Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's now thirty years since I went into the health food store in West Cumbria, some thirty miles from the Windscale nuclear reprocessing plant.

I wanted to buy some herbal teas. I'm not sure what flavour or, indeed, why as the mother of Son No.1 and I were avid wine and tissane makers, using the fruits and flowers of the local countryside.

Whatever, for some reason I wanted 5 teabags. Each of these was in a paper envelope with a pretty picture on. These five enveloped teabags were enclosed in a cellophane wrapper, probably with one of those pull tags which can be found on cigarette packets.

The sales assistant then proceed to put my purchase into a bag advertising the shop; I can't remember if this was a plastic bag, biodegradable or not, or whether it was a paper bag, recyclable or not. It was immaterial, as I put my small shopping into a pocket and suggested that she should cut down on the packaging.

"Oh, yes," she told me, "I'm into the environment."

I stopped smoking on February 13th this year, and jobless and stressed that I currently am, apart from a few passive intakes I haven't inhaled a cigarette or joint since. What I have inhaled, though, is the massive pollution that pervades Jakarta, particularly in the dry season.

To counteract the coughing and dry throat I've developed a mild addiction to Plonk sweets (US: candies) which get rid of smoker?s bad breath and itchy throat and are made from licorice extract, Plonk clears your throat and replaces cigarette breath with fresh, minty scent.

But why is each sweet individually wrapped in plastic and then sold in another machined bag?

As a species, those of us not in the poverty trap but with disposable incomes are now spending the capital of the Earth's resources.

The Ecological Footprint which measures the amount of biologically productive land and water to meet the demand for food, timber, shelter, and absorb the pollution from human activity shows that we are now in debt.

Not only are we wiping out plant and animal species in our rapacious rush to fill our shopping malls with consumerables and fancy packages, but in contributing to global warming, we have set in train the extinction of life as we know it.

Sir Nicholas Stern, an internationally regarded economist, spent more than a year examining the complex problem. After a week of rumours and leaks, yesterday he formally launched his 579-page report. Though dry in its delivery, it had a simple and apocalyptic message: climate change is fundamentally altering the planet; the risks of inaction are high; and time is running out.

Sceptics may be right when they say that global warming and climate change is encyclical. I don't necessarily agree with them because I tend to think that the Industrial Revolution, which kicked off in the UK some 250 years ago, is the root cause of the current catastrophe..

The invention of machinery which relied on fossil fuels for energy enabled massive productivity and the need to seek out global sources of raw materials and markets. Colonial empires have come and gone in this never-ending quest. Wars have been 'won' and 'lost' in the desire to dominate people and thereby monopolise resources.

Industrialised countries are belatedly trying to cut down the carbon emissions from factories, appliances and vehicles, as indeed are poorer countries such as Indonesia which, as reported today in the Jakarta Post (temporary blog site), is in the process of cutting down on the import of chloroflurocarbons (CFC). Whoopee, considering that CFCs are banned elsewhere it's good that the Department of the Environment here is actually doing something.

What is disturbing though, is that according to the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Living Planet Report 2006, Indonesia is a debtor nation, not just in terms of Chinese-Indonesian tycoons stashing their ill-gotten gains in Singapore but in terms of the depletion of natural resources.

Oil, copper, gold, coal, gas, wood. These are all non-renewable, yet conglomerates and cabals gladly dispose of them for short-term gains with little thought of this nation's destiny. Is it because the Indonesian birthright has been sold for a mess of potage?

What a bunch of plonkers.

More Reading Links
Green Indonesia - contributors wanted. Please email me.


3:00 pm |
Monday, October 30, 2006
  The World Returns To Normal

In the non-Muslim world, things have been the same old, same old, but here in Grotsville, The Big Mango or The Big Durian as Jakarta is more familiarly known, things have been remarkably nice.

There have been a few drops of rain, enough to dampen the dust and to hamper the haze. And, it being that time of year, the Jakarta Post has had a picture of a fairly empty Jalan Thamrin, the main downtown drag. (For we Brits, it is, of course, uptown.) Whatever, the week of Idul Fitri is marked by blissful quiet as some 30% of the population leave the metropolis.

On the opening feast day, hordes of Batak outlaws descend on Jakartass Towers. I smile regally and accept apologies for whatever may have been done to me since the last Idul Fitri and calmly accept that these actions may now be repeated because the time for fasting and refraining from naughty things is now past. The adults then gossip and eat loudly for a few hours and the kids do what kids do. And when they depart, the kids leave with a crisp banknote from my rapidly depleting bank account.

For everyone else in our street, the big deal seems to be mudik, the annual return to the family in one's hometown. Every year, the mass media get terribly excited about this mass exodus, as do the ticket touts at bus and train terminals who try to make a killing from the supposed shortage of tickets.

This year, however, things have been different. To circumvent the relative high cost of public transport for the family, travellers have seemingly opted for another mode of travel, the family's 80cc motorbike.

It has often been noted that we westerners stand out here. This is true, not so much because of our skin colour but because we are substantially larger. I'm often asked why I'm so tall, to which I invariably reply that I'm not; Indonesians are short. Which all goes to explain why you can see four, or more, Indonesian folk on a motorcycle.

Note that only the driver has suitable headgear, unless it's made here in which case it's not one I'd want to wear, hard-headed though I am.

What is a more usual sight is Dad, with a crash helmet, driving with a toddler more or less on his lap, without a crash helmet. Behind him will be Mum, no doubt with a crash helmet over her jilbab (headscarf). She may be riding side saddle, for decorum if not balance. And she will be sitting so close to hubby that child number two in front of her will be in no danger of falling off so s/he won't need a crash helmet.

This may well have been the first Idul Fitri mudik in which reported traffic accident deaths included a two year old who died from asphyxiation on his Dad's motorbike.

A hug too far?


10:30 pm |
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  There are expats and there are expats.

There are those of us who clock up the years here and those who move on after a while; the difference between 'live' and 'stay'.

In general, the major difference between the two groups is income and lifestyle. The short-termers could well have many of their needs - housing and utilities, travel, medical costs, school fees and pension scheme 'back home' - taken care of by the sponsoring company. They remain insulated from everyday life.

A parent in Surabaya writes about his daughter (and, please note, has written eloquently in reponse to this post):

There is an innocence that the kids develop here that you don't see much of back home. They live in a protected bubble in some ways, yet they also see the worst that a third worlds society has to offer by just getting in the car and going to the city.

The operative word here is 'see'. As expats, apart from commitments to and with Indonesian partners, any involvement we have with Indonesian society is generally that of observance. That is the essence of Jakartass. I do know that if I were still a resident in the UK, I would be actively engaged in the issues that concern me. Here in Jakarta, however, I can but comment.

As the hackneyed slogan of the Suharto era had it, Right or wrong, this is our (their) country.

So, as much as I am not on the same wavelength as short-term expats, I do recognise that their observations are just as valid as mine and the expat bloggers in my blogroll on the right.

Do drop in to Aussie in Indonesia and Jenny in Queensland who write nicely about 'how the other half live', or want to in Jenny's case.

I feel that we have seen next to nothing of the real Jakarta; we have been wrapped in cotton wool, whisked from the airport to the hotel and onto the mall and back in a private car with a driver. The only sights we have seen have been from the cars window.

There does seem to come a time when the innocence, the initial 'wow' factor, dies a natural death, as in the case of Mark, another Expat in Indonesia, presumably because the 'exotic' rapidly becomes commonplace for those of us who are prepared to do in Rome (Jakarta) as the Romans (post-Lebaran immigrants to Jakarta from the provinces) do.

(Dedicated to Del)


7:30 pm |
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
  Stand Up Guys

On the rare, very rare, occasions that I'm with Our Kid in one of Jakarta's faux recreational areas such as Plaza Senayan, we'll wander between the boutiques with thumbs and little fingers extended from the fists held close to our ears.

We'll shout at each other: Hello. I've got a hand phone, too.

Sometimes, for added amusement, we'll stand at the top or bottom of the escalators, or in doorways, and speak in tongues so that all those who can't squeeze by think we're from Leichtenstein or another exotic country.

I was reminded of these jolly japes by one of my new neighbours who even intruded in last night's mel-odious celebrations by having a lengthy conversation with a distant lass (lady/woman or whatever the politically correct word is). I know it was a she because I could hear her screeching back at him.

Regular readers of my musings will know that I'm not a name dropper or gossip maven. (By the way, I was chatting with SBY the other day and he agreed with me that Indonesian Celebrities is a site for sore eyes.) But I digress ....

Or do I? Because, to paraphrase the immortal words of the immortal Andy Warhol (who I never met, but I did once speak to someone who was second cousin to .....), we are all entitled to fifteen seconds of fame. And that, surely, is what handphones give their possessors. It gives them the opportunity to interrupt meetings and concerts, to lose focus on the moment as others focus on them.

I do not know anyone working for the emergency services, people such as doctors, policemen and the like for whom, I do understand, instant communication devices are essential if they are to save lives. But what is so important that nigh on everyone I know has their handphone almost permanently switched on? It's almost as if the notion of stopping, of doing nothing in the moment, is anathema to them.

Admittedly, there are a few who use the vibrator mode, but there are dangers in this, pleasurable though their regular missives may be.

Samples taken from men attending a fertility clinic revealed that their sperm declined steadily in number, quality and ability to swim as mobile phone usage increased. Where men used their mobiles for more than four hours a day, researchers found a 30% drop in sperm motility or movement and viability when compared with men who did not use a mobile phone.

Not all studies agree with this one, with some suggesting that those who used their phones the most did so sitting down thus inducing greater heat in the testicular area. Heat is, apparently, an inhibitor of sperm. (This, I would dispute, given the high birth rate in the tropics. My resarch has demonstrated quite unequivocally that it is much easier disrobing in hot countries than in more temporate climes.)

However, the message is clear guys. When you call your girl friend, do it standing up.

And if your sperm count is low, then why not give her this?

This is a Vibrator-MP3 player

* Full-function silicone vibrator with interchangeable shafts
* 64 megabytes of RAM with built-in USB port
* Built-in microphone for voice and sound recording
* Two pre-recorded audio fantasies
* Compatible with PC and Mac
* Headphones and USB cable

Or, simply leave the sound off and enjoy an exceptionally quiet yet robust vibe experience.

How long before it incorporates messaging (as opposed to massaging?) and all-purpose remote control?


12:00 pm |
Monday, October 23, 2006
  It's noisy out there

I've just come in from my terrace because the recordings being played from the umpteen masjids (big mosques) and mushollas (small neighbourhood street corner mosques) are much louder than usual.

The evening ambient music wafting across the nearby River Ciliwung has reached an unprecedented crescendo. This could be because of an increase in the places of worship or heavier duty amplification.

Added to this are the Hell's Cherubs roaring by on their souped up unbaffled Chinese 80cc velocipedes which set off car alarms in the neighbourhood. And continuing sporadically are the fireworks. Officially illegal, on this particular evening one has to turn a blind eye. Of course, as most were set off before the breaking of the final fast of this Ramadhan, you could only hear rather than see them.

In the back of the house, there is all kind of food sizzling away because that's what 'Er Indoors does on this day. Visitors over the next two days can expect to stuff themselves stupid on the famed Jakartass Towers rendang.

Which I suppose is a good way to express the following:


7:00 pm |
Sunday, October 22, 2006
  What's 'The Point'?

It's a new daily newspaper which has been set up to rival the Jakarta Post by, according to my sources, the Bakrie clan of Sidoarjo noteriety and Bambang Trihatmodjo, second son of 'he who had to be obeyed when he was the dictator here'.

There is, of course, nothing new in politically connected folk creating media outlets for themselves. And it is usual for we folk to read those newspapers which seem to reflect our respective prejudices, which is why Jakartass reads The Guardian.

The editor of the Manchester Guardian for 57 years, CP Scott wrote: "Character is a subtle affair, and has many shades to it ... fundamentally it implies honesty, cleanness [integrity], courage, fairness, a sense of duty to the reader and the community."

I detect an adherence to those humanitarian ideals in the Jakarta Post which has long argued for transparency, the prosecution of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and for the resolution of outstanding human rights cases such as that of Munir. There is a steadfastness to the Post's editorial line that I like, a pluralist outlook and a sense of community. They are also unafraid to question why Suharto and his clan have escaped relatively unscathed from criminal presecution for their abuses of power.

Yesterday the Post wrote the following: The reclamation of Jakarta's northern coast may be delayed because city-ownedJakarta bay operator BP Pantura has yet to secure environmental impact analysis documents for the project.

As the Post has been consistent in following that particular developer's wet dream, they obviously know the history of the project. In January 1998, just five months before the Cendana clan rushed to hide behind their offshore investments, George J. Aditjondro wrote, "The youngest sibling, Mamiek, has recently emerged in the business world after a company of hers obtained a deal to give a face lift to the northern shore of Jakarta Bay. The bidding was not competitive and Mamiek's company did not do an environmental impact study, as required by Indonesian law."

So far, The Point does not seem to have ventured such pointed statements.

It has this to say about the plan I commented on on Tuesday to anchor a floating Russian nuclear power station off the coast of Gorontalo in Sulawesi:

Many doubt though, considering that the government has been unable to handle, with dispatch, the gushing hot mud from the gas well in East Java, a relatively "small" mishap that has badly affected the local people, the effectiveness of the government in handling a nuclear accident.

If one ignores the somewhat convoluted syntax and that there is no mention of the Bakrie-owned Lapindo's culpability in the Sidoarjo mess, then they are right to question the potential handling of a nuclear accident. Maybe they will prove worthy competitors to the Post.

The Point has only been on the newsstands for three weeks and has yet to build up a constituency so I hope they won't mind a couple of suggestions.

Firstly, the design is a mish-mash, a hodge-podge of fonts both serif and sans serif. I prefer the latter; the Post uses the former, but at least it is consistent.

Also, the Jakarta-based Point does not yet appear to have an online edition. All I can find are the following:
Point Newspaper (in Gambia) - headlines, editorials and news categorized by subject. Includes a youth forum and travel information and classified ads.
Point Newspaper - the only newspaper serving the South Bay's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities.

So, what's the point in The (Jakarta) Point? Change the name before it's too late!

Whilst I'm on the topic of news and its dissemination, The Point, The Post and other media could do well to visit this blogosphere more often. For example, Patung at Indonesian Matters has brought attention to the proposal of Gerakan Kemerdekaan Minahasa (Minahasa Freedom Movement) to secede from the unitary state of Indonesia. The Minahasa region, with its distinctive culture, is in North Sulawesi and abuts the Gorontalo Regency (which thinks it's a province).

The notion of a separatist movement so close to a nuclear power station is not a comforting one, is it?

The Opinionated Diner is another opinionated blogger, a New Zealander based in Bali, who travels hither and dither through these parts. In the absence of meatier stuff here I think you should drop in to his Bunch of Unrelated Thoughts about Music, Politics, Food and anything else that occurs.

... it was with some surprise when the lady in the bright red suit asked me to put away my iPod for landing. "Apa?" I asked, and she said I needed to put it away to land. Nonsense says I, I've never done so in the past and don't see what difference it makes. It's Air Asia policy said she. It wasn't when I flew with you before I said. It is now she said. "Kenapa?" said I ... cause, she said ... wait for it ... if you have your iPod on you might not notice if the plane crashes.

What could I say ... how can you dispute logic like that?

In my copy of The Point there is one, just one, major advertiser - Batavia Air.

Unlike Air Asia, its slogan is Trust Us To Fly.


3:30 pm |
Thursday, October 19, 2006
  Sunset Over Sidoarjo

Romantic, eh? So much so that the Media Center Lusi of the, rough translation this, National Team Responsible for the Big Mudhole in Sidoarjo (Timnas Penanggulangan Semburan Lumpur di Sidoarjo) has produced a fine glossy magazine dedicated to the mudhole.

The picture above is from the HotMudFlow blog, chiefly because the Media Center does not appear to be online. (If you happen to be in Surabaya, could you please visit their office in Jalan Raya Kupang Indah, and email me the URL if they have one. Thanks.)

It's not that this 12 page slightly smaller than A4 magazine, Edition 2, isn't appreciated, but it doesn't seem to give any current information, although I suppose if you didn't know that Lapindo was drilling very close to what Pertamina, the state oil company, labelled a 'danger zone' back in 1994 then this is somewhat relevant.

There are some nice pictures of refugees from villages of well-constructed semi-submerged houses and the road bridge which has been squatted to provide temporary accommodation. There are also a few pictures of concerned bureaucrats, all of which should be of concern to the 80,000 or so residents who have been uprooted and are now dependent on handouts. When (if?) I get round to translating the financial figures given, I'll post them as an addendum to this.

I am indebted to Ong of Unspun who this morning gave me the magazine and reminded me that he too is an expat. (I must amend my blogroll.) What concerns us both, interested as we are in the potential power of the internet to disseminate information, is the fact that the Media Center Lusi has the time to produce a magazine.

What's the budget? And what are the true costs of production? And wouldn't a flash-free website be much more cost-effective?

Could this be another case for the sleuths of Anti-KKN?


7:30 pm |
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
  Another Green Indonesia day today.

Or, rather, a very hazy southeast Asia day.



10:00 pm |
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
  A Day On The Town

Ok, it was merely a series of encounters out and about assessing my legal and extra-legal options, but I did end up meeting a couple of folk who've impacted on our expat lives.

First up was one of the ladies of KPC Melati* who have been campaigning for changes in the citizenship laws. She was not one of the lovely ladies pictured here but I really believe that Our Kid, who now has dual citizenship thanks to their campaigning zeal will be grateful in eight years time. (He was ten yesterday.)

Next up was KukukaChu of JakChat who does a nice line in visas, the reason I was in that neck of the woods. He was sitting in Ya-Udah, half expecting me, not having met the lady from the paragraph above who, just coincidentally (?), is married to the Swiss gentleman who is the owner-manager.

And at his table was Patung who runs Indonesia Matters. We had never met before and considering that he operates out of Surabaya it could be some time before we meet again. So we nattered about this and that, about poor old Harry who writes about a Lothario friend of his ~ all he does besides working is dating women. It is the rule he has 3 dates per day and sleeps with most of his dates (many ask him to sleep with them on the first date). He also gets called many times per day by girls he knows already, they ask him to meet him in his or their apartment. When he is with a girl he always shuts off his HP because he is constantly called by girls and his date would of course not appreciate that.

And Harry?

I haven't even had a date so far and I been far longer in Jakarta than him.


We, Patung and I, also wondered about the wisdom ~ sanity? ~ of Governor Fadel Muhamad of Gorontalo, in Sulawesi, who has a wizard scheme to overcome Indonesia's energy crisis.

Russian electricity company Raoues is slated to build Indonesia's first nuclear power plant. The facility will be located in Gorontalo, Sulawesi, in order to meet long-term demand for electricity there and in nearby provinces.

"The new plant is expected to start operating by the end of 2007. Gorontalo will be registered as the first province in Indonesia to enjoy nuclear electricity," Fadel said.

Fadel said the nuclear plant would be designed to have a generating capacity of 90 megawatts, which would be sold to state-owned electricity company PT PLN at a price one-third lower than that of conventional electricity.

Raoues' representative in Indonesia, Bambang Waskito, said the power plant would be built aboard a ship floating off the shore of Gorontalo.

Commenting on fears about its safety, PLN business director Sunggu Anwar Aritonang said (that) while Indonesia does not have experience operating a nuclear power plant, it does have a solid base of knowledge.

"We have many experts who have studied it. Based on existing literature, nuclear power plants are safe," he said."We have to cooperate with other countries, though. For the first stage, we will just buy the nuclear-powered electricity from the other country."

A solid base of knowledge. Does he mean like Harry's knowledge of women? You know, look but don't touch?

*If you read this, R., could you reply to the comments below, please?


10:00 pm |
Sunday, October 15, 2006
  Missed Me?

Hi fans. I am so sorry it has taken me so long to post again, but I have been so busy trying to save millions of innocent children!

Actually, that's not quite true for Jakartass nor, surely, for another blogger, Madonna.

I know people think I'm flawless, but I am just like everyone else. I fart! I poop! Heck I even have bad hair days (I do have my own stylist so scratch that!) I eat food to survive (I have a chef to prepare my food though, but I still have to eat it!) You get the picture? Good!

Borrowed Thought No.2
As Christopher Isherwood apparently said: Only those who are capable of silliness can be called truly intelligent.

But it is true that I didn't post yesterday, partly because I spent much of the day moving dust around whilst reorganising my books, DVDs and currently redundant work related stuff. I also had a few web pages ready to copy and paste from and to link to here when there was a power cut. For the second evening into night in a row.

At least it restored the power of speech to Jakartass Towers. Most folk would associate candlelight with romantic restaurants; last night our meal was delivered by Pizza Hut and we swapped family anecdotes. Unable to watch television, we reminded Our Kid of the time when his kindergarden sang songs on live TV (TVRI ~ state-run so few watch). Unfortunately he missed his starring role in the finale as he'd gone off set to have a pee.


11:30 am |
Friday, October 13, 2006
  Borrowed Thoughts.

As I metamorphose into the next phase of family support obligations, it's inevitable that much introspection is taking place. I don't intend to chronicle every anger management moment (and there are many), or to profile former colleagues who've also been right royally shafted over the past few years ~ other forums will exist for those critiques, or to slag off s/he- who- should- have-been- obeyed (and would have been if one could have seen behind the face), or to provide justifications, ammunition, explanations ~ all of which would ultimately be for personal self-aggrandisement.

However, Jakartass is my site and I have invited the world in to share some thoughts, thoughts which to paraphrase the words of one reader who may not agree with everything I say; in fact he doesn't, except at least some of the things I wrote about have prompted him to further research. So I have some relevance ~ except to those who make oodles of boodle from their 'prestige' blogs.

Which pleases me greatly. So as all I'm trying to do, as is every other blogger, is to help those of you trying to understand my convoluted thoughts, I figured I'd offer some thoughts of others who, perhaps, express them better.

This is the first of an occasional series ~ of however many I feel are relevant to the moments.

One day, we will put it all behind,
We'll say, that was just another time,
We'll say, that was just another day on Earth

And just to get some more controversy going in the local blogosphere, I offer an email doing the rounds of Indonesian English speakers, with an added thought from an expat blogger.

On a beautiful deserted island in the middle of nowhere, the following people are stranded:

2 Italian men and 1 Italian woman
2 French men and 1 French woman
2 German men and 1 German woman
2 Greek men and 1 Greek woman
2 English men and 1 English woman
2 Polish men and 1 Polish woman
2 Japanese men and 1 Japanese woman
2 American men and 1 American woman
2 Irish men and 1 Irish woman
2 Australian men and 1 Australian woman
2 Welsh men and 1 Welsh woman

One month later, the following things have occurred:

One Italian man killed the other Italian man for the Italian woman.

The two French men and the French woman are living happily together as a threesome and having loads of sex.

The two German men have a strict weekly schedule when they alternate with the German woman who has twisted some palm fronds into strands for making ropes and whips.

The two Greek men are sleeping with each other and the Greek woman is cleaning, cooking and ironing for them.

The two English men are waiting for someone to introduce them to the English woman.

The Polish men took a long look at the endless shark infested ocean and then a look at the Polish woman...and started swimming.

The two American men are contemplating the virtues of suicide, while the American woman keeps on bitching about her body being her own, the true nature of feminism, how she can do everything that they can do, the equal division of household chores, how her last boyfriend respected her opinion and treated her much nicer and how her relationship with her mother is improving.

The two Japanese men have faxed Tokyo and are waiting for instructions.

The two Irish men divided the island into North and South and have each set up a distillery. They do not remember if sex is an alternative because it gets sort of foggy after the first few litres of coconut whiskey.

The two Australian men got drunk and beat each other senseless fighting over the Australian woman, who in turn, is checking out all the other men, sure that she can do better than 'Bloody Australian W*nkers!'

Both Welsh men have disregarded the Welsh woman and are searching the island for sheep.

And neither of the two Indonesian men could satisfy the Indonesian women, so the Indonesian women went in search of an expat. ;-)
Thursday, October 12, 2006
  DJ Podfunk

Lovers of the Sunday print version of the Jakarta Post, will be pleased to know that the Metro Mad column by Simon Pitchforth is finally online.

How do I know? Easy, he told me thus:

Dear Mr. J,

Alright chief, just to let you know that I'm currently uploading all of my stultifyingly ill informed Metro Mad stuff to the Metro Mad Blog.

Keep up the good work and even more Cheney bashing please.

Love from Mr. Simon

Have I really had a go at Cheney? Bakrie, yes, but then he's 'ours'. No, I think Mr. Simon may be confusing me with another new expat blogger in town who goes by the name of Penton Arc(hipelago) and writes on every subject under the tropical sun.

Indeed he does as the following headings show:

Drugs and Corporate Responsibility Ain't What They Used To Be ....
A tale of how General Motors, who were sponsoring a Rolling Stones tour, ensured that the group were kept very happy.

The Filthy Rich and The Fury
These days the Soehartos are treated like celebrities, with cozy, fawning interviews and glamorous profiles in the pop media.

......... it's only been eight years since the old man went, the economic crisis continues (for most) and since 1998, that family have committed serious crimes and have been exposed in international bribery scandals, not to mention the alleged ill-gotten $15 billion, that a mere slice of would have gone a long way to help the recent victims of the tsunami, earthquake and current Sidoarjo mess, but where is the public disgrace that most ordinary Indonesians apparently seem to fear so much?

Welcome to the Blogosphere both of you. Now if you could just describe your Indonesian partners, then your initiation will be complete.

Oh, and for those of us with short attention spans, could I ask for more paragraphs, please?


1:30 pm |
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
  Diamond Geezer has written about his archives which stretch back two years further than mine. He says: The immediacy of blogging damns 99% of all blog content to online irrelevance. And that ... sentence will remain true long after anyone is still reading it.

So if I tell you that all the bullshit which has put down recently in other blogs about bules - a racist word you know I dislike intensely - and their Indonesian partners of the female persuasion will be irrelevant after a while, as will my current erstwhile (lack of) employment, and if I tell you that this hyperspatial ephemera is of little value, I know you'll understand.

But I'll be back when I've sobered up enough (and have further employment?) to articulate thoughts which are balanced and fair, albethey weighted to my point of view.


7:30 pm |
Monday, October 09, 2006
  The Fabric of Life

Relationships - social bonds - created in cyberspace are the fabric of life and rooted in primal human behavior. They are not newly invented in cyberspace. They extend to and are extended from real world experiences.

Merlyna wrote this on September 3rd following the death of popular Indonesian blogger, Teh Inong.

Teh was a young mother and her premature death is, as always with one so young, especially sad. That we have insights into each other's lives with a sense of immediacy without ever hearing the voices which articulate the thoughts we read is one of the joys of entering the blogosphere as a participant.

Yet, that we feel that we can get to know each other is but a smokescreen. It's all vicarious, secondhand. Jakartass is the pseudonym I have deliberately adopted to give me a voice and the freedom to express those things that I feel need to be said. That is, the things I feel need to be said but not necessarily by the 'me' that I perceive myself to be.

I hope I have stirred some thoughts and, in a small way, helped to change the society we live in. This may be because some have been mentally nudged into the awareness of issues which may otherwise have remained hidden from their view. That's all to the good. Not that what I have to say is the 'truth'; it's out there somewhere but I'm still looking.

Some truths I do know. The first is that strangers are worthy of respect, until, that is, until they prove themselves unworthy of that mutual respect. Now, I don't know what religious beliefs are expressed by those in the blogosphere happily defaming a small group of strangers here who have formed happy relationships with local partners. But maybe, just maybe, Bloggers for Christ have some words of wisdom to impart.

Propriety, decorum and decency are not elements considered on blogs. People simply blurt things out, without considering the contents or consequences.

Ask yourself: Why would you have the need to share personal things with people you don't even know, i.e. the world at large? Many of the things shared should not even be read by close friends, let alone strangers! Be aware and avoid the thinking that "everything is up for discussion" - it isn't.

Stop and consider. The biggest mark you will ever make is to build God's character and be born into the God Family. Blogging will not help you achieve this.


9:00 pm |
  Sent: Monday, October 09, 2006 2:10 PM
Subject: Your personal invite to check out www.klmcatchaflight.com

Hello Weblog owner,

If you have the time please have a look at the new online game created by KLM called Catch-a-Flight. The main prize is a ticket to Europe on KLM and every participant is an instant winner with a surprize from Lonely Planet. This campaign was launched in Indonesia and Australia and will run till end 29 October 2006.

Catch-a-Flight yourself at www.klmcatchaflight.com today. We would appreciate a post on http://jakartass.blogspot.com/ with your opinion about the campaign.

Thank you and good luck!

"The train is now approaching Government Centre Station" ... is the annoying soundtrack to the flash game which doesn't fully load because I have an Indonesian ISP.

I would, however, like one of the prizes:
First Prize: One Economy class return ticket to Europe.
Second Prize: US$300 Travel Discount Certificate
Third Prize: US$100 Travel Discount Certificate
+ a discount voucher for a Lonely Planet publication (wow!)

Comment: As I can't stay online long enough and my digital dexterity is most probably too limited to win, I'll give this a miss. But thanks for asking and please find in your inbox the secret details of my bank account so you can deposit the promised fee. It's a pleasure doing business with you, notwithstanding the following disclaimer.

Subject to applicable laws, KLM, Jakartass, their advertising and interactive agencies shall not be liable in any way and for any reason whatsoever to the participants whether in contract, tort or otherwise (including negligence) for any direct or indirect loss or damage howsoever caused (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss) or personal injury suffered or sustained in connection with anything at anytime anywhere.



5:00 pm |
Friday, October 06, 2006
  Nobel, Ig Nobel or No Balls

This is the time of year when distinguished folk gather near some Norwegian fjord to consider which folk are distinguished in their respective fields and should be awarded loads of publicity and a million dollars or so because they've supposedly benefited mankind.

There are usually several scientists. What they do and how is beyond our comprehension as we grapple with killer diseases bred in hospital air conditioners, drilling disasters, power cuts, thalidomide and the wiping out of wildlife so that the few remaining rhino horns and tiger testicles can give someone's testerone a boost. (What's wrong with viagara, eh? Were the scientists responsible for discovering erectile dysfunction en-nobeled?) Maybe what they do is bad science, but it takes one to know one, as they (who?) say.

Alfred Nobel, as we all know, made his pile out of his reinvention of explosives ~ the Chinese had them yonks before ~ and because he got very remorseful in his dotage he decided that his ill-gotten gains should be doled out to inventors of the Big Bang Theory and others perceived to have had a cataclysmic effect on the human race.

There is a Peace Prize, too, which is because you can't have peace without war which was one source of his wealth. This year, gamblers consider SBY to be a relatively sure bet for this supposedly prestigious award because he told his deputy, Josef Kalla, to end the separatist 'war' in Aceh, a war that had escalated when he, SBY, was the Co-ordinating Minister of Security in the Cabinet of President Magawati while she was too busy shopping to sort it out herself.

Ig nore all that and pause to admire this year's winners of the Ig Nobel awards which were announced yesterday at Harvard University.

These awards are recognisably relevant as they answer key questions, such as "Why don't woodpeckers get headaches?" and "What is the Dung Preference of the Dung Beetle Scarabaeus Cristatus Fab (Coleoptera-Scarabaeidae) from Kuwait?" ( Answers are here and here.)

In brief, the Mathematics Prize went to Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed. Positively rivetting stuff.

And the Ig Nobel Literature Prize this year went to Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University for his report "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly" which you can download here. (NB. This might take an inordinately lengthy and tedious timespan to download. And read.)

The Ig Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded for the invention of a grouch's dream: it's an electromechanical teenager repellant - a device that makes an annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults. Think of dog whistles and you get the idea. As we get older, our auditory range shrinks so those high-pitched squeals emitted by pubescents when listening to Wetlife or Boyz2Gurlz become inaudible - thank whoever your god is.

This device is called the Mosquito, the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems.

Jakartass recognises that this is a real boon to society, if not for me. You see, I don't hang out in malls and teenagers don't hang out in front of Jakartass Towers. What we do get are arrogant bastards who park in front and leave their engine running because they want the so-called benefit of in-car air conditioning.

Then there's the Hells Cherubs on their souped up 80cc motorbikes. It baffles me why they remove the baffles from the silencers and, when I'm not fantasising about stringing fishing line at neck height across our narrow back street, as they race past I use up all the f- and c- words decorum won't allow me to use here.

Peace in Indonesia? Don't make me laugh. Or anyone who doesn't really want to be woken up at 4.50 in the morning.

And as for SBY getting the $1 million and being enNobelled with the Peace Prize, that has to be a non-starter.

Two days ago, Pollycarpus, a Garuda Airline pilot convicted of killing Munir, the human rights activist, two years ago, had his sentence of 14 years imprisonment reduced to just two. It has always been assumed that he was the fall guy for the State Intelligence Service, mainly because his handphone recorded so many calls to the deputy director, Muchdi Purwopranjono, before and after Munir's assassination on a flight to Amsterdam.

Pollycarpus was on the flight and had given up his seat to Munir in the first class section. The documents allowing Pollycarpus on the flight were proved to have been forged; hence the imprisonment. He is now being set free because no direct evidence of murder could be proven against him.

Many believe Pollycarpus was made a scapegoat to protect certain individuals or parties who masterminded the murder of Munir. Pollycarpus personifies the silence of the lamb as until the Supreme Court reduced his 14 years jail term to only two years, he has never revealed the brains behind the murder.

Despite this, at more than one point before and during the trial his lawyer did threaten to do so; saying Pollycarpus knew more about the murder than he would let on, a tacit admission of involvement that the Supreme Court judges did not seem to consider worthwhile evidence.

President Yudhoyono sanctioned a fact-finding team to find out who ordered the murder, but the team said they had difficulty getting access to information from the military and BIN. Yudhoyono has publicly stated his commitment to seeing the case solved. But with the exoneration of Pollycarpus, no one has been held responsible for the murder.

The deputy chief of the fact-finding team, Asmara Nababan, questioned Yudhoyono's resolve, pointing out that the President has not released the team's results to the public.
Jakarta Post

Until such time as SBY releases the report into Munir's murder ~ the report that he, as President, commissioned ~ then no award of any kind, let alone an Ig Nobel, should be awarded to SBY.

He is beginning to demonstrate that he is President No Balls.


8:30 pm |
Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Miko comments: A lot of people think Haliburton is the devil incarnate but it seems to me that the delay in getting people like them into this situation (Sidoarjo mudflow) has led to this mess getting worse. This is exactly the sort of thing that these Texan oil guys do, that's their job and I can't help thinking it was stupid national pride that prevented them being called in earlier. Instead we saw tuppence ha'penny operations that have been almost childish compared to what professionals could do. If Haliburton sticks Bakrie with an $800 million bill then good luck to 'em!

And Riccardo says: Halliburton, for all its bad PR connected with Dick Cheney, is a capable, efficient company with the tools and ability to fix this. Of course that money will go straight into the "Elect Cheney for President" fund for 2008.

And I totally agree with you guys, but, just out of curiosity, I thought I'd dig just a bit deeper into Dick Cheyney's war chest.

This is a good place to start.

Halliburton is involved in providing oil and gas services to business, industry and government agencies worldwide. Through its two main operating groups, KBR (engineering and construction) and Halliburton Energy Services, Halliburton offers a wide variety of products and services to energy customers worldwide. As such, Halliburton is heavily involved in oil and gas privatization contracts throughout the world. Halliburton and its subsidiaries have been widely criticized for their contracts in various countries where human rights violations and environmental problems are widespread (including Algeria, Angola, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Croatia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia and Indonesia)

Halliburton in Indonesia

HED (Indonesia), Inc., United States
HES Indonesia Holdings, Inc., United States
KBR Indonesia Holdings, Inc., United States
P.T. Brown & Root Indonesia, Indonesia
PT Halliburton Indonesia, Indonesia
PT Halliburton Logging Services Indonesia, Indonesia

Halliburton had extensive investments and contracts in Suharto's Indonesia. One of its contracts was canceled by the post-Suharto government during a purging of corruptly awarded contracts. Indonesia Corruption Watch named Kellogg Brown & Root (Halliburton's engineering division) among 59 companies using collusive, corruptive and nepotistic practices in deals involving former President Suharto's family.

I've just checked to see if there any jobs going here, but there aren't. There are 595 in Iraq, 226 in Afghanistan and just 2 in Canada; most are in the engineering, technical and supply side, a total of 623, with just 1 (one) in the Trust department, which figures I suppose.

Did I say Dick Cheyney's war chest a bit earlier? Yep, think war.

Halliburton discovered the benefits of government patronage when its support for U.S. President Lyndon Johnson resulted in several contracts, such as constructing military bases during the Vietnam War. In 1991, after the Persian Gulf War, then-Defense Secretary Cheney commissioned Brown & Root to conduct a study on the benefits of military outsourcing, paying the company an additional $5 million to update the report months later.

And there's more war here.

Brown & Root's open-ended logistics contracts from the Army and Navy - indeed much of the military privatization campaign - are grounded in a 1992 study the company did for the Defense Department that several analysts said formed the template for privatization of logistics for a downsized U.S. military. Soon after the company delivered the classified study, which reportedly concluded that the Pentagon could save hundreds of billions of dollars by outsourcing, Brown & Root won its first competitively bid logistics contract.

Vice President Dick Cheney was defense secretary (for the first President George Bush) when the first Brown & Root study was done, and he became chief executive of its parent company, Halliburton, when he retired (from government service).

As a Suhartoist and very rich businessman, it is inevitable that VP Josef Kalla and VP Dick Cheyney have more than a passing acquaintanceship. However, it is worrying that Halliburton is not exactly a supporter of reformasi.

"We don't do business in Burma," claims Halliburton spokesperson Wendy Hall. But while the company may have no current direct investments in Burma, it has participated in a number of energy development projects there, including the notorious Yadana and Yetagun pipelines.

EarthRights International discovered that during Cheney's tenure as CEO of Halliburton, a subsidiary of the company provided services to two controversial gas pipelines in Burma, the Yadana and the Yetagun.

From 1992 until the present (2002), thousands of villagers in Burma have been forced to work on these pipelines and their related infrastructure, have lost their homes due to forced relocation, and have been raped, tortured, and killed by Burmese soldiers hired by the companies as security guards for the pipelines. Under Cheney, a joint venture of Halliburton and Saipem (Italy) laid the offshore portion of the Yadana pipeline. Halliburton's participation in these projects shows a callous disregard for the consequences of their business behavior.

Shortly before the election, Dick Cheney admitted on the Larry King Live! show that Halliburton had done contract work in Burma.

And in July 2002, Halliburton was awarded a $9.7 million contract to build an additional 207 cell internment center at the US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba to hold suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. The treatment of the prisoners held in Guantanamo has been widely criticized by human rights groups including Amnesty International.

It may well be of value to ICW to monitor how Halliburton performs in Sidoarjo. Possibly of a greater and more immediate concern is Halliburton's environmental work.

In September 2005, under a competitive bid contract it won in July 2005 to provide debris removal and other emergency work associated with natural disasters, KBR started assessment of the cleanup and reconstruction of Gulf Coast Marine and Navy facilities damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The facilities include: Naval Station Pascagoula, Naval Station Gulfport, the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, two smaller U.S. Navy facilities in New Orleans, Louisiana and others in the Gulf Coast region.

So, that's the military sorted out then.

All large companies have their share of lawsuits from competitors, employees and the like, but Halliburton's legal troubles have been unusually public and expensive. Shortly after acquiring Dresser Industries in 1997, Halliburton inherited more than 300,000 asbestos claims filed against a Dresser subsidiary located in Pennsylvania that made construction products containing the substance. Halliburton settled the claims in December 2002 with about $4 billion in cash and stock and placed KBR under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The huge loss, coupled with Cheney's departure and other large settlements the previous year, caused the company's stock to plunge: after three high-ticket asbestos-related verdicts in 2001, shares fell 40 percent in one day.

Enough, you cry. Yep, there's loads more, all easily accessible on the web.

What is of immediate concern is a. has Halliburton really taken on the responsibility of trying to stop the Sidoarjo mudflow and, b. if it has, then does the company have the necessary expertise to do the job - assuming it's doable?

The answer to b. is definitely yes. So they say.

As a Global Company in the Oil and Gas Service Industry, Halliburton delivers Expertise, Service, Speed and New Technology leading the world in Integrated Energy Services, Engineering, Construction and Maintenance.


7:00 pm |
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
  This is a comment on the Sidoarjo shenanigans left by Expat in Indonesia.

As I'm a bit swamped at the moment, if anyone can add anything, we'd be well pleased. After all, as he says, this news has yet to hit the mainstream.

Just some thoughts on the mud flow you might want to chase up.

*Haliburton is now the main driving force behind efforts to sort out the problem. Yet no mention has been made of them in the Jkt post etc. Now why is that? Figures range up to around $600 million to get it sorted. Haliburton have promised SBY they will have it capped and the mud pumped back into the ground within 3 months.

Presumably this has been arranged by VP Kalla on his trip to the States. I don't like or trust the guy, but you do have to admit that he's an achiever.

*SBY meanwhile has carpeted Bakrie and told him if it is not fixed soon, he and his empire will go down the tubes, courtesy of a presidential decree divesting Bakrie of everything. He is a very worried president given that the one railway line services a huge number of companies and factories, not to mention the gas pipeline that runs alongside and if that goes will cause power stations to start implementing brownouts across Java and Bali.

*Bakrie is in a world of pain, funds are drying up, banks are shying away from him, and it is estimated he will have to come up with $800 million to take care of Haliburton and the relocated villagers.

And Bakrie rejigging his shareholdings to save his empire isn't going to do much for his future credibility, is it? It's also been reported that Lapindo has to find 3,000 jobs for those who've lost theirs.

*BTW, the mud gusher occurred cos the fellas drilling were using a low pressure rig to drill a high pressure well, without safety precautions. The drilling supervisor was away (a good question to ask is where?!) when it happened.

If this is true, then the notion of this being a 'natural' disaster is a non-starter. Surely such a lackadaisical approach to a major industrial enterprise would beggar belief if it took place elsewhere. Why, here, does our cynicism seem natural, even justified?

Yosef Ardi reported last Wednesday :
A cabinet meeting tonight will make decision on whether to dump the mud to the sea, open new business opportunity like mud therapy spas (at a price e.g. the Ayuverda's Lepana herbalized mud treatment could cost US$150/hour) or make it a national park like Yellowstone.

All we've heard so far is that it's now an official disaster area. And the pumps are in place but the treatment plant isn't.

Please add comments or email me if you can add anything to the above. As Unspun has said, "The important thing is that we try to force these guys to be more honest and transparent at the end of the day."

Amen to that, bro'.


10:00 pm |
Monday, October 02, 2006

A Green Indonesia day today.



4:30 pm |
Sunday, October 01, 2006
  I am 1 in 10

... and I'm celebrating because I am now considered elderly.

Yes, today is October 1st which every year is International Day for the Elderly - a red letter day.

This day is dedicated to honor, respect and care for the world's elderly.
Remember, someday you hope to be included among this group!

Well, here I am. Thanks for your honor, respect and care and please excuse me while I go and wash my tooth. It may take a while as my zimmer frame is being serviced.

My other job


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