Monday, April 30, 2007
  Ups, downs and outs.

Earlier today, I had a really fascinating post all ready to put here. Then PLN cut off our electricity, and everyone else's in our street. And why? Was it an emergency, a fire in a sub-station, perhaps, like the last one?

Was it expletive! Nope: they were changing a cable but didn't have the courtesy, foresight or nous to drop by and let us know. Bastards.

I was also going to have a wry little chuckle about the problems we addicted Addicks have. I wasn't one of the nigh on 6,000 who travelled up from London, southern England, and, in the case of one intrepid fan, from Australia to watch our lot lose and seemingly condemn Charlton to the degradation of the so-called Championship division next season. Actually, numerically it's the second division; whatever, their matches won't be on ESPN.

This gives me a dilemma - is it going to be worth renewing my subscription to Indovision, our satellite provider?

What for, I ask myself. Do I really have to watch American Idol and Amazing Race Asia? The film channels endlessly recycle the same ones and King Kong is more like Mighty Mouse on a 21 inch screen. Besides, I seem to already have most of those shown on DVDs of variable quality. So what's left? Animal Planet, National Geographic and a channel which delights in showing us how the rich and infamous like to gloat.

However, a recent 'up' is that my erstwhile employer is making some of the right noises about settling the claim related to our unfair and illegal dismissal; this means that I should be able to afford more hours in front of the box.

Otherwise I would have had little choice other than to spend my time digging out more blogs to point you in the direction of. My current backlog includes the following:

A Malaysian musicaholic gives Jakartass a link. He's into music.art 'n design. advertising.traveling. photography.books. rollercoaster.watersports. movies.food.chitchat. in a range of colours I thought we hippies abandoned 35 years ago.

An Eastern man going west, has great pics of foodstuff labels in bahasa Indonesia.

Simply Lita loves to read and spend most of (her) free time reading a book.
A simple blog with a simple layout which is simply delightful to read.

Yosef Ardi has ceased blogging in favour of a subscriber-based site. Whilst I do get referrals from his blog to here, I can't recommend that you fork out up to $310 a year for his snippets of political and business gossip. I wish you well, YA, but, sorry, you've lost your place on my blogroll.

Finally, to a couple of bloggers who I've known online for since before Jakartass was born. Inspector Sands I got to know because he is a fellow Addick. For a number of years he kept a blog, Casino Avenue, related to the goings on in his corner of south-east London, which served as one of my catalysts. He has recently resurfaced with Last Bus Home and gets put back in my London blogroll.

Another blogger has recently resurfaced. For a couple of years Steve Jackson was Our Man in Hanoi, recounting his work as a VSO volunteer in a project putting street kids back on their feet. His duties done, he returned to Newcastle in the UK to find another gig. And now he is Our Man in Granada, Nicaragua.

I wonder what's next for Jakartass.


4:00 pm |
Sunday, April 29, 2007
  Keeping Minds and Bodies Together

What is it about body parts? No sooner do I write about the former colonial masters of Indonesia keeping a cache of Papuan and Javan body bits in Amsterdam and the UK nuclear industry, which has viewed every bit of me, keeping bits of deceased workers, than another related story segment emerges.

Every true blue royalist Brit is panicking over the notion that a scion of Good Queen Bessy, Prince Harry, could be sent to Iraq to have his head shot off. He has chosen, or his granny did, an army life ~ he is a troop commander of the, for him the appropriately named, Blues and Royals regiment. The irony is that the army is going to have to provide special protection for someone whose job is to provide special protection for those supposedly in need of it.

Getting killed is part of the job. At least good soldiers can expect a decent military funeral, with full honours.

Or can they?

The "single worst military disaster since the Falklands War", at least from the British viewpoint, occurred last year near Kandahar, in Afghanistan, where a Nimrod MR2 crashed. 14 servicemen were killed and their body parts returned to their closest kin for burial. The problem is that no-one knows who buried what part of whom.

Recognising a face is generally easier than, say, a finger. That said, how many times have you had a conversation with someone who you only vaguely recognise or who you believe is someone else?

Son No.1 has just sent me the results of a "service" (eh?) which applies "advanced face recognition technology to personal photos." I only mention this because the best match of my visage is to that of the most prolific known serial killer in modern history, Harold Shipman.

After his trial, an inquest decided that there was enough evidence to suggest that Shipman had killed a total of 215 people, mostly women. His youngest victim had been a 41-year-old woman. Some sources have suggested that Shipman may have killed over 400 people.

This was more than the combined total of British military casualties in Iraq (145+) and Afghanistan (53+) since our lads recently went back in.

I'm glad that I'm also matched with a slightly better class of people: John Cleese, Nick Mason, Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Farrah Fawcett.



Let me see .... take Shipman's glasses, the Cleese walk and his 'green-ness', Mason's taste in music, Spacey's intelligence, the Marquez literary prowess and Farrah's ....... let's just say that it's not her hair or teeth, and you have a composite image of Jakartass.


12:00 pm |
Thursday, April 26, 2007

We Had A Ball - Alan Ball

Those of us who were privileged (i.e. old enough) to see England win the World Cup in 1966 will always treasure the memory of all the eleven, but some have lingered longer than others. The little ginger haired lad half back, full of running and irrepressibly happy is one.

Ball remained the kid - despite everything that happened in the intervening years. Right to the end he was the red-haired pocket dynamo, his voice still unbroken, his enthusiasm undimmed.

There will be a minute's silence at football grounds nationwide this weekend ~ or will there? A new custom has risen of applauding, not talking, just applauding in memory of the goodness we feel for someone recently departed. Alan Ball, in spite of his unbroken voice, was a beacon of talent, industry and honesty, traits we Brits possibly admire the most.

We Have A Balls Up - A Wolf At The Door

Honesty, or the lack of it, personifies Paul D. Wolfowitz, currently (but for how much longer,eh?) President of the World Bank (WB). That he advocated the invasion of Iraq before 9/11 while he was in his previous post as Deputy Secretary of Defense is well known and a major reason for his having become everyone's pet figure of hate.

He has always been in a position of influence even though he has never been elected to that position. Hence his tenure as US Ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 89.

After Suharto stood down in 1998 Wolfowitz stated that the General was guilty "of suppressing political dissent, of weakening alternative leaders and of showing favoritism to his children's business deals, frequently at the expense of sound economic policy" while ABC News clarifies that "at the time, thousands of leftists detained after the 1965 U.S.-backed military coup that brought Suharto to power were still languishing in jail without trial."

Ah, but the irony is that during his 32-year reign, Suharto, his family and his military and business cronies transformed Indonesia into one of the most graft-ridden countries in the world, plundering an estimated $30 billion, much of (which) is believed to have come from Wolfowitz's new employers, the World Bank.

And while he was here, Wolfowitz "never alluded to any concerns about the level of corruption or the need for more transparency."

That Wolfowitz should target corruption in developing countries and make its eradication a pre-condition of World Bank aid should, presumably, be applauded.

That he is not Mr. Clean, having awarded his girlfriend, working at the WB when he took office at the behest of George Bush Jr., a massive pay and promotion package without due transparency is rightfully deplored.

There are deeper concerns about the role of the World Bank and this controversy may yet see poorer countries being better represented in the formulation of economic policies that benefit them rather than the good ol' paternalistic USA.

A fellow graduate at Cornell University, Max Sawicky says this: It is not because of his ridiculous bad forecasts about Iraq and smearing of critics. It is his blatant corruption and hypocrisy when he is supposedly battling corruption. It is certainly his getting cushy deals for his (Iraqi Shi'i, not Tunisian Sunni) girlfriend, which is what will probably do him in, but (also) his hiring of a bunch of his incompetent cronies from the DOD as inside advisers at way off the wall salaries to help him go around World Bank rules to stick it to countries the Bushies don't like and favor countries the Bushies like. For many, many reasons, PWD must go.

Here, here, but preferably anywhere but here.


4:30 pm |
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
  Miko Micturates

And in public, too.

The hostility to nuclear power is a direct result of the anti-rational, anti-capitalist, Pol Pot like hard left bias of the original "ecology" movement, now rechristened as the Greens. They ignored the horrific environmental disasters being committed by the Communist regimes of the Soviet and Chinese bloc and instead concentrated their anger on the West and in particular at the one thing that kept the "workers' paradise" of the Soviet Union at bay; the US/British nuclear deterrent, hence the entirely irrational hatred of (western) nuclear power.

I don't usually bother responding to such monotheistic blasts of vitriol, but there are a few points raised by Miko that need clearing up.

Firstly, I was once, for a short while when (Lord) Jonathon Porritt was our spokesman, on the Executive Committee of the UK Ecology Party. I argued, successfully, at two successive annual conferences that the name should not be changed because too many people, such as Miko, perceive green to be the colour of naivety. (I had left the country when the name change occurred.)

But this is not the same as blinkered, which could be a term to apply to Miko's rant.

We 'greens' were far from the "hard left" Miko thinks we were. The roots of the UK ecology/environmentalist movement being in the libertarianism of the Diggers, both the mid-17th century pastoralist squatters in England and the more recent 'hippies' and 'self-help' movements of the middle to late sixties, and Quakerism.

... the same people today who shriek against nuclear power are the same people who go all misty eyed over the British coal industry and the miners that worked it.

"Misty eyed"? You're the one mentioning coal, Miko. But you can't isolate the coal mining industry and equate it with the nuclear power industry. Sure, mining is dangerous. But even Arthur Scargill, the then President of the Yorkshire division of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), recognised the worse dangers of the nuclear industry. Few know that he was an objector at the Windscale Inquiry. He said that he would be happy to see the closure of all coal mines if that were the way to protect future generations from the nuclear industry. Later, I had to step in to prevent him getting beaten up by the Windscale trade unionists.

Death Tolls

Have you had a look at the death toll in an average week in Chinese, Russian and American coal mines? I think it averages about seventy a week. What about the death toll from oil exploration and the pollution caused by the petrol engine throughout the world, and we won't even go down the road of wars and terrorism caused by petroleum exploitation.

Now we mentioned before the two worst nuclear power disasters in human history; Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, total casualty toll less than a hundred dead in half a century.

Eh? Where did you get those figures from, Miko? This nuclear industry briefing paper?

A Greenpeace report, based on Belarus national cancer statistics, predicts approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused by Chernobyl. The report also concludes that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000.

The BBC quotes the following figures, given by the Ukraine's Health Ministry: About 15,000 people were killed and 50,000 left handicapped in the emergency clean-up after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, according to a group representing those who worked in the relief operations. (And five million affected by radiation.)

You quite deliberately ate radioactive fish, what harm did it do you?

Long-term? I don't know, but apart from the cat we're all still alive, even though there was a significant rise in the levels of Caesium 137 in my body was recorded and acknowledged by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), the operators of Sellafield.

How does it compare with the endemic pleurisy and emphesema of northern British cities of your parents' generation and the soot clogged atmosphere which they endured as a result of coal exploitation.

It doesn't compare. Before 'smokeless' fuel was developed, we all suffered from smog and lung diseases ~ which weren't just caused by Capstan Full Strength or Wills Whiffs. And coal mining has always been a dangerous job; there can be no disputing that.

But the industry itself was never a danger for citizens of other countries, as occurred with the wind carried fallout from Chernobyl. Not including the total reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island, there is a horrific catalogue of leaks from nuclear power stations worldwide.

Why don't you click on the links I give you Miko? Here and here, for example. You'll find there have been several thousand leaks of nuclear material worldwide; not only in electricity generating power plants, but in reprocessing plants, of which there are but five: Sellafield in the UK, Cap La Hague in France, Rokkasho in Japan, Mayak in Russia and Kalpakkam in India, and in submarines. There are also 'lost' bombs.

I'm not saying nuclear power is perfect, but if it had just been invented this morning and we had full knowledge of the comparative health and safety risks we would leap on it as the perfect solution to the problems of sustainable energy sources.

That is open to dispute. The nuclear power industry was established in order to process plutonium for nuclear warheads; the electricity generated was but a beneficial byproduct. Now there are fears that the USA is thinking of re-embarking on a reprocessing programme.

Plutonium is produced as a by-product in U.S. nuclear power reactors. The used (or "spent") fuel stored at these reactors contains hundreds of tons of plutonium, but it cannot currently be stolen by terrorists because it is bound up in large, heavy, and highly radioactive assemblies of fuel rods that could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to someone standing a few feet away in less than an hour. Yet the Department of Energy (DOE) is planning a radical shift in how the United States handles this spent fuel-a plan that would actually make plutonium easier to steal.

Instead of disposing of highly radioactive spent fuel deep underground, where it would remain isolated from the environment for tens of thousands of years, DOE officials want to 'reprocess' it, using a series of chemical processes to extract plutonium that could then be used to make new reactor fuel. Because plutonium is not highly radioactive it can be handled without serious harm, making it an attractive target for terrorists.

A U.S. reprocessing program would add to the worldwide stockpile of separated and vulnerable plutonium that sits in storage today, which totaled roughly 240 metric tons as of the end of 2003-enough for some 40,000 nuclear weapons. Reprocessing the U.S. spent fuel generated to date would increase this by more than 500 metric tons.

Terrorists, Iran, North Korea - the current bogeymen, and all inextricably entwined with the nuclear power industry. Fortunately (?) on cost grounds alone, reprocessing is not really an option.

Reprocessing and the use of plutonium as reactor fuel is also far more expensive than using uranium fuel and disposing of the spent fuel directly - even if the fuel is only reprocessed once. In the United States, some 55,000 tons of nuclear waste have already been produced, and existing reactors add some 2,000 tons of spent fuel annually.

Based on the experience of other countries, a commercial scale reprocessing facility with an annual throughput of about 1,000 tons of spent fuel would cost anywhere from $5 billion to $20 billion to build. A facility with twice that capacity would be needed to process the new spent fuel produced; taking into account economies of scale, it would cost from $7.5 to $30 billion, excluding operating costs. A second facility would be needed to also reprocess the existing spent fuel over a period of some 30 years.

So the only option available for the industry is to find a way to store the spent fuels in an environmentally secure (i.e. non-seismic) facility which will also prove inaccessible to malevolent forces (terrorists et al) for as much as 100,000 years, the estimated time for spent fuel to decay to so-called 'safe' levels.

No country, let me emphasise that, NO country has yet worked out how to store the waste generated by the industry, some of which has a half-life (the time taken to reach a 'safe for humans' level of radioactivity) of over 100,000 years. We're not talking about planting grass on a few slag heaps, or turning an open cast mine into a vast recreational reservoir.

We're talking about creating no-go zones for eternity and not just for two hundred or so, the life span of a coal mine.

Even the energy requirements of so-called sustainable development are pretty huge with a population of six billion on the planet and unless you suggest mass culling of Indians and Chinese (eh? And Indonesians?) you need to look at the best risk balanced energy source and once more we see nuclear power.

I mention energy sources that are infinite and won't cost us the Earth. There's tidal, hydro, solar, wind, and, especially here in Indonesia, geo-thermal. There are also ways to be energy efficient and education is the key.

But there's one other question which few ask: Do we need all this energy and if 'yes', why?


12:30 pm |
Sunday, April 22, 2007
  Suicide Food?

There is a popular blog which focuses on cringe-worthy adverts and logos showing happy lambs (pigs, cows and other 'meats') on their way to slaughter.

But, vegetarian that I am, that's not the focus of this post. Oh no, it's far worse.

Nigh on 30 years ago I was an objector at the Windscale Inquiry, as I wrote here on May 9th two years ago.

In 1977, as a then local resident, I was an objector at the Application by British Nuclear Fuels Limited for outline planning permission for a 'plant for reprocessing irradiated oxide nuclear fuels and support site services; at their Windscale and Calder Works, Sellafield, Cumbria, commonly known as the Windscale Inquiry.

My thesis was that far from reducing local unemployment, the smokescreen of Cumbria County Council, the skilled workers to be recruited would inevitably have dependent families who would actually add to the local labour pool.

This was one of the few points accepted by Judge Parker, and subsequently proven true. Being unemployed at the time, I attended most of the 100 days that the inquiry lasted, which is how I became a volunteer in a radiation monitoring exercise. Sellafield was already noted for the release, accidental or otherwise, of levels of supposedly non-hazardous liquid waste into the Irish Sea. The contention of the objectors was that the water currents were carrying irradiated waste around Britain's coast and thereby contaminating the East coast of Ireland, the western shoreline of Scandinavia and the northern coasts of Europe.

(Yes, the biggest fear locally was the potential for radioactive leaks, because there had already been many. And more than enough for members of the Irish Parliament to call for the closure of Sellafield twenty years ago. Unfortunately, I believe it is just the nuclear power plant which is due for closure. The reprocessing and temporary storage of irradiated fuel must continue.)

The experiment was simple: fish were caught at varying points off West Cumbria and Scotland, and we volunteers ate very well for the six (?) weeks of the exercise. Periodically we were allowed into the Sellafield plant where we stripped off, had lengthy showers with some of the best soap I have ever used, and then we were put inside a lead-lined 'coffin' for our bodies to be monitored for our levels of Caesium 137, which had long been known to accumulate in fish.

Interestingly, the lead in the monitoring machine, to use its technical term, was taken from ships that had sunk before the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The theory was that this lead would have been uncontaminated with airborne radioactivity.

What is mentioned in Box 3, File 30, No. 277 and Box 31, File 326 and elsewhere is the 'Voluntary whole body monitoring subsequent to the consumption of local fish'. My then family and cat named Mouse ate very well for six weeks. And my level of Caesium 137 rose significantly.

So I was a volunteer, albeit seizing the opportunity to supplement the dole-enforced diet of the time.

Now, in the wake of the news I shared yesterday of body parts being kept at Sellafield, comes another ominous leak and, to my mind, one even more damaging than Caesium 137.

Documents obtained by UK Sunday paper, The Observer, show that the experiments on the organs of the dead workers at Sellafield were being conducted at the same time as government scientists were using volunteer employees at the plant as guinea pigs.

One experiment involved volunteers drinking doses of caesium 134, a radioactive isotope that was released in fatal quantities following the Chernobyl disaster. Other experiments involved exposing volunteers to uranium, strontium 85, iodine 132 and plutonium.

The revelation raises questions over whether the volunteers suffered early deaths or illness due to their exposure.

The experiments, which started in the Sixties, were considered so controversial that Sellafield drew up a covert PR strategy to deflect possible media attention.

A spokesman for BNFL, the company that now runs Sellafield, declined to comment while the independent investigation into the removal of organs from bodies of former workers at the plant was still under way.

So the cover up continues.

By the way, for some reason today is designated Earth Day (as is March 20th)

Shouldn't every day should be Earth Day?


6:00 pm |
Saturday, April 21, 2007
  Papua Echoes

Employment will rise?

A major story in Indonesia this week has received minimal coverage, apart from its impact on world copper prices.

More than 2,000 workers from Freeport's giant gold and copper Grasberg mine started protesting peacefully on Tuesday at the headquarters of PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the mine, just outside the town of Timika.

The protracted dispute centres on demands for higher wages, improved welfare and boosted recruitment of Papuan workers as permanent employees and better advancement.

Maybe the minmal coverage is due to the fact that the only time that the Papuans have controlled their own destiny was in pre-colonial times when there were rules of engagement between neighbouring tribes and the rainforest and surrounding seas provided for each tribe's needs.

The Amungme and Kamoro are the original indigenous landowners of the areas of Papua that are now occupied by Freeport's massive copper and gold mining operations. At the time of Freeport's arrival in 1967, the two communities numbered several thousand people. With lands spanning tropical rainforest, coastal lowlands, glacial mountains, and river valleys, the Kamoro (lowlanders) and Amungme (highlanders) practiced a subsistence economy based on sustainable agriculture, forest products, fishing, and hunting -- their cultures intimately entwined with the surrounding landscape.

For the Amungme and Kamoro the conflict with Freeport began with the company's confiscation of their territory. Freeport's 1967 Contract of Work with the Indonesian government gave Freeport broad powers over the local population and resources, including the right to take land, timber, water, and other natural resources, and to resettle indigenous inhabitants while providing "reasonable compensation" only for dwellings and permanent improvements. Freeport was not required to compensate local communities for the loss of their food gardens, hunting and fishing grounds, drinking water, forest products, sacred sites, and other elements of the natural environment.

This usurpation of indigenous land is particularly harsh in view of Amungme cosmology, which regards the most significant of its female earth spirits, Tu Ni Me Ni, as embodied in the surrounding landscape. Her head is in the mountains, her breasts and womb in the valleys, and the rivers are her milk. To the Amungme, Freeport's mining activities are killing their mother and polluting the milk on which they depend for sustenance -- literally and spiritually. In addition, mountains are the home to which the spirits of Amungme ancestors go following death.

In a disturbing echo of this analogy, Freeport CEO Jim Bob Moffett told shareholders at the company's 1997 annual general meeting that the company's operations were like taking "a volcano that's been decapitated by nature, and we're mining the esophagus."

Geoffrey MG's newish blog, Papua Prospects, seems both topical and timeless. Although he hasn't updated it for a month, reading it gives one a broader picture of contemporary Papuan issues, including this gruesome news.

When the Amsterdam Museum for the Tropics, the Tropenmuseum, rediscovered a forgotten collection of hundreds of human skulls, bones and even organs stored in formaldehyde in glass jars, it lead to uneasy ethical questions. Many of the human remains are from indigenous inhabitants of Papua and Java, sent to the Netherlands between 1915 and 1965.

The bones were used by the Tropenmuseum for physical anthropological scientific research, an area of study under intense scrutiny because of the infamous racial studies conducted by the German Nazi terror regime before and during World War Two which culminated in the Holocaust (the Nazis' systematic massacre of millions of European Jews).

The remains were rediscovered six years ago. Since then the museum has categorised them and documented the collection in detail. Recently, the museum announced it wanted to find a good home for the remains, possibly returning them to where they came from.

And the echo of my title is a story of another group of local residents exploited by a rapacious, security conscious, mega monolithic enterprise operating with the consent of a national government.

News that body parts were taken from dead workers at the Sellafield nuclear facility is grisly, but not entirely unexpected when considered within the history of what is possibly Britain's longest-running public relations disaster.

The nuclear power industry in the UK has proved to be both uneconomical and inefficient. In October last year only one of the nine nuclear power stations, Torness, was working normally; the other eight had problems ranging from boilers cracking in reactors, fuel supply problems to underground leaks of radioactive coolant, and Sizewell B, the newest, was going through a statutory 'outage' period for repairs. This meant that British Energy had to buy electricity from elsewhere in order to meet its contractual obligations to supply it to the UK national grid.

In January 2005, the UK Atomic Energy Authority announced that nearly 27kg of plutonium - enough for seven nuclear weapons - was "unaccounted for", although it stressed this appeared merely to be an auditing error.

These days, however, opposition to Sellafield is largely academic because the complex is being gradually shut down, meaning around three-quarters of its 10,000-strong workforce will lose their jobs by 2011.

But there is still plenty of time for more PR trouble ahead - with some waste remaining dangerous for 250,000 years, the authority warns that the closure process could take up to a century.

Unemployment will inevitably rise with the scaling down of Windscale and the other nuclear plants, which is why the workers are campaigning for more investment and a growth in the number of nuclear power plants. That the trade unions' campaign is actually funded by their employers, British Energy, is perhaps the only non-parallel link with Papua, albeit definitely not non-pareil.

Update 22.4.07
Yesterday, when I posted the above, the Freeport workers and management agreed to settle and the workers were bussed back to the mine. The salary has been nearly doubled, from Rp.1.6 million (c.$174) to an average of Rp.3.1 million. The company will set up, belatedly I would add, a Papua Affairs Dept. and several company officials are being replaced.



12:00 pm |
Thursday, April 19, 2007
  Age shall not weary us.

Does this sound familiar? You have to wait half an hour for a bus then three or four come along as if they can't bear to be alone. Well that's what it's like here for me in Jakartass Towers. It seems that everyone and everything is conspiring to let me know that I'm passé. In fact it's got so bad that I'm not too keen on stepping out ~ even if I could find my zimmer frame.

It all started last week when I was crammed in a new-fangled Busway bus, strap-hanging beneath a continuous stream of freezing air. To my pleasure, although it goes against the grain to say that, a young lad got up and offered me his seat. Do I look that ancient I pondered, as I sat down. Or did I look as weary as I felt?

Not as weary, I dare say as athletes such as professional footballers. They have to run around for as much as three hours a week chasing a ball, much like hunting dogs. You probably know by now that I'm an Addick and we Addicks are tremendously proud that 60 years ago Charlton Athletic won the FA Cup. You can see a commemorative page here with pictures of our heroes. They were real men with real names.

Remember in the old days, when footy players kicked a fecking ball made out of ten pound of clay stitched inside a steel-reinforced leather shell with laces made out of piano wire? Well, in them days, players could only survive the rigours of the game because they were called things like Albert, Arthur, Bert, Harry, Bill, Eddie, Bob, Jack and Tommy. Fecking tough names for tough men, them was.

And what do we have now? Jason, Wayne, Dean, Ryan, Jamie, Robbie. Fecking tarts' names, they are. Great big fecking girls. No wonder the ball's like a fecking balloon and shin pads is like slices of bread.

Quite right, too. Charlton's current heroes include a hulk by the name of Herman, a Matt and a Dennis. That we're flirting with relegation must be down to the Three Darrens, the Myles and the Kelly.

Here's another wimp, an old man of 37 who's limping towards the sunrise, as he puts it, and "actually embracing death". What's more, he's happy about it.

Well, they do say that you're as old as the one you're feeling but those of us considerably closer to our ancestors won't take much comfort from so-called 'wry humourist', Louise Evans. She has this to say: If you have a penis you may want to read this when you are alone because it may come as a shock.

Great opening line, Louise. I told 'Er Indoors to leave me be and get dressed.

Viagra and hip and knee replacements have led to a boom in second and third marriages, allowing men of a certain age to leap from the bedroom to the golf course, porking and putting with glee.

Porking? Obviously Louise doesn't know that Jakartass is an avowed vegetarian and 'Er Indoors is a Muslim. There's no porking in Jakartass Towers, no ma'am, but there's loads of putting it about with glee.

It seems that men have a body clock, too, and once they pass 40 their sperm starts to lose its mojo. It seems that like their host, sperm have a use-by-date, too. Age affects all parts of the body so it's logical that sperm should become frayed and wrinkled.

Frayed? Or afraid? And why should either concern us? What's more, I always thought that it was the mojo that had the sperm. No doubt Elvis' demise disproves everything I'm saying here, but he sang: I got my mojo working but it just don't work on you.

Now that is a great song which was written by electric blues master, Muddy Waters. He also wrote a song just for real men like me, Mannish Boy. So what if my toupee doesn't fit and my teeth got flushed down the toilet last week. Surely experience counts for something, Louise. Certainly, the Music Man agrees with me that those of us past our supposed sell by date still have a role to play, at least whilst our faculties remain reparable.

I have decided not to prolong my roles on stage beyond the time when my reactions are going. Once my teeth, hearing and eyesight have all gone I will stop. Unless there is a non-speaking role in a bath chair.

I am against age discrimination. Just give me age equality, and leave me be with a free bus pass and a guaranteed seat on a number 66. I see no reason why some young teenage thug should have to give up their place for me.


11:00 am |
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
  Glass Houses

The US Embassy here has seemingly just woken up to the fact that Indonesia's airlines don't have the best track (flight/landing?) record in the world and has taken the precaution of advising its citizens to be scared, very scared.

Whenever possible, Americans traveling to and from Indonesia should fly directly to their destinations on international carriers from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.

I expressed concerns about the proliferation of budget airlines here nearly three years ago.

We Make You Fly: offhand, I can't remember which of the newish cheapo airlines has the above slogan, but it scares me a little. At least it's more reassuring than Trust Us To Fly. The proliferation of these budget airlines post-9/11 initially seemed like a good thing and, strange to relate, there haven't been any disastrous landings recently. (Touch wood ~ if you can find a tree.)

Could the 16.5% of my readers who are in the good ol' U.S.of A please ask your embassy in Jakarta, whose website is supposedly brought to you by the staff of the Information Resource Center, to read what local bloggers have to say about life here.

A further reminder is given to those Americans who could become about terrorist targets.

Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against any location. Terrorists may target individual American citizen residents, visitors, students, or tourists, and tactics could include but are not limited to kidnapping, shooting, or poisoning.

Kidnapping? For plain extortion maybe, but, to my knowledge, there is no history of a terrorist kidnapping in this country.

Poisoning? Yep, but the targets here are Indonesian citizens and Munir was allegedly poisoned at Singapore's Changi Airport.

Shooting? Obviously it's a darn sight safer here than in Iraq. Or on an American campus where the death toll includes an Indonesian student.


1:00 pm |
Monday, April 16, 2007
  Caption please

Knowing that the UK Ministry of Defence thinks that Brits born in twenty years time could well have an information chip implanted in their brains (which should at least cut down on credit card fraud) makes me quite glad to be living in a country which can't even give its citizens birth certificates.

This is the picture illustrating the Guardian article.

Are you Taliban, too? (Thanks Indcoup)
The Dutch are buying some Indonesian toilets.*
Deep sea diving just isn't as much fun since global warming kicked in. (Thanks Geordie)

It's crying out for some more captions. Please leave them in the comment box and I'll add them here later. A CD of (pirated) MP3s to the sender of the one(s) which make me laugh out loud.

*I wondered if this recent comment from fERDI on my post of a couple of weeks ago was misplaced.


4:00 pm |
Sunday, April 15, 2007
  Any Ideas?

I've had the devil's own job logging on to Blogger today.

I kept getting the following message:

Error trying to validate certificate from www2.blogger.com using OCSP - corrupted or unknown response. Error Code: -8073.


Incidentally, I've managed this using I.E. rather than Firefox.


6:30 pm |
Saturday, April 14, 2007
  Saturday Stats

We folk (and wee folk) can get engrossed in some fascinating topics. Just this week, the 29th annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of The Year was awarded to the The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide To Field Identification.

Titter ye not, but this is a real book as are the couple I would really like to read - How Green Were the Nazis? and Tattoed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan. However, I think I'd get depressed reading Better Never to Have Been: the Harm of Coming into Existence.

The Jakarta Post was at a book launch yesterday: it gives the topic but doesn't actually give the title.

Magdalena Sitorus of the Commission for Indonesian Child Protection said that, despite the presence of laws mandating the provision of free certificates, "Last year, some 50 million children from a total of 85 million children lost their first basic human right of having recognised identities and nationalities."

The Commission said that many obstacles existed, including a discriminatory legal system, a complicated bureaucracy and differences in regional procedures. There are also problems for those born to parents of different religions: such children are deemed to have been born out of wedlock.

This is the fate of many children, including Our Kid, whose parents are of mixed nationalities. We await the full and proper enactment of the new nationality law.

More stats gleaned this week include these from the State Minister for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions, Saefullah Yusuf. Apparently, based on 2005 data, 30% of the 17,611 villages in Indonesia have never had access to electricity. Of the remainder, only half (61,638 if you're interested) can actually afford to use it. That he was on the west coast of the island of Ambon inaugurating a windmill capable of generating 5,000 watts of three-phase electricity for 40 households, for lighting and operating a water pump, is to be applauded.

The Molluccas are fortunate in the sense that the group of islands lie in the path of the windstream from Australia to the Pacific. That Indonesian government officials use words such as energy independence, a cleaner environment, alternative and eco-friendly is more than encouraging.

Now if they could only do something about abandoned shopping carts .....


9:30 am |
Friday, April 13, 2007
  Ho hum

...... all you could say of his writing was that it was Vonnegutian: playful, conversational, apparently guileless, repetitive if necessary, rambling, discursive - but always stiffened by a strong ethical backbone.

Most voices are but an echo of found sounds, and I found the books of Kurt Vonnegut some thirty or more years ago. If this were to be an epitaph of Jakartass, I’d be well pleased. But it’s not. It is actually for Kurt himself who has recently died, aged 84.

The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon - A short book with a long title

Title: What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?

Only verse: Nothing.

How right he was.

And so it goes .....


6:30 pm |
Thursday, April 12, 2007
  Eat Up - Greens are good for you

It's time to reaffirm my green credentials, not least with WALHI (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia - Indonesia Friends of the Earth) who've asked me to become a 'donator'.

I pointed out in my reply that they have a permanent link in my blogroll but I wondered why my email newsletter from them is always dated a couple of months previously. I can't give advance publicity to happenings which are already past events. I also said that I wish I didn't have to keep on keeping on about sustainable living. I feel that I'm nagging, an unpleasantry generally inflicted by 'Er Indoors, She Who Must Be Obeyed or Dear Old Mum.

And I do hope that loads of local mums are packing their kids off to participate in the environmental activities organised this month by the Jakarta Green Monster.

For everyone, including we adults, there is hope in that, following a major change in forestry law in Indonesia, a ground-breaking initiative to protect and restore an area of Sumatra’s remaining dry lowland rainforest has now been made possible.

The initiative, planned and pursued for over five years by the coalition of Burung Indonesia, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK) and BirdLife International, with support from BirdLife Partners, will establish Indonesia’s first 'forest ecosystem restoration concession' for the conservation and regeneration of a 101,000 hectares forest block in the lowlands of the island of Sumatra.

The newly named Harapan Rainforest, after the Indonesian word for 'hope', is in an area that was likely to be felled and replaced by plantations for timber or oil palm production. Such plantations clearly have less biodiversity value and extremely limited ecosystem services compared to natural forests.

Elsewhere in Sumatra, in the Bukit Barisan National Park, a Sumatran striped rabbit (nesolagus netscheri) has been spotted for only the third time in the last 35 years, the last time being in 1972. The species is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, due to loss of habitat.

Back in 1999, researchers discovered another species of striped rabbit in the Annamite Mountains between Laos and Vietnam, and named it the Annamite striped rabbit. Genetic samples revealed the species were distinct, though closely related, most likely diverging about 8 million years ago.

The director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program, Colin Poole said,"This rabbit is so poorly known that any proof of its continued existence at all is great news, and confirms the conservation importance of Sumatra's forests."

Indeed. Eight million years of existence could end because of shortsightedness, pure greed or the basic survival instinct. A balance must be found and education is obviously a key.

That and a co-ordinated campaign. There is, or was, a Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) in Bali. I say was, because their website has not been updated for a couple of years, which is a shame. Amongst their initiatives is/was an Elementary Education programme and a Batik, Natural Dyes and Craft Program, both designed to give the local community a stake in the well-being of their forest and to provide an alternative income source other than logging.

Environmental News is a blog from Singapore which also carries articles of relevance to Indonesia in their almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.

Except that nothing has been posted so far this month and only one article was posted in March, about the damage being done to Angkor Wat by unsupervised tourism, .

Perhaps the energy of the contributors is being expended in other directions, much like mine is. When The Reveller and I registered Green Indonesia, we had hopes that it would become a 'café blog', with several contributors, such as DJ who wished to be known as the Faunacator. But time and money, especially money and the search for it, must take precedence. This, of course, is the root cause of the ravaging of the natural environment.

In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, it's not easy being green, but it feels good.


10:00 am |
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
  Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner too

Londoners were inordinately pleased when it was announced that the 2012 Olympics were to be held in 'our' city. It was felt to be an honour and a chance to revitalise a part of the city in need of it.

To revitalise does not mean to redevelop so much as to regenerate. It is about sustainable development, a long-term view rather than a quick fix. It does not mean clearing out residents whose families have been in the area for generations in order to let nouveau riche move in and enjoy the spoils.

The Olympic Movement recognises this, or says it does.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has played an important role in the development of the sport and environment agenda, by establishing a policy that seeks to provide greater resources to sustainable development in and through sport at national, regional and international level, and particularly at the Olympic Games.

This policy has two main objectives:
• it strives to promote Olympic Games which respect the environment and meet the standards of sustainable development.
• it also aims to promote awareness among and educate the members of the Olympic family and sports practitioners in general of the importance of a healthy environment and sustainable development.

The IOC, therefore, has a major task in ensuring that host cities meet these objectives and all this wonderful verbiage is probably one of the reasons for the IOC being named by the United Nations Environment Programme as a Champion of the Earth 2007, along with Al Gore, an HRH and an HE and three other prominent and inspirational environmental leaders.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said, “Since the early 90s, the IOC and the Olympic Movement have progressively taken the environment and sustainability into account throughout the lifecycle of an Olympic Games project. The ‘Green Games’ concept is increasingly a reality. Today, from the beginning of a city’s desire to stage an Olympic Games, through to the long-term impact of those Games, environmental protection and, more importantly, sustainability, are prime elements of Games planning and operations."

The London Olympics are of little relevance to us here in Indonesia. This is not because there will be few medals won by Indonesians, but because even when someone like Taufik Hidayat won the badminton gold and dedicated it to the millions back home watching, we weren't. The TV moguls here couldn't see any profit in screening the Games.

And the London Olympics might cost the earth. Literally.

Unlike here in Jakarta where public green spaces are sold off for Mega Malls and petrol stations in corrupt defiance of spatial plans, Londoners have generally had a say in planning matters and what goes where. The site of Olympic Games in 2012 is currently a semi-derelict industrial wasteland which no longer serves the London Docks, where wharves and warehouses have largely been converted into penthouses, condominiums and lofts for commuters into the counting houses of the City of London.

If the end result of the London Games is going to be improved housing, transport and sports facilities for the continued benefit of Londoners, then we can only applaud. In terms of financial cost, the Games are going to be a darn sight more expensive than originally envisaged, but, hey, they can always print some more money.

But will they actually provide sustainable environmental legacies, such as rehabilitated and revitalised sites, increased environmental awareness, and improved environmental policies and practices?

Not according to a group of people whose families have been in the area for 100 years. That's how long the Manor Garden Allotments have been tended. An allotment is a plot of land which is cultivated, generally for food crops. Gardening keeps us in touch with our roots, ash to ash, dust to dust etc. as individuals, yet allotments are a sub-divided piece of land so are, in that sense, communal. As well as nurturing nature one cultivates relationships. and, without the adrenaline boost and energy expenditure of a competitive sporting activity, can be enervating in a more spiritual sense..

The planners of the London Olympics want to 'beautify' the city and replace these allotments with a 'green walkway' so that visitors over for the four-week festival of sport won't be offended by the apparent untidiness and randomness of vegetables growing.

The sad truth is that the results of someone playing with design software on a computer screen is deemed more important than the reality of a century of history, love and individual effort.

Another sad truth is that rather than having the randomness of parks, Jakarta's planners want the tidiness (and financial perks) of malls. They also play with design software - be aware: this site has 15 flash ads, presumably because they think they're good for "Busseniss".

Indonesia's bureaucrats are trained to ignore public needs. In fact, as Oigal rightly rants, they are trained to be bullies.

Another student had died from bullying at the Institute of Public Administration (IPDN), a quasi military school for wanna be public servants (which is a misnomer in its own right). This is not the first time this hell hole of thugs has been in the news: a senior lecturer at the school reported "34 students had died at IPDN since 1993."

SBY has called for a total reform of this college as well as the parallel military colleges. Maybe in a generation or two Jakartans can expect the same level of public service as Londoners.

And maybe in a generation or two Londoners can expect a level of service that benefits them in the sustainable future, much as a lot of allotments have done and will, hopefully, continue to do.


11:00 am |
Monday, April 09, 2007
  A parody of democracy

Every day, a great deal of portentous bilge is spewed by all of us, and, yes, I am including Jakartass. My blog offers my opinions: Jakartass is, per se, 'political' and many (most?) politicians, as we generally know them here, are self-serving. Similar sentiments can be expressed about politicians in other countries.

I don't generally comment on British affairs as my home is now here. However in today's Guardian, Oliver Kamm comments on a recent lecture by the UK shadow chancellor*, George Osborne, who pointed to the proliferation of blogs and enthused: "In politics and in the media we've both assumed that we do the talking and the people listen. Now the people are talking back. It's exciting, liberating, challenging and frightening too."

OK disagrees: Osborne invoked the notion of the wisdom of crowds: knowledge emerges in a collaborative process rather than being dictated by experts. But political bloggers are not the required type of crowd. They are, by definition, a self-selecting group of the politically motivated who have time on their hands.

Blogs are providers not of news but of comment. This would be a good thing if blogs extended the range of available opinion in the public sphere. But they do not; paradoxically, they narrow it. This happens because blogs typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.

I'd never heard of OK before today, but I presume that he is a political commentator, and a "parasite" as he is feeding on a phenomenon which he purports to scorn. He also proclaims that he is an anti-totalitarianist yet he condemns those who offer the right of reply through a comments feature. (I have since read this wiki entry but see no reason to change my paragraph)

The intention of drawing readers into the conversation by means of a facility for adding comments results in an immense volume of abusive material directed - and recorded for posterity - at public figures.

Surely, Politicians, with a capital P, are at the disposal of the public that elects them. (Should 'public' also be capitalised?) Asking to be put on a pedestal invites appraisal, the public's approval or opprobrium. To deny the right to criticise (or praise) is both arrogant and petulant, the mark of a totalitarian.

I'm sorry to burden you with this outburst but where else should I place my "abusive material". You see, Oliver Kamm's blog does not have a comments facility.

Yet, elsewhere in his blog he offers us an acceptable viewpoint which is at total odds with today's polemic.

(In the UK) we're a free society, in which we may profess whatever we like about origins, eschatology** and the basis of ethics. What binds us is not a set of religious doctrines but common citizenship and democratic rights under the rule of law.

Much like Indonesia then.

*Indonesian equivalent: PDI-P 'Shadow' Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy (Kwik Kwan Gie?).
**eschatology does not mean 'using one long obscure word where four short ones would do'. It actually means 'doctrines dealing with death, resurrection, immortality etc.'



12:00 pm |
Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday?
Charlton fans will be hoping that today really is good. With an evening match away to fellow relegation rivals, Manchester City, there is a chance that for the first time since the start of the season the Addicks will be out of the three relegation places. One point for a draw would be enough, but as staying in the Premiership means that other teams must lose whilst we win, this is really a crucial game.

So I'll be staying up way past my bedtime as the match is being shown LIVE on ESPN at 11.15pm and hoping that degradation (the Indonesian word for relegation) isn't on the cards.

Or the pitch.

Friskodude returns
Carl Parkes, a long time travel writer with a particular interest in this part of the world, 'disappeared' in July last year. Given that his blog gives an eclectic and naturally tropical taste of what's happening in these parts, there were some fanciful theories regarding his sudden absence, not least that he may have somehow upset King Yul Brynner's reincarnation, which is a definite no-no in the land of golden Buddhas and tawdry military coups.

That he has returned is welcome news and he has written to Jakartass thus:
Thanks for checking in, and I'll explain the truth about the whole mess when I get some extra time. But it's great to be a free man and back to some blogging.

Law Matters

a. I've had a few emails asking me about the progress of the legal case I am party to regarding the unfair termination of my employment and others. I am pleased to say that we now have a firm of very competent and well-connected lawyers. One of our previous lawyers is married to a contractor who's hoping to make a profit from land sales to the prosperity theologists who employed us as 'token bules'. Her conflict of interest did us no favours.

With our current advisers there is confidence that the employment law will be upheld. There are two paths that we can follow: one leads through the Department of Manpower and this could very well lead to criminal indictments of our erstwhile employers. The other is through the regulatory body which governs every yayasan (charitable foundation), the should-not-be-for-profit organisations with educational and other social functions such as the provision of welfare and disaster relief.

We hope for a win-win situation - there are many jobs which could otherwise be lost - so the latter option is being pursued.

b. During Soeharto's reign, 11 yayasans were set up with seemingly laudable aims, such as healthcare, education, religious affairs and disaster relief. The funding of the Golkar Party, his political block which all government officials were perforce members of and voted for, and its affiliated organizations is more of a grey area.

That state funds were diverted to these foundations is public knowledge so it is good to see renewed efforts to get the foundations to return their funds to the state coffers.

Not that they will, of course.

Soeharto's lawyer, O.C. Kaligis, was quoted by detik.com as saying that the Finance Ministry would first of all have to bring a fresh action against the foundations if it wanted a court order to seize their assets.

c. Many, including myself, would argue that my legal case is of relatively little import in the greater scheme of things.

One such case which is again in the news, as reported by the Jakarta Post, is that of Munir Said Thalib, the murdered human rights activist. (Type Munir in the Search box in the right column for my previous writings.)

Philips Alston, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, has submitted a report on the 2004 murder of Indonesian rights activist Munir Said Thalib to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) during a UNHCHR conference on March 28 in New York, which was attended by an Indonesian delegate.

The report stresses the importance for Jakarta to make public the results of an investigation by an independent team and thoroughly settle the case.

There is an ongoing police investigation led by the head of the National Police's Detective and Investigative Unit, Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso, which has yet to achieve any significant progress. Munir's wife Suciwati, who recently met with SBY, could not describe the progress of the police investigation but said new suspects in the case were expected to be announced soon.

"We will continue monitoring the police's progress in their investigation into the case," said Suciwati.

Asmara Nababan, executive director of rights monitoring group Demos, Usman Hamid, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, and Rusdi Marpaung, executive director of rights group Impartial, welcomed the decision to bring the Munir murder to the UNHCHR. They said this would put pressure on Indonesia, which is a member of the UN body, to resolve the case.

Another case of appealing to a higher authority.

d. Much as Easter comes round with some regularity although no-one is ever sure of the date, so the Sidoarjo mudflow regularly bubbles up in the news. This week the railway line passing the mudlake, between Malang and Surabaya, is newly submerged. Several more highways have also disappeared.

Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto disclosed recently that the mudflow disaster had cost the government up to 7.8 trillion rupiah ($844 million) to repair damaged infrastructure and compensate those affected by the disaster. Homeless residents have repeatedly staged protest rallies to demand the government and the Lapindo Brantas compensate them for their destroyed land and houses.

And President SBY agrees with the 13,000 (and growing) families displaced for nearly a year. He has - yet again - ordered Lapindo Brantas Inc. to quickly disburse cash compensation based on new data provided by the National Team for the Lapindo Mudflow on March 22.

I'm sure that these 'refugees' will be happy to hear that the owners of Lapindo Brantas, the Bakrie Boys, including the Coordinating Minister for (His Family's) Welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, can now afford to pay. This week, the Bakrie Group made a $315 million profit virtually overnight from the sale of its 30 percent stakes in PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) and PT Arutmin Indonesia to the Tata Power Company Limited (TPCL), part of the Indian conglomerate, Tata, for US$1.3 billion.

The Group bought its 100 percent stake in KPC from BP Plc. and Rio Tinto for $500 million, and its 100 percent stake in Arutmin for $185 million from BHP Billiton in 2003.

And the group still retains 70% of the shares in the two companies. Mind you, they haven't done so well elsewhere (not including Sidoarjo).

Widely diversified Bakrie and Brothers reported a nearly 60 percent increase in consolidated net revenue in 2006, largely on the back of gains in the business group's telecommunications and infrastructure businesses. The company's total net revenue rose to 4.33 trillion (US$481.3 million) in 2006, an increase of 58 percent from Rp 2.73 trillion the previous year.

Its operating profit rose by 174 percent last year from Rp 222.9 billion to Rp 611.1 billion. However, the company's net profit in 2006 plunged to Rp 215.5 billion from Rp 291.6 billion the previous year.

Not exactly peanuts, I think you'll agree. Presumably if the group fails to fulfil its obligations to the very angry now non-residents of Sidoarjo, it'll be ta-ta Abdurizal from SBY's Cabinet.

e. And now for the good news.

An Indonesian court yesterday found the editor in chief of Playboy magazine in Indonesia, Erwin Arnada, not guilty of indecency.

The trial, which lasted months, highlighted growing divisions here between a rising conservative movement and the majority moderate Muslim population. Hundreds of conservative Muslims, most of whom belong to the Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line Islamic organization that has led the fight against Playboy, protested outside the courtroom on Thursday, blocking traffic and shouting, "This country has become a pornographic country!" Hundreds of police officers, armed with water canons, were also stationed nearby.

The prosecution had argued that Erwin Arnada, the magazine's editor in chief, was guilty of indecency for selling pictures of naked women and sought a jail term of more than two years.
But the presiding judge, Erfan Basuning, rejected the prosecution's arguments, noting that the Indonesian version of Playboy did not include nudity and that shutting it down would have violated laws guaranteeing freedom of the press.

Wohey! Freedom of the press and, presumably, the blogosphere.

Have a good Friday (and every other day too).


2:00 pm |
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
  More crap about nuclear power

A couple of days ago I proposed that all multi-national companies and foreign governments wanting a slice of Indonesia's nuclear pie should first show their commitment to this country by building a network of public toilets throughout Jakarta, preferably low-tech, and demonstrate that they can deal with the waste generated.

The next day in the Jakarta Post, for which you have to register if you want to read articles online, I read the following:

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told an international energy workshop, "Developing alternative energy turns out to be a necessity rather than a choice. I am optimistic that other sources of new and renewable energy sources, including nuclear power, will play a more important role in our energy mix."

"Energy conversion in all sectors must be implemented soon, not only to reduce dependence upon oil fuels but also to alleviate poverty and to increase economic growth," said Purnomo.

Increase economic growth? Why? For the great god Consumption? And, not that he cares because mega-projects go with mega-egos, but has the minister got his sums right?

Outside the Sultan Hotel was a demonstration where Nur Hidayati of Greenpeace stated, "A single reactor would cost US$5 billion, making a major claim on scarce financial resources, thereby hindering clean, safe and far more economical renewable technologies. The result will be more problems and less energy."

Hidayati claimed that hardly any of the current 435 commercial nuclear reactors in operation worldwide were built within the planned timeframes or budgets. She also said that competitive electricity prices for nuclear power could only be achieved by regulation and subsidies.

By now you know that Jakartass is an implacable opponent of the nuclear power industry. You also know that I regularly highlight the lack of toilets in Jakarta. It was a surprise, therefore, to read the following in the same issue of the Post:

Non-governmental organization Mercy Corps, the United States Agency for International Development's Environmental Services Program (USAID) and NGOs Aman Tirta and the Health Services Program are building the first eco-friendly public toilet block in the urban kampong of Petojo (in Central Jakarta) in a bid to improve the community's access to sanitation.

The system ... has a bio-digester that can convert feces into biogas. The biogas will be piped to the stove at the community's integrated health post which will be used for cooking nutritious meals for the neighborhood children.

It will probably be used to cook non-nutritious meals as well, but that's not the point. Aimed at serving 200 households, ... the cost of building the toilet block was Rp 345 million (c.$40,000) .. which came from USAID. The community itself would manage the operational and maintenance costs.

Taking the cost of one nuclear power station - $5 billion, and dividing it by the cost of toilets for 200 households (= 1,000 people?), I figure that 125,000 such "eco-friendly" toilets could be built. Just a tenth of that number would serve the entire population of Jakarta.

Unlike the end product of a nuclear power station, the waste would be recycled productively, both solving the long-term storage problems and reducing the dependency on rapidly depleting fossil fuels.

You may say that I am talking crap but, hey, you know it makes sense.


9:30 am |
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
  Help Oigal

Oigal has set himself a task: to find Indonesia's most liveable province/city/town/village. He has set various "subjective" criteria, which are roughly what I have chosen for myself.

Yes folks, Jakartass wants to move to Lubuk Sikaping in West Sumatra. A good friend is slowly developing Hotel Rimbo which is no more than two kilometres from the centre of town, yet is situated literally on the edge of primary rainforest. There is wildlife aplenty, including yellow gibbons, honey bears, wild boars and at least one tiger.

I offer the following comments for Oigal to cogitate.

1. Tolerant and FPI (and assorted other nutters) free
Probably. Shortly after the Bali bombs went off, I was up there and the provincial chief of police told the town's chief of police to look after me and Paul ~ the only two westerners in town. He said, "There are no terrorists in my area."

2. Progressive Schooling
I understand that a National Plus school is shortly to open.

3. Unpolluted
Absolutely. If you see any litter, it looks so out of place that the instinct is to pick it up. The air is so fresh that you get a brain wash.

4. Adherence to basic rule of law
Definitely, possibly a little too stringent with all overnight guests submitting photocopies of their passports to the local police.

5. Beach/Mountain vistas
Look at the banner on the Horel Rimbo site. This is the view from 100 metres up the lane, from the land where I hope to open up Camp Rimbo, a Children's Jungle Study Centre. The coast, totally undeveloped and rarely visited, even by surfers, is about 2 hours drive away. There are a few islands offshore which hold out the promise of diving trips.

6. Access - roads, rail, airports
Planes to Medan or Padang, then buses along the Trans Sumatra Highway which runs through Lubuk Sikaping. Direct coaches (ALS) from Jakarta and Medan. Bukittinggi is probably the nearest 'westernised' town, an hour south on the other side of the Equator.

7. Infrastructure
Lubuk Sikaping is the seat of the regency and therefore has wide boulevards. A weekly market is to the north of the town on the 'bypass'.

8. Traditional as opposed to imported culture
Mandailing and Minang cross-fertilisation. This means gardens and great music. I suspect the only imported culture will be the 'international cuisine' and Bintangs at the hotel.

9. Friendly, open society
The people are polite, considerate, generally interested in and supportive of the venture. As in most rural communities, everyone seems to know what everyone else does, but I have yet to find this over-intrusive, unlike experiences back in the UK.

NB. Nick of Bali Blog offers his perceptions of the best places in Bali; surprisingly, he rates Kuta slightly higher than Ubud. But then we probably seek different things.


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  • Most Curious - née Betty Loves Blogging
  • The Mad Rotter - Henk loves Indonesian music
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