Tuesday, December 30, 2008
  Listing to port

Yep, it's that time of year again when everyone trundles out their favourite books, films, albums of the past 11 months. Why not 12, you may ask. Because there are publishers' deadlines to meet is why, and because December is the time for end-of-year parties, some of which are connected with the Christian calendar. (And this year we had Idul Adha and the Haj.)

I could give you my list of favourite blogs, but I'll only mention one because he gives hours of interest with his links: John Walkenbach's J-Walk Blog is virtually guaranteed to set you off on a surf. And it is he who has a link to the List Of List Lists. From this year's selection, an incredibly lengthy one, I've picked a few I'd like to investigate further. And I may have by the time you read this because I posted it for pre-publication 10 days ago.

10 Worst Corporations - does it include the Bakrie Boys?
Top 10 Out Of Print Books - for those who can't read?
Top 10 Data Loss Disasters - not including the Jakartass PC.
Bad Sex in Fiction Awards - not to be confused with the Bad Sex In Bed Awards.
Dumbest Person of the Year - Fuzzy Bodoh?
Most Confusing High Tech Buzzwords - eh?
Top Five Aggressively Insignificant Artifacts - no, me neither.

It's all somewhat Americentric, although you may be interested in the Top 60 Most Popular Japanese Words And Phrases or India's Best Dressed.

These may not feature on the Most Popular Top 10 Lists, but no matter.

What do you think would be the most appropriate lists for Indonesia 2008.

Here are a few suggestions ...

The proudest person to fall .... starting with Bakrie, moving on to jailed former ambassadors, taking in legislators, prosecuters, cinetron actresses ...
Dumbest idea of the year ... starting school at 6.30am? Visit Indonesia Year 2008? And 2009?
Worst Customer Service, perhaps incorporating Complete Lack of Service. e.g. TV companies not showing the Olympics or the English Premier League.


6:00 am |
Sunday, December 28, 2008
  Obituaries 2008 Part 1

As a by now annual 'event', I offer you a list of those who have passed on and out of my life in the past year. Some, such as Richard Knerr, I had never heard of, but, hey, who hasn't had fun with a frisbee? Respect to them all.

And apologies to those I've missed.

--5. Rowan Ayers, 85, journalist, writer and television producer, and father of Kevin Ayres, founder member of Soft Machine.
11. Sir Edmund Hilary, 88, first man to climb Everest and drive overland to the South Pole.
14. Richard Knerr, 82, co-founder of the Wham-O toy company - hula hoops and frisbees.
17. Bobby Fischer, 64, American world chess champion (1972) and paranoid genius.
19. John Stewart, 68, singer-songwriter. Bombs Away, Dream Babies
20. Thomas Mossie McQuater Sr, 93, British jazz trumpeter,
27. Suharto, 86, Indonesia's second President, of "multiple organ failure". At last.

--3. Bill Guerin, 61 (?), long term Jakarta expat, journalist and friend.
--5. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 91, spiritual leader who advocated transcendental meditation
10. Roy Scheider, 75, film actor (Jaws & French Connection).
19. Attilio Joseph "Teo" Macero, 82, record producer (Miles Davis & Dave Brubeck) and composer.
21. Joe Gibbs, 65, pioneering Jamaican reggae producer.
26. George "Buddy" Miles, 60, rock drummer (Jimi Hendrix)
29. Michael George Smith, 64, musician (Dave Clark 5)

--3. Norman "Hurricane" Smith, 85, record producer (Beatles, Pink Floyd) and singer.
11. Rose Hacker, 101, "the oldest newspaper columnist in the business."
12. Brian Richardson, 80, architect and pioneering advocate for self-builders and Travellers.
18. Anthony Minghella, 54, film, TV and opera director (The English Patient, Grange Hill, Madame Butterfly)
19. Paul Scofield, 86, stage and screen actor (King Lear, Man For All Seasons)
19. Arthur C. Clarke, 90, sci-fi author (2001) and visionary (communications satellites, computer networks, interplanetary travel)
20. Brian Wilde, 80, actor (Last of the Summer Wine, Porridge)
24. Neil Aspinall, 66, Beatles gofer.and business manager.
30. Dith Pran (and here), 65, Cambodian photographer and inspiration for the film Killing Fields.

--6. Charlton Heston, 84, film star (Ben Hur, Soylent Green) & gun advocate.
24. Tristram Cary, 82, musician, "father of British electronic music" - inc. Dr. Who theme.
24. Jimmy Giuffre, 86, jazz musician, arranger and composer.
24. Jimmy McGriff, 72, jazz-blues Hammond organ pioneer.
25. Humphrey 'Humph' Lyttelton, 86, jazz musician, writer and broadcaster.
29. Albert Hoffmann, 102, chemist, discoverer, in 1943, of LSD.
29. Julie Ege, 64, Norwegian 'sex symbol' and nurse.
29. Mickey Waller, 66, drummer, Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Stones, et al.

--5. Irvine Robbins, 90, ice-cream entrepreneur and first franchiser.
--7. Tom Tuohy, 93. His bravery averted a possible British nuclear catastrophe
26. Sydney Pollack, 73, film director. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
28. Beryl Cook, 81, painter
Beryl Cook 1926 - 2008



6:02 am |
  Obituaries 2008 Part 2

From my lists, it's obvious that music has long been a feature of my life. Thankfully I do have recordings of most of those who've gone to the great gig in the sky. But why are so many of them drummers? And why are there three who played with Jimi Hendrix?

--2. Bo Diddley, 79, rock pioneer.

--6. Robert 'Bobby' Durham, jazz drummer.
21. Eric 'Digger' Dowling, 93, the 'Forger' of the Great Escape from Colditz.
25. Hiram Bullock, guitarist extraordinaire.

--3. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 89, Russian literary giant and Nobel literature prize winner (1970).
--4. Robert Aime Maheu, 90, FBI agent, CIA and Howard Hughes' fixer. There are several novels and movies to be produced about him.
14. Lita Roza, 82, British singer who dismissed her No. 1 novelty hit "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? (And so did I.)
15. Gerald 'Jerry' Wexler, 91, record producer and music industry executive (Atlantic Records). Coined term 'rhythm and blues'
16. Ronnie Drew, 73, lead singer Dubliners (Black Velvet Band, Wild Rover).
19. Leo Abse, 91, parliamentary backbench social reformer
31. Ken Campbell, 66, actor, writer and man of experimental theatre.

15. Richard Wright
, 65, keyboard player, Pink Floyd
16. Norman Whitfield, 67, Motown songwriter, inc. Papa Was A Rolling Stone.
28. Paul Newman, 83, an actor of genius and a man of decency.

14. Ray Lowry
, 64, artist.
17. Levi Stubbs, 72, Four Tops singer inc. Reach Out (I'll Be There)
26. Anthony Grove Hillerman, 83, writer of thrillers about Native American mysticism and religion
31. Studs (Louis) Terkel
, 96, broadcaster and oral historian

November --
--1. Yma Sumac
(Zoila Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo), 86, iconic Peruvian singer.
--1. Jimmy Carl Black, 70, drummer and sometimes lead vocalist with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart
--4. John Michael Crichton, 66, writer (Jurassic Park and many more) and film director (Westworld)
--6. Douglas Henry George Keen, 95, publisher - Ladybird Books.
11. John 'Jack' Scott , 85, meteorologist and BBC Weatherman
13. Mitch Mitchell, 61, original drummer Jimi Hendrix Experience and latterly in tribute band, Experience Jimi Hendrix.
16. Reginald Alfred Varney
, 92, actor (On The Buses)
29. Jørn Utzon, 90, architect of Sydney Opera House - which he never saw completed.

--2. Odetta Holmes Felious, 77, folk singer, civil rights campaigner, and actor
11. Ali Alatas, 76, Indonesian Foreign Minister and presidential advisor on foreign affairs 1988-2008. One of the rare good guys.
15. Davey Graham, 68, seminal guitar virtuoso. (Rare video footage here.)
18. Mark Felt, 95, Watergate's Deep Throat.
20. Adrian Mitchell, 76, pacifist poet.

Reg Varney and Jack Scott were key figures for we British TV viewing public in the 1970's.
Pet Obituaries can be found here.

I kid you not.


6:00 am |
Thursday, December 25, 2008
  Be Good This Xmas

or Santa won't come.
More charity stickers can be found here.


6:00 am |
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
  Taking Stock 2008

It's the time of year to clear out the store, to offload stuff that hasn't sold or has no further use. So here are a variety of links which intrigued me at the time, but are of little value now.

Enjoy or not ~ it's up to you, lah.

Indonesia Stuff

Suharto may be next Moneymaker

No matter how many times he characterizes himself as a donkey, Suharto is still well in the WSOP Main Event mix. And when it comes to his skill set, he's got the goods to go the distance.

Although he's not the favorite to win, Suharto is good with numbers, good with people, and he's tight enough and lucky enough to take this thing down.

Indonesia 1957-1958 War and Pornography

A substantial effort was made (by the CIA) to come up with a pornographic film or at least some still photographs that could pass for Sukarno and his Russian girl friend engaged in "his favorite activity".


Viagraholics Anonymous is a group of men dedicated to helping each other overcome a common problem: abuse of Viagra.

Ben's Story: "Looking back, I see how selfish and inconsiderate I was. Viagra can warp your thinking."


The Brick Testament - the world's largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible uses Lego.

The Bible contains material some may consider morally objectionable and/or inappropriate for children. These labels identify stories containing: Nudity : Sexual content : Violence : Cursing.

Muslim Restrooms and Etiquette

“Let’s go!” It’s as easy as it sounds for some, but the common, everyday practice of going to the bathroom could be a world of complexity for others. The world presents requirements way beyond the so-called basic need. Culture, tradition, religion, superstition and feng shui are just a few of many influences that affect people’s everyday lives.

Maps showing distribution of religions.

Good Reads

Cabinet Magazine Online - A Quarterly Magazine of Art & Culture

Webster Edgerly, a self-help guru, a crank and a racist bigot, is still read after 100 years. (Who?) Will Jakartass still be remembered in 2108?

Bored this Xmas?

Here's some download, print, cut out and paste models for you to while away the excruciatingly boring TV programmes.

And if you're REALLY bored, then join the Dull Men's Club and visit a few online museums.

You could start with the World Famous Asphalt Museum and, this being Holy month, end up in Jerusalem's Tax Museum.

The purpose of the museum is to:
1. Centralize a collection about taxes in the ancient world and in Jewish communities of the Diaspora, and also about taxation in Israel, through its history.

2. To be a "show window" through which the public can learn about the development of taxes, and about the routine work of the tax department.


Have a happy holiday.


7:00 am |
Monday, December 22, 2008
  A Breathing Break

Thanks to various circumstances, we've had few opportunities, let alone finances, to leave Jakarta, apart from a day here and there, in the past two and half years.

'Er Indoors and Our Kid are taking the slow boat to Medan, for a family visit and they will join me later here where I'm having my brain washed.

We have to be back for the first weekend of the New Year. Until then, expect a few posts I've pre-published for your amusement - provocation.

Happy hols.


6:00 am |
Thursday, December 18, 2008
  Scholars and Gentlemen

It has been suggested by one of my therapists that in order to boost my circulation I should dumb down. I am of course talking about my musings as Jakartass and not my increasingly decrepit physical condition.

Anyway, dumb down? Not when I've got readers like Miko who impressed me by trumping the Hazlitt quote in my last post with his comment about Dubai and Ozymandias. I did wonder if he was referring to a comic, but no, silly me. As befits a graduate from a high class (i.e. famous) university, he was remembering that the husband of the author of Frankenstein, Percy Byshhe Shelley, wrote a sonnet in December 1817 during a writing contest. And this is it.


---------I met a traveller from an antique land
---------Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
---------Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
---------Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
---------And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,

---------The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
---------And on the pedestal these words appear:
---------"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

---------Nothing beside remains: round the decay
---------Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
---------The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Yep, that sums up Dubai in, say fifty years. A city built on sand? I think the Bible has something to say on that but, leaving religion to one side so I don't have to refer to Hazlitt again, what of the competition which Shelley took part in?

His fellow competitor was Horace Smith who, like most Smiths, has not received immortality through his writings. This could be because his contribution with the same title is somewhat ponderous, as these closing lines demonstrate.

---------We wonder, and some Hunter may express
---------Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
---------Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
---------He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
---------What powerful but unrecorded race
---------Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

I'm fond of London because it's my home town and its history can still be seen in its buildings, parks and other facilities. It's a city that has survived and thrived for 2,000 years, with citizens who can trace their lineage back through the centuries. (Mine is at least six generations strong.)

But whither Jakarta? There are few proud of their heritage, few who can trace their family history back through more than two or three generations. And that's how long I give the city before its sinks back into the swamp from which it arose.

---------Man has gone
---------Where the mangroves went
---------And nothing remains beneath,
---------Save the white bones of half-remembered homes.
---------- Jakartass, in adulation, but not emulation, of EJ Thribb


1:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
  The Pleasure Of Hating

The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands (and other parts of the self-styled patriot's country. J.): it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the acrions and motives of others. What have the different sects, creeds, doctrines in religion been but so many pretexts set up for men to wrangle, to quarrel, to tear one another to pieces about, like a target as a mark to shoot at.
- William Hazlitt (1778–1830) on The Pleasure Of Hating (full text)

I can't say that I hate anything or anyone. Some may say that I'm intolerant because I don't suffer fools gladly, and that I'm liable to explode, generally quietly now and only as a safety valve letting off steam, at those who impinge on my space, be it physical or aural.

And in Jakarta, there are loads of those types of irritations, much like getting sand in your socks.

Thinking of which, and just to point out that it's only fair to have a go at fools elsewhere, consider Dubai, where a new luxury hotel will refrigerate the beach.

Soheil Abedian, president of Palazzo Versace, said: "We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on. This is the kind of luxury that top people want. The super rich don't want to walk on scalding sand."

Whilst the rich and infamous get on with their destructive fukyoo lifestyles ~ each person living in Dubai has a carbon footprint of more than 44 tons of CO2 a year ~ others are over-reaching themselves to be politically correct.

When I were a lad growing up in Sarf Lunnon, the UK was predominantly Christian. I was started off in the Baptist church down the road where my Sunday School teacher was jilted by local lad Reg Smith, more popularly known as Marty Wilde. I later 'joined' the Church of England because it had a Friday night youth club where I first played indoor hockey and, by sheer happy chance - she was blocking the doorway, I first encountered a breast.

I could have been a Presbyterian, a Roman Catholic,a Congregationalist, or perhaps a Methodist in my madness. It was all a matter of geography, and the fact that my parents wanted some time to themselves. Sunday was a good day for that.

All this is to point out that I am imbued with an understanding of Christianity and its terminology because it's part of my heritage. And if I'd been brought up here in Indonesia, predominantly Muslim with a variety of differing interpretations, I would have accepted and generally understood this country's heritage. (And I could argue that I already have and do.)

Now, thanks to our earlier colonial history and the more recent migrations of folk seeking political and economic freedom, Britain makes claims to be a multi-cultural society. However, much like Indonesia, it has yet to understand, let alone come to terms with the notion of pluralism, Unity In Diversity.

I state this because a new edition of a popular children's dictionary has jettisoned a number of words relating to Christianity in favour of words such as MP3.

The publisher, Oxford University Press, claims the changes to the Junior Dictionary have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society. But academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain's heritage.

"We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable," said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University. "The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us."

An analysis of the word choices made by the dictionary lexicographers has revealed that entries from devil to willow have been axed (as has bacon. Sorry Del.). Instead, words such as chatroom, celebrity, and blog have taken their place. Obviously I approve of the last one (but not the first two).

As Hazlitt recognised, language related to religion has the power to induce "the spirit of censoriousness".

I trust that OUP continues to market their other dictionaries without removing such well-loved words as elf and goblin, dandelion, gooseberry and marzipan, piglet, porcupine and porpoise. Oh, and ass.

Read the full lists of words removed and their replacements here.

The comments are in chronological (an added word) order - from the bottom of the page.

Number two echoes Hazlitt: As George Orwell pointed out, the aim of NewSpeak was to continually destroy words so that heretical thought, so far as it was based on language, became impossible.


6:00 pm |
Friday, December 12, 2008
  Disposable and Indispensible

You've got to feel sorry for the Bakrie Boys haven't you.


Oh. The thing is, you see, they're beginning to plead poverty.

Having been center stage in a series of controversies, the head of the politically powerful Bakrie family, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, has finally spoken out about the family name no longer being included on the list of the nation's richest.

"I'm no longer on the list due to the financial crisis in the United States," he said, referring to the Forbes Magazine's pointed focus on the country's richest man with a net worth of US$5.4 billion, as of 2007.

"I'm left now with an asset of less than 10 percent (of the previous value). Some 90 percent (has) gone as reflected in the share price (of PT Bumi Resources) that once reached Rp 8,500."

No doubt this is a major reason for not paying the agreed compensation to the refugees of the Sidoarjo mud volcano triggered by the negligence of his drilling company, Lapindo Brantas.

In fact, he says, “This is a business transaction, not compensation provided to the victims because there is no legal verdict as yet to determine whether or not Lapindo is guilty in the case.

He's referring to the notoriously corrupt Indonesian court apparatus and ignoring the expert opinion of nigh on forty renowned international geologists lead by England’s University of Durham (who) in October concluded that the disaster was caused by Lapindo’s drilling activities.

There's a succinct comment by a David from Jakarta after the article which deserves wider exposure.

And here we were, thinking that at last the grasping Bakrie clan were doing something out of their own hearts for the good of the mudflow victims. Instead the 'compensation' means that anyone wishing to return to their land after it is safe to do so will be forever in hock to the Bakries for rent.

Actually, this could be quite a profitable business. Poison someone's land, pay them less than the true value for it, then charge rent to anyone who wants to use that land in future.

Merry Christmas to all the Bakries.

Let Them Eat Mud

However, I do think that David has missed a more important point.

Aburizal said that his mother had ordered him to share his family’s money to help the mudflow victims in Sidoarjo.

For us, my mother’s voice is just like a fatwa issued by the MUI (the Indonesian Council of Ulema); we have to abide by it.”

Nothing about corporate social responsibility, which is now enshrined in Indonesia's business law. Nothing about saying sorry to the folk in Sidoarjo, but all about how it isn't his fault. And how he pays more attention to his mother than to the President of Indonesia who has repeatedly given him instructions to sort the mess out.

If I were SBY, I would ditch the arrogant mother's boy immediately. He wouldn't be missed.

But Ali Alatas will be. The former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas died yesterday, aged 76, from a heart attack in Singapore.

Alatas, ever loyal to whomever he served, managed to come away with his integrity largely in tact even when his bosses became tainted and condemned by corruption and other scandals.

Alatas served as foreign minister under president Soeharto in 1988-1998 and under president B.J. Habibie in 1998-1999. He continued to act as foreign policy advisor to successive presidents - Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri and now Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He was never a politician, but he served his country and his nation so well, more so than many of his peers during his lifetime.

He was indispensable.

Yep, one of the good guys, and I have thought as much since he was first appointed to represent Indonesia. A man of rare - in this country at least - personal integrity.


5:00 pm |
Thursday, December 11, 2008
  Clinton Ties To Riady Problematic.

That is the (truncated) headline in a recent Jakarta Post.

It refers to the born-in-Indonesia USA President-elect Obama's choice of his former rival in love the Democratic electorate's vote, former First Lady Hilary Clinton as his Secretary of State. In effect, this means she would manage his foreign policy: pulling the troops out of Iraq, bringing peace, preferably by negotiation, to Afghanistan and supporting the United Nations in such hot spots as the Congo.

But the problem is that Hilary has ties with an Indonesian oligarch, James Riady, a tie which she conveniently forgot in her tell-a-little-bit memoirs and which, interestingly, is not in the wikipedia page devoted to her. Mind you, as one commentator puts it, "her entire public persona is built upon obfuscation, privacy, and stoicism in the face of public humiliation".

So, this post is not about her: she wouldn't care anyway.

James Riady first crops up in Jakartass here, then here, here and here, mainly because of his control of a large chunk of the media and also swathes of real estate, much of which I forecast will be underwater in about fifty years if he continues to build on Jakarta's floodplain.

That he is a born-again evangelist Christian is well documented ~ especially here (in Indonesian). That he has ties with the American far-right evalgelical movement, particularly with the George Bush confidant, Pat Robertson is less well-known.

What I have learnt today, however, has made me a boggled blogger. Having long known that he is a convicted criminal in the USA because of his illegal contributions to Bill Clinton's election campaign in 1992, I hadn't examined the background.

First, consider this fuzzy picture (from here) of Bill Clinton, Riady's then go-fer John Huang and James (or is it his father, Mochtar?).

Riady and Huang met with Clinton at the White House 10 times between June 21 and June 27, 1994.

This was, of course, at a time when Indonesia had only recently resumed diplomatic relations with Communist China, suspended from 1967 until 1990. During this period, the Indonesian leadership spurned all contact with the PRC, believing China's ultimate ambition was to assert hegemony over Southeast Asia by supporting regional communist insurgency movements, or through overt military action. Because Chinese Indonesians were also implicated in the coup, the ethnic Chinese community suffered widespread discrimination and persecution during Soeharto's rule.

A glance at the trade balance between China and Indonesia during 1985-2003 (US$ million), ignoring factors such as rampant smuggling, much of it through Singapore, a China surrogate, shows the impetus behind the normalisation of ties.

-----------Export-- ---Import
1985-------69------ -----39.7
2003---6,760 --- ---3,803

It is worth to note for China’s investments that there are many obstacles in Indonesia that are political uncertainty, labour law, corruption, lagging infrastructure. Labour law and corruption, in particular, are be strongly blamed by Indonesia entrepreneurs and foreign entrepreneurs, which is one reason why FDI* in Indonesia transfer to invest in other countries.

Not being a mind reader, I would suggest that this is a tangible reason for the Riady family's machinations. As a global trade force, the USA could influence recalcitrant countries to open their markets to foreign investors. The Riadys lobbied strongly for access to Vietnam.

Where all this gets interesting is the disclosure of James Huang's ties with the CIA.

Huang, who pled guilty in 1999 to federal charges of making illegal political contributions to the Clinton/Gore campaign, had joined the U.S. Commerce Department after leaving a much higher paying job with the Lippo Group, a firm owned by Indonesian billionaire Moctar Riady, a close supporter of President Suharto. During his stay at Commerce, Huang obtained a secret clearance and attended more than 37 classified briefings with the CIA.

Furthermore, according to a 1998 CIA report presented to Sen. Fred Thompson, R.-Tenn., "James and Moctar Riady have had a long-term relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency. The relationship is based on mutual benefit, with the Riadys receiving assistance in finding business opportunities in exchange for large sums of money and other help."

"The Chinese intelligence agency seeks to locate and develop relationships with information collectors, particularly with close association to the U.S. government."

Another gem disclosed, is that they supplied him with details of the Suharto's corrupt dealings involving American corporations. Knowledge is power?

I'm too much of a liberal to accept the promotion of one ideology, be it of nationalist, religious or political nature, over another. On that basis alone, if the CIA are correct in their belief that the Riady's were fronting for the Chinese communist rulers, then, whether she was aware of their ulterior motives or not, surely that is an impediment if Hillary Clinton, as the USA's Secretary of State, is expected to represent the interests of the USA.

Pleading Life's Tenancy

And James Riady?

Judging by yet another of his typically addled aphorisms, I'm sure he'll be fine living in St. Moritz - which is his new super-duper 135 hectare estate about to be built in Puri Indah, West Jakarta,

Or he could go back to China where, seemingly obviously, he is one of the largest investors.

BTW. I wonder if his newly launched English-language daily, the Jakarta Globe would be interested in publishing any of this well-documented story? Or perhaps the Jakarta Post which is in urgent need of rejuvenation but has seen off many upstarts over the years and always been a staunch defender of pluralism.
*Foreign Direct Investment


7:00 am |
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
  Overheard Last Night*

He called earlier to be pulled off.

He got himself into some good positions.

It just needs to be pushed in right there and not tickled.

He wants to keep it incredibly tight.

I love it when he slides in strong like that.

He's happy they finished on top.

In case you hadn't heard, and Rima has a truly righteous rant here, SBY has signed the Anti-Pornography Bill into law.

The newly enacted anti-pornography law threatens to further stain Indonesia’s already sullied human rights record, rights groups warn, as Bali prepares to spearhead national opposition to the law.

As Ifdal Kassim, chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM), pointed out, the law would invade people’s privacy.

Many here are worried that the law is a challenge to the pluralism written into the country's constitution, a framework which 'guarantees' the acceptance of the many differing cultural norms in this vast country.

Are the incredibly blinkered self-regarded moral guardians of this wonderfully diverse nation really thinking of banning bras, along with yoga and beer?

"What's the problem with me modestly donning my sports bra? Answer: Now there's also a fatwa against bras! Bras? Why on earth would bras be considered blasphemous? Well, the reasoning of our revered clerics is that bras fool men into thinking that a woman's breasts are bigger than they really are, so it's a kind of fraud."

As Rima points out, the moral decline of this country is not because of porn, or sex, or revealing clothes. It’s because of our mentality. We want instant gratification without much work (my emphasis. J), we want respect without earning it, we want things we cannot have yet go to all lengths to get it, we hide behind our religious masks, we refuse to see what’s wrong with us all the while blaming all others for everything that’s wrong.

By the way, today is the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In case SBY has forgotten, could someone please remind him that Indonesia is a signatory. If there isn't a copy handy, get a flunky to download a copy here.
*Overheard here. Did you really think of Jakartass as a smut peddler? Shame on you.


11:30 am |
Monday, December 08, 2008
  Goodwill To All Men

It's that time of year when thoughts of those of us brought up in a Christian household, however ritually dogmatic that may have been, turn to the pleasurable feasts and festivities ahead.

Thanks to the calendar, today is another holy day, the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha , a commemoration of the story in both the Bible (Genesis 22.11-13) and the Koran (Surah 37.100-113) of Abraham's potential sacrifice of his son, Isaac. God wouldn't allow this and apparently told Abraham that an innocent lamb would do instead.

The divergent paths of Islam and Christianity have since seen the sacrifice of many living things, including each other's adherents, and here in Jakarta, although it's the day of silencing the lambs there aren't that many in the country, so the streets are running with the blood of goats and cows, the meat of choice. This meat is supposed to be given to poor folk, and hence the notion of sacrifice.

But, back to Xmas which is also considered as a day of giving. Family and friends are given presents and we treat ourselves. Aw, go on, it's only once a year, we tell ourselves as the annual cigar is lit up or, as in my parent's house, the bottle of Sauternes, an incredibly sweet and sickly wine, was opened.

And that has generally been the spirit in which we've celebrated Xmas here, often with a buffet lunch at one of the city's major hotels. For the many expat families and tourists throughout Indonesia celebrating the end of an interesting year as far as their budgets will allow, this year promises to be somewhat different, though. There won't be as much booze flowing as per usual.

For the 'full' story, I am indebted to frequent commentator and occasional fellow inebriate, Miko.

First of all you may recall the elimination of sales of any booze stronger than beer from supermarket shelves about two years ago around the same time as Tangerang had its mini sharia crackdown. However this is a different issue from the almost complete dearth of imported booze which is now afflicting the country.

This has been caused by an investigation at the Customs and Excise department which revealed that one of the two companies with a licence to import booze had probably swindled $35 million from the government in unpaid duty. This company (its name escapes me PT PDD or some such) has now lost its franchise and the sole remaining importer PT Sarinah has been given its quota but given that the other company was obviously understating the actual market and creaming off the difference there has been a big shortage of booze being allowed in.

This wouldn't be so bad (the government could have simply increased Sarinah's quota to meet the real demand) but the government have now imposed a 300% import tariff which must be paid in advance by retailers (who are naturally reluctant to do so, not being sure whether they will be able to sell at the new high price) as well as demanding that foreign booze be tested in Indonesia for quality control purposes (because as we know the quality control standards in the EU and America and Australia are so much poorer than Indonesia!).

All of this has led to a perfect storm where there is now a booze famine in some parts of Indonesia and tourism is suffering badly, hotels in Jakarta and in Bali are screaming at the government to sort it out. However, there is no hurry to do so given that drinking alcohol is not regarded as a particular high priority here and so only the dumb white folk are suffering.

Not quite true, Miko. I rarely see expats in the drinks section of my local Carrefour or Galael, but I do see loads of Indonesians.

Of course, not only tipplers are suffering, but given that store managers are reluctant to pay the excise duty upfront, the government coffers are as well. Apparently, there is now a thriving black market in booze ~ those responsible please email me for my address.

How else can I get into the spirits of the season?


6:30 am |
Sunday, December 07, 2008
  Buy Home, Get Villa

The jalan tol on the way into the satellite town of Bumi Simstown Damai (BSD), is littered with hoardings advertising real estate, an oxymoron given the nature of the housing on offer. I've already briefly commented on the more outrageous phrases which are designed to distract drivers from the absolutely appalling condition of the road surface, but a recent banner, with the title of this post, got me musing about the nature of a home.

First up, I've always thought of villas as being a Roman concept, a comfortable abode with loads of servant quarters, possibly with a nice view overlooking the Mediterranean. Whether a villa is really suited to the floodplain of Jakarta is a matter of conjecture. Actually, it isn't: Jakarta is sinking thanks to massive overbuilding and the rapacious sucking out of the groundwater in the underlying artesian basin and nowhere is really suitable for building anything.

Whatever, there is a vast range of accomodation to suit all pockets, needs and comfort zones: apartment - serviced or otherwise, bungalow, castle, caravan, cave, cottage, log cabin, palace, shack, studio, terraced town house, whatever.

Where you live is, of course, another matter. Ideally you'd avoid a commute and most needs would be met locally, which is presumably the primary aim of satellite towns such as BSD. The traffic into Jakarta of a morning is a strong indication of failure.

In truth, I feel grateful that I've managed to stay in Jakartass Towers for over twenty years. We're close to the toll roads to everywhere, we can catch a train or the Busway to north Jakarta and, yet we aren't subject to the noise and exhaust pollution of main roads. I'm more than glad that I'm not like other expats here, such as the Malaysian at GadhoGadho, who is forced to move on for the umpteenth time in his so far short time here. I doubt that he feels at home.

In terms of housing needs, a possible answer for metropolitan dwellers, if there were optimum telecommunications here, would be a website which could tell you exactly which is the best area to live in, be your needs related to schooling, shopping, dealing, drinking or simply getting away from it all.

So what is a home?

Home is where the heart is: it's wherever I lay my hat and with my partner: it's where my familiars are, my books, paintings, sounds and diaries: it's the postman, the meter reader and a few of the ojek riders at the end of the street. It's the other long-term residents in the area, the warung-keepers, my computer consultant, it's the kids who come to play with Our Kid. I'm as much a part of the street furniture as they are.

It's the charming tattiness of our old Jakarta-style single storey house which faces east and allows breezes to flow straight through: it's the few leaks which re-occur every rainy season, and all the other minor repairs which have to be done thanks to the shoddy fittings.

It's the young neighbours who like to play drum'n'bass first thing in the morning, and I do mean first thing, with the emphasis on the bass. It's the familiar sounds of the tone deaf mosque keeper at the anointed hours. It's the occasional ringing of church bells from a couple of miles away when the wind is in the right direction, or maybe when there's none at all. I like to sit on the terrace at sunset to absorb the ambient sounds - and the too brief ten minutes of silence which envelopes the neighbourhood.

It's the early morning joggers, including my lead lawyer who lives opposite: pagi pak. It's the really old man in the kampung on the bank of the River Ciliwung who keeps chickens and pigeons and, like the kampung kids - Good morning, Om - is beginning to speak English to me - owaryoo - as I walk through.

To get a home, you need to get a life, and that's not something you can buy. Our home is what we have made. A place for us, our family and friends. We didn't buy it, and I figure that no-one can. A home is ephemeral, a memory bank.

So. by all means buy a villa, or an apartment - serviced or otherwise, a castle, a cave, a log cabin, a palace, a shack, a studio, a terraced town house. Or a caravan.

A Place Of My Own
- Caravan

I got this place of my own
Where I can go
When I feel I'm coming down.

We'll do our best to ensure
You'll feel secure
When you come.



7:00 am |
Friday, December 05, 2008
  The Return Of The Bakries

There is no doubting the clout of the Bakrie Boys. They've had a cash flow crisis: a mere $1.2 billion in loans had to be repaid because they'd used stock in their various companies - coal exploitation company, PT Bumi Resources, PT Energi Mega Persada, co-owner of Lapindo Brantas responsible for the Sidoarjo mudflow, and PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantation, probably responsible for much of Sumatra's deforestation - as collateral for loans from a few financing institutions.

This was, of course, bad timing, as no-one apart from cynics such as your correspondent had foreseen the failed societies which are the legacy of greedy bastards.

As major exploiters of Indonesia's resources, although some would describe them as despoilers, the Bakrie Boys became richer than several countries, so there was no way that they could be allowed to join the rest of us struggling to make ends meet. The Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) was therefore shut for a while so that nobody could buy and sell shares. One member of the government, Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani, did order the JSX to continue trading the shares, against the wishes of SBY and Kalla, but with a drop in value of 10% in ten minutes, trading was quickly suspended.

Some of us thought that Indonesian state companies ought to take over the companies, thus retaining overall control of Indonesian resources, but this was not to be because the Bakries have something more important - friends.

Some have said that the Presidential team of SBY and Kalla, a Bakrie protegé and another oligarch, are such pals because they are beholden to big brother Abdurizal, currently Minister of (His Family's) Welfare because the Boys were the major contributors to their campaign. Apparently not: there was at least one other donor who gave more.

The friend in the matter of settling their debts turns out to be Northstar Pacific Partners Ltd. -- founded by the family's close friend businessman Patrick Walujo. I can't tell you more about this as there is a distinct lack of transparency about the deal. Why should anyone take over massive debts yet allow the debtor to remain in control of the defaulting companies?

Of course, this is good news for all those in the business empire fearful of losing their jobs. Except ... those countries dependent on the import of Indonesia's resources can't afford them now as their economies are shrinking. Furthermore, prices of commodities are plummeting fast as demand drops, so whither Bakrie's fortune? Selling more cell phones? Esia said than done!

There is one glimmer in the gloom, though.

All but the Bakrie Boys (and friends) have always held them responsible for the Sidorajo mudflow. Most geologists now agree, that it was the drilling of Lapinos Brantas that was responsible for releasing the subterranean ooze.

Now that the immediate future of the companies has been secured, the Sidoarjo refugees can finally be paid the remaining 80% compensation that SBY ordered Lapindo Brantas to pay - nigh on two years ago.

Victims’ representatives of four villages - Renokenongo, Kedungbendo, Jatirejo and Siring - included in the map of affected areas as stipulated in a 2007 presidential decree, held lengthy talks Wednesday with the Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS) and Nirwan Bakrie, head of the Bakrie Group of companies, at the State Secretariat, finally agreeing to settle the remaining 80 percent of compensation through monthly installments of Rp 30 million (US$2,500) to each affected family.

This meeting took place after extensive lobbying of SBY by the victims. He is reported to have said, “I feel inconvenienced by this problem. If we can resolve the Aceh issue, why can’t we resolve this?

Yesterday, there was a massive demonstration by the refugees which blocked the Surabaya - Malang highway. The demonstrators branded the Bakrie Boys as liars, because the Wednesday agreement could well be yet another broken promise.

And maybe they're worried that even when (if?) they do get paid, a large percentage of the compensation will, as before, have to be paid to the broker-representatives who were at the meeting.

Some folk are never satisfied.

(Learn more about the Bakrie Boys here.)



10:00 am |
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
  IINCE 2008

Ee-inche is probably the way to pronounce the acronym of the 1st Indonesia International Nuclear Expo. You may like to know that this is being held this week at the Jakarta Convention Centre (JCC), where JakJazz and the Jakarta Book Fair are held every year.

Ee-inche is being held from the 3rd to 5th Dec., and will be in Assembly Halls 1, 2 and 3. I'd like to tell you more but googling has only got me the JCC website and What's On Jakarta?. The latter site has links to 'details'. Unfortunately these merely load the page you start at.

There's little point in me reiterating my anti-nuclear stance. If you want it in full then type 'nuclear power' in the search box to the right.

But it may be worth pointing out that countries such as the UK dependent to a large degree on nuclear power for their energy consumption needs are faced, as ever, with the need to decommission their old plants nearing retirement.

Decommissionning is very expensive; the current estimate by the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is that it will cost at least £70 billion* to decommission the existing United Kingdom nuclear sites; this takes no account of what will happen in the future. Also, due to the latent radioactivity in the reactor core, the decommissioning of a reactor is a slow process which has to take place in stages; the plans of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for decommissioning reactors have an average 50 year time frame. The long time frame makes reliable cost estimates extremely difficult. Excessive cost overruns are not uncommon even for projects done in a much shorter time.

*Excited AzoCleanTech.com, senses "significant opportunities for specialist companies from North America who have taken part in similar Department of Energy decommissioning projects and are now seeking to transfer this experience to new international markets."

Indonesia does not, as yet, have a nuclear power plant. That's all for the good, because seemingly everything is planned here wiith short-term objectives and this does not bode well for an industry which will outlive humanity. The UK, whose Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a known supporter of the nuclear industry, has been warned that if current plans to build more nuclear plants to replace and supplement existing plants go ahead, there may be a need to build not one, but two, waste repositories at a minimum of £12 billion each.

It's worth bearing in mind that as years go by, new problems and inflation combine to escalate costs.

I hope the delegates to Ee-inche enjoy the seminars along with the free lunches and snacks. I trust that they appreciate that there's no way that a country which cannot manage its banks or transport systems can hope to manage, let alone afford, a nuclear industry.


5:30 am |
Monday, December 01, 2008
  This stands for Perhimpunan Hubungan Masyarakat Indonesia, which I can only roughly translate as the Association of Networked Indonesians.

I'm not sure what its function is as their website is masih dalam pembangunan - still under construction. What I do know, however, is that they're holding their National Convention at the Planet Holiday Hotel on the island of Batam this week. It says so in an advert in the Sunday Post and apparently Expert Practitioners on Public are Converging to Renew on the Development of PR in Indonesia.

The "Key Note speech" is by VP Jusuf Kalla, whose family conglomerate seems to have taken over the commercial development role in Batam of former Suharto protegé and successor as president, B.J. Habibie.

PR stands for public relations, yet PERHUMAS uses crap English and can't get its website together. That's some credibilty gap to overcome. To misquote George Bernard Shaw, those who can, do: those who can't, hold seminars.

Among the many seminars is one labelled Communication In Crisis. I suggest that all the worthy corporate sponsors, participants and guest speakers attend this one before they get on with what they feel is the main topic: Branding The Nation.

Given that most local commentators would use words* such as myopic to describe the nation's decision makers, there is surely a need for a contemplative conference called, say, Rebranding The Nation. I would ban all PR folk who, after all are mere bandaid merchants and invite managers and other decision makers to consider how to make decisions without primary regard to their image.

Ask not what your country can do for you
- ask what you can do for your country.

These immortal words were spoken by John F. Kennedy in his inauguration speech on 20th Janiuary, 1961.

He also said: If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Wise words. Isn't it time for Indonesia's political and corporate élite and their PR poodles to take heed?

*Suggestions welcome


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