonesian heritage. So, it is with a heavy heart that I read stories of religious intolerance and organised mob violence and murder in the name of religion. In this case the religion is Islam. Heinous acts of gratuitous mob violence of this kind is a stain on all those good Indonesians who are peaceful, tolerant, accepting, and respectful of difference. After all, the state ideology relies on the very idea of unity in diversity; the idea that there is a oneness to the Republic of Indonesia in spite of the vast differences of the peoples that make her.

The government has wavered on its commitment to pluralism and religious tolerance. It has been wavering for a long time as it panders to ultra-conservative religious elements for reasons best known to those responsible. What is certain is that this pandering has allowed the government to avoid its constitutional responsibility to protect religious freedom in Indonesia. This failure has led to the Indonesian Council of Ulemas declaring the followers of the Ahmadiyah tradition a heretical sect. The consequences of this decision and the failure of the government to step in and clarify that there is such a concept as religious freedom in Indonesia, has led to murderous violence on a number of occasions. Most recently, today.

In the Cikeusik district of Pandeglang in West Java a mob of some 500 or more decided that they did not like the presence of some Ahmadiyah followers in their midst. These goons then set out to rectify the situation. That rectification was the destruction of the Ahmadi's place of worship and the subsequent murder of at least three people. These three were then strung up in a tree in front of their place of worship as a warning to other Ahmadis not to mess with the people of Cikeusik.

It is hard for those of us with some knowledge of US history not to see the similarities to the lynchings of African-Americans that occurred in the south at generally at the hands of those who were active members or sympathisers of the Ku Klux Klan or KKK.

There is no justification for the murder of these three individuals. The perpetrators are unlikely to be ever prosecuted because of the nature of the mob attack. Yet, there needs to be justice, there needs to be punishment. Perhaps if this was, as it seems, an organised attack, then perhaps those behind the scenes that organised it and incited the violence must be found and held accountable.

It was bizarre to read that a spokesperson for the Cikeusik district was arguing that this was an instance of self-defense as the Ahmadis attacked the mob of 500 with sharp weapons. I wonder who the numbers favoured in this contest?

The reality is that Indonesians need to know that their government and their law enforcement agencies are not going to sit idly by while a select few destroy Indonesia from within.

It is not too much for Indonesians to ask that their leaders have some testicular and ovarian fortitude and come out in no uncertain terms and condemn the violence. It is also not too much to ask that the perpetrators be found and punished to the full extent of the law.

What will be SBY's legacy?

05 February 2011

Raden Pandji Chandra Pratomo Samiadji Massaid - R.I.P.

Adjie Massaid as he was known passed away this morning. May he rest in peace, and may those that he has left behind find some peace too.

Massaid was an actor who converted his fame into one of public service. He became a politician and was in his second term as a parliamentarian from the Partai Demokrat (Democrat Party).

He was a young man at just 43 years of age to be leaving us by way of a heart attack. Nevertheless, my condolences go out to his family, particularly his wife, Angelina Sondakh and his three children.

May his legacy be one that convinces others of the value of public service in its many forms.

Ariel, Three & A Half Years, and an Appeal?

The sex-tape distribution case of Nazril "Ariel" Irham, or Peterporn as it had come to be known has reached a conclusion of sorts. Ariel has been sentenced to 3.5 years in the "big house" for his role in distributing a sex tape.

The evidence that was adduced in court and that which was played out in the court of public opinion must have been two very different animals. The reality is that what we know of this case in the public domain is more than enough to suggest that there is sufficient doubt as to whether Ariel had any role in distributing the two sex tapes of him to the public via the internet.

It is pretty obvious that what most people can agree on is that Ariel was the star of, and in, the sex tapes. Admittedly, most others would agree that his fellow cast members were pretty good too. I wonder whether there are any copies of "Ariel does Luna" and "Ariel does Cut Tari" doing the rounds of Glodok, Ratu Plaza or the lane ways of Blok M?

An appeal in this case seems destined to be run by a different set of lawyers. Luna Maya has engaged Taufik Basari to take over from OC Kaligis as her lawyer. Whether Ariel is going to follow suit remains to be seen, but the practice of lawyer shopping through an appeals process is nothing new. Basari is a good lawyer with a solid background with legal aid. But, I am gonna take a stab in the dark and say that he is probably not doing this one pro bono :)

The decision to sentence Ariel to 3.5 years and fine him IDR 250 million is justice gone awry There is simply no justice in sending a young man to prison for making a sex tape. I appreciate that different people have divergent moral views as to what is right and wrong with sex and pornography among consenting adults. However, despite those personal convictions, it seems hard to fathom exactly how the judges reached a conclusion that the prosecution had proved its case. Hopefully, a copy of the legal judgment that highlights the legal reasoning will be forthcoming in the public arena.

Nevertheless, there are those who feel that 3.5 years is insufficient. It goes without saying that the FPI and other hardline Muslim groups are still arguing for the death penalty. Yet, it is interesting to be able to lump the Indonesian Commission for the Protection of Children into the group that believes Ariel escaped with a sentence that was far too lenient. Maria Advianti of the KPAI argues that KPAI data highlights in the period after the Ariel sex tapes were released that there was a spike in child rape offenses by children on children as a result of having watched the Ariel sex tape. The data on that must be made publicly available and be subject to some scrutiny.

Interestingly, the sentence handed down to Redjoy or RJ was for 2.5 years. This is interesting because bothe were in essence accused of the same crime, distribution. Why is it that Ariel gets 3.5 years and RJ only 2.5? Is it that the judges are punishing Ariel more severely because his role in the distribution was bigger? Or is it that the courts and judges in this instance have decided that Ariel as a public figure has a higher level of guilt or responsibility to behave in a certain way because he is popular? And, therefore based on this he should be punished more severely in order to set an example to other celebrities? Or is it that the judges have punished him for making the sex tape in the first place because their collective conscience demands it?

As they say,"it is not over till it is over". I would suggest that this case still has legs and is likely to go a long time on appeal. Hopefully, the appeal courts will see some common sense and not fold in the face of forceful ultra-conservative religious voices from the public domain and affirm the sentence. Instead, it is hoped that the courts seek to apply the law in accordance with the relevant burdens required. The prosecutors must prove that Ariel was involved and evidence to date in the public domain has not met that burden.

A final point. So, where do the cases of Luna Maya and Cut Tari go from here? If the prosecutor was able to convince the court that Ariel's failure to prevent the distribution of the sex tapes was sufficient for a conviction that maintains Ariel was actively involved, then surely the prosecutors must be thinking that this decision gives their cases against Luna Maya and Cut Tari some additional legs.

It would be a rather spectacular fall from grace for Luna Maya and Cut Tari to end up in the big house (aka jail).

Collarenebri Thoughts...

The big move took place starting on 25 January 2011 and culminated on 26 January 2011 with our arrival in Collarenebri. As poor excuses go, this is why there has been a dearth of blog posts, and the fact that it has been more than a week since we went into the local Telstra retailer to get a landline and internet connection set-up. The landline works, but we are still waiting for WiFi modems and the like before an internet connection starts to happen. Telstra if you are wondering is the only provider that has any service in Collarenebri so the choice is limited.

School starts tomorrow (4 Feb 2011). There are no students, it is a pupil free day. We actually are starting a week after everyone else. We get what is called “heat week”. Heat week is an extra week of holidays to compensate for the extreme temperatures this time of year. And, the temperatures are extreme. Each day since we have been here has topped out above 37 degrees Celsius. A couple of days were 44 and 42 degrees Celsius respectively.

So, it is pretty easy to see where heat week gets its name from. With electricity prices as high as they are, and talk of further increases, it is a scary proposition to be contemplating using the air conditioner. Unfortunately, the house is centrally cooled. So, turning on the aircon is not as simple as going to the one or two rooms with air conditioners. Although, I must confess, I do get a “climate allowance” as part of the conditions of employment at this particular school.

What we are thinking we might miss is the luxury of clean water. The water is pumped out of the local river. Because of the recent flooding in Queensland, and the movement of that water down through the river system to here, there is a lot of debris in the water and this gives it a nice brown tinge. We have tank water now. It required us to get a new pump as the previous one had gone missing. Unfortunately, the tank water only comes through one tap in the kitchen. So, we have invested in a water cooler / dispenser and buy drinking water. It seems a safer, albeit expensive, option considering Will.

The house that we are living in is pretty good. There are a few minor things that need fixing up but, considering we pay negligible rent as it is ‘teacher housing’, there are no complaints. Although, the front and backyards are a mess. There is next to no grass but there are plenty of bindies and weeds that look like they have monstered any grass that once existed right out of the place. I am not sure how long the process is going to be in order to get on top of the bindi problem, but let the battle begin!

Funnily enough, (or is it not funny at all?) one of the best way to get rid of the bindies is to water and the grass begins to re-establish itself and the bindies get bundled out of the way. However, Collarenebri is still under water restrictions. The “funny”, if it can be so, is t that one of the reasons we came so early was that the roads into Collarenebri are supposed to be cut by flood waters. However, this has not happened yet. So, the funny  is that there is a lot of water in the rivers surrounding the town and there are water restrictions in effect. Yet, as I have been walking with Will as he peddles his trike around the block of an evening it is hard not to notice that some people have got some excellent lawns happening and they always seem to have the sprinklers running.

However, having spoken to the general assistant at school the other day, the only way to seemingly get good grass is to flood the area you want the grass to grow. It is so hot and dry out here that even if you flood the area you want the grass to grow, the area will be bone dry to touch on the surface with in a dozen hours. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good cotton and sorghum crops around...mental note on needing to plant hardy flowers, fruits, veges, and grass varieties.

Anyways, back off to reading a book...Jessica Watson’s “True Spirit”. The little solo sailor has gone on to become Young Australian of the Year. It is not a book that I would have seen myself picking up off the bookshelf in a bookstore and parting with my hard-earned cash for. But, I am enjoying it. It is an inspiring tale and well worth the read. It is a good thing that I am going to be teaching it. Because if it had not been thrust upon me this way I would not have read it. And, I can comfortable say I would have missed out on something special.

Gotta go...