Friday, October 31, 2008


The Bali Times is at

We Have a Big Job Ahead
THIS is the “Asian Century”, we are told by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said so in his address officially opening the first Asian Beach Games, as reported in last week’s paper. Quite so. The trick will be to ensure that this is achieved by virtue of effort, and not acquired by default. There’s probably little point – especially for a place like Bali that depends on global tourism – in being at the top of a vastly reduced pile, the bottom of which is a still-smouldering pyre, the remains of institutional theft, bureaucratic indolence, wrecked lives and crushed hopes that these create.

This is now a fully interlocking world, one in which cooperation and consensus is even more crucial to beneficial outcomes. It will do Asia no good if during the first quarter of its century the rest of the world is in the poor-house. We need – to make one regrettably necessary reference only to that pontificating term so beloved of economists and historians – a new paradigm. In this new world, Indonesia and other countries will have to work hard to construct truly open economies that are both rational and in a real sense expansionary; and build a regulatory framework that is consistent, rational, not subject to whim or to under-the-table transactions, and that is fair to all concerned.

While it is true that the kleptocratic predilections of rampantly unrestrained capitalism have been dampened by necessary state action to control the bonfires it created, it is by no means clear either that this curb on greed will be permanent or that pandemic kleptomania will not break out elsewhere.

A Straw Poll in the Wind
INTERESTING to see a poll – published in the Indonesian language Bali Post newspaper – showing widespread community support for action to rein in the freewheeling activities of local leaders who ignore environmental restrictions and issue building permits and licences outside provincial rules. The poll (of 375 people) showed 80.6 per cent believed offending bupatis (regents) had no commitment to protecting Bali and backed legal action to bring them to heel.

Clearly, Balinese do not want to see lower ranking politicians thumbing their noses at the Provincial Governor and the legislature; nor do they want to see Bali’s still recent regional autonomy used as an excuse for sub-regional governments to do just as they please. Protecting our island’s unique cultural and natural environments is essential. Governor Pastika certainly knows this – he campaigned on that platform and won a resounding victory in the July elections – and that’s a constituency regents who might want to profit by bending the rules cannot ignore either.

A Welcome Vote of Confidence
IT’S good to see that more Americans are choosing to holiday in Bali, as last week’s edition of The Bali Times reported. Uncle Sam’s brood are generally dreadful wusses when it comes to visiting places that are in fact far less dangerous than the no-go zones in many U.S. cities. And it’s good, too, to see that Australians have returned to their time-honoured practice of coming to Bali in droves, helped along by increased capacity from Jetstar (which has taken over Qantas’ Perth-Bali route and added a third service to the old QF schedule – its inaugural flight was full, by the way – and will add a fourth from December). This input will be boosted even further by Pacific Blue’s entry to the lists from Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, also from December.

In that regard, then, we can look at the latest revision of the Australian government travel advisory on Indonesia with some sanguinity. Issued on Oct. 24, it notes that the announcement that the Bali bombers will – finally – meet their end may add to the risk to travellers through possible criminal revenge for this felicitation, perpetrated by as yet unknown terrorists.

One Aussie institution that annually adds to the influx of pleasure seekers to our island from that other, bigger, one to the south is Schoolies Week. This is a period of celebration; a rite of passage for school leavers defined by consumption of alcohol and other substances, licentious behaviour of other kinds, and assorted – generally harmless – mayhem that in the Australian custom occurs on a sort of roster basis around the various states. It’s the West Australian one that has the biggest impact here, because island revelry is only a short plane ride from Perth.

It is said by some of the Australian punditry – ever anxious to make mountains out of molehills and foster frightened gloom among its readership – that the latest travel advisory may foreclose on some Schoolies Week plans to invade Bali for a good time. Doesn’t look like it. Not on the basis of travel bookings, at least. And that’s as it should be. The Australian authorities, in their wisdom or perhaps their self interest (don’t want any “you didn’t tell us” compensation claims, do they?), have reissued their advisory. It is not new, beyond noting that the execution of terrorist mass-murderers may cause anguish and thoughts of retribution among some people of similar mind. As always, the best rule is: Be sensible; be aware; stay out of trouble. Oh yes, and remember: You’re actually responsible for yourself.

That, sensibly, seems to be the gist of Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments last Sunday, when he said that people had to make up their own minds where and when they chose to travel. “All I can do is to say to people there is a travel advice so far as Indonesia and Bali is concerned, they should contemplate that, they should think about that, they should take that advice,” he said. “In the end what Australians do is a matter for them; we give them the best advice that we can.”

It’s Official, We Live in the Obama Sector
AUSSIES and Japanese have found something else to agree about (beyond the benefits of shared security, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, that is; lethal whale “research” remains another matter): Two-thirds of them prefer Barack Obama over John McCain as the next president of the United States.

That’s a massive endorsement (shared by The Bali Times, which backed Obama in its Editorial last week). It will not necessarily be reflected in the election on Nov. 4, since the U.S. has not yet given the vote to nationals of foreign countries (this may be something else America-haters could protest about). The preference, by the way is mirrored throughout the world: if the rest of the world could take part in the US presidential election, Democrat Obama would win four times more votes than Republican McCain.

Regionally, in Singapore and South Korea, also close U.S. allies, opinion polling by the Gallup organisation showed the “vote” going to Obama by around two to one. In Australia and Japan, McCain was favoured by only 15 per cent of those polled.
Globally, Gallup polling in 70 countries representing nearly half the world's population showed 30 per cent of people choosing Obama against 8 per cent who preferred McCain. A substantial majority of Europeans want an Obama victory. The Arab world is strongly pro-Obama. In contrast, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have no preference and Latin Americans are similarly disinclined to care. But in Kenya, homeland of Barack Obama’s father, nearly 90 per cent of people polled said they wanted an Obama victory.

All this should make for an interesting day at Sector Bar and Restaurant in Sanur on Nov. 5 when Bali Discovery Events hosts its U.S. Election Day Open House Party, a huge bash co-sponsored by the restaurant, BIMC Hospital and Lotus Distribution, and supported by The Bali Times. Call Bali Discovery Tours on 0361 28 6283 or email for details of the event.

A Crime of Virtual Passion
THERE’S hope for us all yet, even amongst the wall to wall doom and gloom generated by the global financial crisis and the weeping and wailing of all those dirt poor (formerly filthy rich) Gordon Geckos who, since their houses of cards collapsed, are running around in a panic crying about how they didn’t know their greed, stupidity and general crassness would bring about the end of the (financial) world as they preferred it.

In such times, a laugh is an essential antidote. And happily the Diary found one just the other day. It came in a story about a Japanese woman – a 43-year-old piano teacher, oddly enough, whose bite is evidently much worse than her Bach – who is in jail for killing her virtual husband in one of those “virtual life” computer games that far too many people waste their real lives playing these days.

She logged on with her playing partner’s password and killed his digital persona. Police said she told them: “I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry.” She used information gained from the man, a 33-year-old office worker, while their avatars were happily married, to log on to his computer with his ID and password. She was arrested when he complained to police that his online avatar was dead.

If she is formally charged and then convicted (of computer crime: apparently it’s not yet an offence to murder an avatar, though the world is now such a kooky place we can sure global jurists are working on just such a law) the woman could be jailed for up to five years or fined up to Rp50 million. She has already had one real life experience as a result of her activity: a trip (under arrest) from her home in mild Miyazaki in southern Japan to her playing partner’s home of city of Sapporo in northern, now autumnal Hokkaido, where she is in custody during police investigations. The Diary does not know how the avatar was killed: With a blunt cursor perhaps?

LOHFE File Update
SULTANAS, that dietary essential for elderly parrots who are no longer all they’re cracked up to be (and anyway, sultanas are ace in oatmeal), are temporarily off Hector’s menu again. The shelves of several favourite emporiums have been bereft of the little sun-dried grapes for quite a little while. Hopefully it’s just the LOHFE factor – LOHFE as in List of Hard-to-Find Essentials – and not yet another unintended side-effect of the global market collapse, the consequent disappearance of essential shipping letters of credit, and the resultant lengthening list of ships in port with nowhere to go.

Geologists dig the dirt on Sidoarjo
THE celebrated East Java “mud volcano”, that erupted in 2006 wrecking farmland and destroying houses near Surabaya, has come under scrutiny from world renowned geologists and academics, who have held a two-day conference in London to dig into the reasons for the disaster.

They are curious to know why the subsurface sediment became reactive and flowed out, and the conference was a way they could all get together and chat about this. Geologists are no stick-in-the-muds. They are lateral thinkers of the first order – especially when discussing laterite, your Diarist remembers from a spell years ago when he temporarily abandoned the work of digging the dirt for the yellow press and took up technical editing – and the East Java mud flow has caused extensive twittering around the world, in geological circles. That’s why they had this conference with a really sexy title: “Subsurface Sediment Remobilization and Fluid Flow in Sedimentary Basins.”

The discussions, headlined by leading academic geologist Richard Davies from Durham University in the UK were sponsored by oil companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, DONG Energy, Oilexco, Shell and StatoilHydro.

In poll position
VETERAN Aussie pollster Gary Morgan has announced he will run for office as lord mayor of Melbourne in the November civic elections in that Big Car Race city. He says he wants to give the people a chance to vote for a mayor who will change the way things are done – though not at the Australian Grand Prix presumably – and who will actually turn up to all council meetings.

This is a laudable ambition. But we do wonder who will be doing the voter sampling in the run-up to the poll.

Kath and Kim Kultur doesn’t translate
THE Americans, who heaven knows need all the comic relief they can get at the moment, apparently don’t want this therapy to be delivered by the Americanized version of Australia’s hit series “Kath and Kim”. The show bombed on its second outing on the NBC Network.

Should we be surprised? The Aussie Kath and Kim are icons. The show’s a riot. Who could forget Kim’s forced concession, while trying to be a Corporate Wife at an office party, that the “h” coming after “c” was not in fact silent, as she asserted, because it’s French, in her preferred wine style; and that therefore she would have a “chardonnay, you pack of shunts”. Aussie humour is something that instantly resonates with Brits, and vice versa. The social and cultural links between Britain and Australia are symbiotic, after all. The two peoples share a two-fingered, innuendo-laden and belly-laugh approach to life and the pomposity and cant constantly inflicted on it, whereas most American popular entertainments either get out the trowel and lay on the schmaltz or go all dewy eyed and wrap themselves in the flag. In the Anglosphere, American humour is a second cousin, not part of the immediate family.

Oddly, the concept for the show was panned by the New York Post – a tabloid in the worst of the Murdoch tradition, indeed owned by that very gentleman and not without coincidence sporting a strong Australian presence in its editorial and management ranks – as the worst imported idea since Vegemite. Most Americans haven’t heard of Vegemite (even though like many Australian products it is now American-owned). They’ve all heard of Rupert Murdoch and many – albeit quite unfairly – might pick him, rather than a sandwich spread derived from yeast extract, as most deserving of that citation.

No comments:

Post a Comment