Friday, February 27, 2009


The Bali Times is at

All A-Glitter
IT’S the biggest event to happen on or near Nusa Dua’s great Geger Beach since the local banjars decided to demolish all the independent beach cafes and set up a single cooperative in their place (that was a really bad move, guys). The official opening of the St Regis property had The Diary in tizz all week. Would there be oysters for the “official” crowd? Would they be compliant, as in softly opening? Would they, in that case, be leftovers from the soft opening last September? We hoped not. We also hoped that they would not just be complacent, as so many oysters are these days. And just who was Jamie Cullum, listed as the entertainment for the evening. (The Diary, being one of your crustier curmudgeons, admits previous grievous ignorance on this essential point.)

On the oyster front, we shall have to wait for reports back from those famous or important enough to score an invite to the bash. On the matter of Jamie Cullum, however, much information has come to hand. This week his website listed his next gig as live at Q The Music Club at the Hard Rock Cafe in London on April 30. Not a mention of Bali, where the gig’s going down the whole time. Or for that matter the St Regis. Perhaps his appearance at the grand opening on Feb. 28 is more in the mode of a private performance. Good thing he’s not a dancer.

Cullum’s website is certainly an interesting landscape to explore. While doing our cyber version of Henry Morton Stanley beating around the African bush in search of an improbable handshake delivered with a well-rehearsed line, The Diary noted that according to his blog, on Feb. 20, 2007 Cullum amused himself by shaving all the hair from his body. Now that’s just the sort of thing you don’t put in your “Dear Diary” notes.

Seriously, Cullum (photo) is a big hit with many, plays jazz and crossover genre, and his music is noteworthy enough to score him a nomination in this year’s Golden Globes for best original song. We’re sure he’ll leave the glitterati gobsmacked at the “Diamonds and Pearls” St Regis show. It will certainly be a pearler, according to the invitation.

A feature of the property is the King Cole Bar, a tribute to the Astor family of New York and the brand’s flagship NYC property. It was also one of the places which claims to have invented the Bloody Mary (another was Harry’s Bar in Paris). But whatever its provenance, invention of the Bloody Mary is certainly worth celebrating.

Big Medicine Moments
ONE of the curiosities of Bali is the interest local woodcarvers have in Native American culture, as seen in the over-supply of “Red Indian” heads complete with feathers on display for unwary tourists. It’s a bit like all those “Australian” boomerangs they make in Lombok. In relation to the Native American fixation, we assume it is yet another example of the supremacy of Hollywood’s take on history.

At the same time the Native American story is a fascinating one. A new chum of The Diary, American-born Australian resident Glenn Orr – he lives in Albany, Western Australia, visits Bali every year, and is a fellow we’ll be hearing more of later – very kindly lent us his holiday-reading copy of The Spirit of Indian Women, a book that showcases parts of the tribal religious, traditional and cultural liturgies of several Native American peoples.

It also places in firm context – and rightful place – the central role of women in those cultures. The true place of womanhood has been too long obscured by the remnant settler mentality of American governance, the prevalence of Hollywood myth, and the grossly misogynist proclivities that the European peoples are only now beginning to reject. Merde! Late again!

The Diary, long a fan of Native American culture and history – and firmly of the belief that if you need a good general you should recruit Crazy Horse rather than George Armstrong Custer – was thus interested to read last weekend that 20 descendants of the famed Apache chief Geronimo have filed suit in the U.S. Federal Court in Washington seeking return of his remains to New Mexico for traditional Apache burial, without which, the suit says, his spirit cannot be free.

Geronimo and his dwindling band of skilled guerrilla warriors periodically led up to 5000 American troops a merry dance in the desert south-west of the U.S. and northern Mexico over nearly two decades in the late 19th century.

He died in 1909 at Fort Sill in Oklahoma – in exile in the sere grasslands of the southern prairies many moons distant from his magical desert homeland – at the age of nearly 90, after 20 years as a prisoner. He had surrendered to the U.S. military during the final phases of “pacification” of the American West, on the understanding that he would be allowed to return to his homeland and his people.

One of the appellants in the suit, Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo, says he hopes the people named as respondents will take the matter seriously. These include President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

In around 1918 the Yale secret society the Order of the Skull and Bones stole Geronimo’s remains and possessions from Fort Sill – surely the Gitmo of its day – and is believed still to hold them at its premises on the campus of the prestigious Ivy League university. Among those thought to be responsible was Prescott Bush, father of President George H.W. Bush (Bush 41) and grandfather of President George W. Bush (Bush 43).

Harlyn Geronimo wrote to the most recently former President requesting return of his great-grandfather’s remains but did not receive a reply. Doubtless he is hoping for a more positive response (or at least a response), from Obama 44. Barack’s ancestors weren’t among them, of course – they were in East Africa – but the proud heritage of America’s Buffalo Soldiers, blacks in U.S. military service in frontier days, is surely close to his heart. Bob Marley is a good source of anecdotal material on that score. And Bali’s just the place to buy the CD too.

Guys, Do Us a Favour
AT the Indonesia-Australia gabfest held in Sydney this month. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda put in the standard pitch for the Aussies to rescind – or at least downgrade to “alert but not very alarmed” – the travel advisory still in place for Indonesia including Bali. Minister Wirajuda noted that the Americans and Canadians have removed their advisories given the significant progress Indonesian authorities have made against Islamic terrorists since the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.

We loved Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s response which, stripped of the elegant language employed, basically said the advice to reconsider travel still existed but no one was taking any notice of it. Mr Smith noted Australian tourists have returned to Bali in large numbers, having read the government’s advice. Doubtless on departmental advice, he forbore to mention that they must therefore have rejected it.

Two points for Canberra to consider: One, if everyone’s ignoring the advice, doesn’t that of itself indicate a need to change? And two, we’re still missing out on educational and corporate visits because the existence of the advice basically shuts down organized travel for insurance reasons. It really is time for a re-think.

Back to Burning Beds
AUSTRALIA’S environment minister, Peter Garrett, who (silly fellow) left his day job as the ultra-athletic front-man of the rock group Midnight Oil for the life of a Labor parliamentarian, is going back to the concert stage. It’s only for a special gig, on March 14, for a flood and bushfire benefit show the music industry says should be the biggest rock concerts ever held down under. But it isn’t very often you see a cabinet-rank minister swallowing a rock concert microphone. Organizers are hoping to raise at least A$4 million from the shows, to be held simultaneously in Melbourne – at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground – and Sydney, at the SCG.

Midnight Oil – seen here in a 1997 photo which prompts the response “Good question, Pete!” – will perform in Melbourne.

One of Midnight Oil’s greatest hits was the Aboriginal protest song “Beds are Burning”. Garrett’s problem ever since he foreswore singing in favour of squawking has been that politics involves burning bridges.

Russian Flag Gets a Lift
WE’VE all grown accustomed to looking out for guys (and gals) with snow on their boots, the traditional way you are supposed to be able to spot a Russian at 50 paces. (The joke stems from an English keep-smiling line of World War Two vintage.) It’s been quite easy of late. In 2008 a total of 58, 233 Russians visited Bali. Though actually, none of them had snow on their boots: perhaps it melted while they were queuing up to pay for their visas on entry.

In honour of this invasion from the steppes, or perhaps to cope with it, the Russian ambassador to Indonesia, Alexander A. Ivanov, has now appointed an honorary consul in Bali. The lucky honorary Ivan is Chairul Nuku Karnika, a Bali-based tour operator. Hon Con Karnika expects the number of Russians tourists to grow dramatically in 2009, citing the Indonesian government’s agreement to underwrite the cost of a “Visit Indonesia” exhibition in Moscow in March and a steady increase in the number of Russian charter flights.

The new consul was officially inducted at a ceremony held at the St Regis Hotel at Nusa Dua and welcomed by entertainers specially flown in from Russia.

Tuneless Wonders?
WHAT would you do if I sang out of tune? No, this isn’t karaoke quiz night. Even though karaoke is a tuneless Japanese invention named by creating a compound noun conjoining kara (empty) and oke (orchestra). It relates instead to the fast developing plans of the Malaysian hotel chain Tune to build two outlets in Bali.

These are hotels built to a formula – a concept capitalized on globally by the French Formule chain – and feature pay-as-you-go facilities. They also feature distinctly un-Balinese architecture. The Diary is all for cheap hotels. But not if they sing out of tune; from memory, even the Beatles seemed a little concerned about the effect that might have on the environment.

Hollywood Daze
THE annual Academy Awards have just been held in Los Angeles, amid the usual hoopla and fake glitter that the old burg does so well. It was a success, as far as it went. And of course, it went too far as usual. There’s nothing like Tinsel Town when it comes to hype.

Australian actor Heath Ledger was unable to present in person to pick up his best supporting award. Another Australian, Hugh Jackman, host of this year’s event, was subjected to YouTube hate-vid in the lead-up to the event. He was seen on the video making fun of previous Oscar hosts. That’s celluloid treason, isn’t it?

The Diary’s interest in the Oscars is close to minimal. We hate the era of self-congratulation that Hollywood and the tabloid media – print and TV – have foisted on the world. And as a student of American history – see the item above on the cruel fate of Geronimo – we’ve long been astounded that Hollywood’s taste for scenery over substance and fiction over fact placed so much Wild West cavalry action in the scenic setting of Monument Valley (don’t you just love those stove-pipe mesas). In fact the U.S. Cavalry was never within a hundred miles of the place during the so-called pacification of the frontier.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The Bali Times is at

A Great Gesture of Friendship
INDONESIA’S generous offer of $1 million to rebuild schools in fire-hit areas of Australia’s southern state of Victoria has rightly drawn plaudits from our disaster-hit neighbour. Unfortunately for The Diary, which would otherwise have carried this item in last week’s paper, the news broke after that edition was printed.

The assistance is additional to the efforts of a forensic team sent to Australia to help local authorities cope with the unprecedented scale of the disaster, which at last count – they’re still finding bodies – had killed 208 people.

So let’s make this point straight away. The announcement by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the terms in which he couched his statement are a magnificent endorsement of Indonesia’s neighborliness. In a letter to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the President wrote: “Australia's success is also Indonesia's success and its misery is also Indonesia's misery.” His spokesman added that the funds are “a token of Indonesia's solidarity with Australia.”

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami Australia committed $1 billion to Aceh’s reconstruction and has since made further commitments to assist with disaster management. This time, rightly, the help is flowing the other way.

Palestinian Primer
AUSTRALIAN journalist, blogger and anti-Zionist Jew Antony Loewenstein was the main event at the first 2009 literary dinner put on by Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet de Neefe, held at her Indus restaurant last Sunday. Loewenstein’s views on Israel and Palestine are controversial, especially in pro-Israel circles. He thinks the Palestinians deserve a life. So does The Diary. What he says – and writes – is guaranteed to stir the tea in the cup.

Interestingly, it turned out that Loewenstein (pictured at Sunday’s event: the photo is by Brami Jegan) was alerted to the Ubud festival by an article in the Australian newspaper written by Sydney journalist Deborah Cassrels – an old friend of The Diary’s – featuring de Neefe, a luminous presence in Ubud’s eclectic little galaxy.

This year’s festival, in October, will include Nobel Prize winner author J.M. Coetzee, the Australian resident South African; the Indian author Vikas Swarup, whose book became the blockbuster movie Slum Dog Millionaire; and, we heard from de Neefe on Sunday, Loewenstein himself. It should be an interesting affray.

Festival manager this year is Sarah Tooth, who has forsaken the much promoted delights of Adelaide in Australia in favour of Ubud’s pleasant tropical climes. The Diary played a small part in Sunday’s function, asking Loewenstein questions from the podium, via a fractious microphone, while the big crowd ate their dinner. The Bali Times, which is dedicated to bringing its readers the best news each week, is a keen fan and a media sponsor of the festival.

Selamat Makan!
TWO Diary spies tell us they bought lunch for three happy policemen the other day. It seems that the traffic signals at the Benoa Harbor turnoff on the by-pass had miraculously turned red by the time they were nabbed by two polisi on motorbikes a little way up the highway last Sunday. They were to get a ticket for running the red light, happily translated as “traffic jam” by one of the helpful officers. A third policeman arrived, also on a motorbike. Gosh, more brass than when we tried to break into Buck House, our spies thought.

The ticket was to cost Rp150, 000, payable at court in Denpasar. One of them started writing out the ticket – except it didn’t look as if his pen worked and the ticket book seemed curiously deficient in a key component, pages to write on. The ticket and the offence were swiftly disposed of. Rp100, 000 in the pocket beats paperwork any day.

That’s the Spirit!
IF you’ve got any spare cash and can’t find any real spirits – and it is a little difficult at the moment, given the dog’s breakfast Jakarta’s curiously muddled way of organizing things has made of alcohol sales generally and imported liquor in particular – here’s a chance to party anyway.

The second Bali Spirit Festival (“An Annual Festival of Yoga, Dance + Music” – it sounds so wild we just can’t wait to miss it) is on from April 28-May 23 this year and is organized by the Yoga Barn people. Sponsors get a choice of spending from bronze (at US$10,000) to Diamond (at US$60,000). If you’re a Diamond sponsor you could be responsible for paying US$17,200 to bring 11deejays to Bali from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Chile and Malaysia; kissing off US$9,640 on flights; forking out US$12,800 on meals and accommodation; and plugging in US$10,400 on equipment and props. The organizers say that totals US$50,040 “before operational”.

To simple souls such as your Diarist, it just seems like an awful lot of junket.

Oh … Those Computers!
IT’S good to know that the Americans, since they are so concerned with other people’s nuclear security status, are still in the business of scoring spectacular own-goals. According to reports, 80 computers have been lost, stolen or gone “missing” at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory.

The non-profit watchdog group Project On Government Oversight (POGO) posted online a copy of what they say is an internal letter outlining what appear to be worrisome losses at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The letter says that 13 lab computers were lost or stolen during the past year, three of the machines taken from an employee's home in January. Another 67 computers are deemed “missing.” It adds that the level of risk attached to this significant loss of equipment is “at best unclear as little data on these losses has been collected or pursued.”

Ah, Uncle Sam, you’re such a chump sometimes.

Villas on the Rise
WE hear from Asia Property Report that the villa rental market in Bali is holding up strongly. Property managers are said to be reporting an increase in the number of bookings, partly attributed to the Easter holidays. (Easter is in April this year.)

We made the point a little while ago – when reporting on five-star hotels’ stick-’em-up pricing policies for 2009 on the back of a good 2008 – that the villa option is increasingly attractive, particularly for family parties or groups of friends holidaying together. After all, if you’re going to have a weekend (or more) at Bernie’s, you want your own swimming pool.

Asia Property Report says the Istana, managed by BHM Villas, is already above 75 per cent booked – as in deposits paid – for 2009. BHM Villas says it is taking twice the amount of deposits for rentals in 2009 as it did in the same period in 2008. And Paradise Property reports at 12 per cent increase in bookings.

ET to Call Home
CELEBRITY jailbird Schapelle Corby will be making an extra-long phone call home in June. She will testify (in absentia, or perhaps that should be in carceration) in a court case in Queensland, Australia. She’ll be giving evidence against Robin Tampo – now a former solicitor – who tried to score her a get out of jail card when she forgot about that ganja in her boogyboard bag.

Sister Mercedes – who we hear is now known as CLK63 since, like that fast little German number, she has appeared topless in a men’s magazine – will also testify. But she’ll do so in person, before Justice John Byrne of the Legal Practice Tribunal. Schapelle will join the party by phone from Kerobokan, or from some other secure location in Bali judged suitable for use by compulsory guests of the state.

Tampo is defending a charge of professional misconduct stemming from the Corby saga. S&M have alleged Tampo breached solicitor-client confidentiality during a television interview in June 2005, by disclosing confidential information provided by Mercedes on the past crimes and misdemeanours of the Corby clan.

Charlie Gets Hector’s Vote
AUSSIE fire victim Charlie (photo) got a message of support last week from your Diarist, after news of his predicament appeared on the ABC Online website run by Australia’s national broadcaster. The poor fellow – you can see he’s a close relative of your Diarist – had to be rescued from the flames with heat stroke and given emergency treatment.

The word is that he’s recovering well. His de-feathered state, by the way, is the result of a skin condition, not the killer fires. Hope he’s getting treatment for that too.

Pay as We Say or You’re Cactus
EUROPEAN Medieval myth is full of tales of robbers with a social conscience – England’s Robin Hood is just one example of the fun guys who are said to have got off on robbing the rich to give to the poor – but, alas, it is largely myth. Mostly it was the robber barons who made the big bucks. Eight centuries on, the Hoods of the world are still at it, only this time the robber barons are called banks.

The Drudge Report’s fine TP Muckraker, available on line for anyone who wants to keep up to date with the misdeeds of the terminally incorrigible, brought us a beauty the other day: It was a research memo sent out by a senior Deutsche Bank analyst that clearly and cogently set out the bank’s position, vis-a-vis its toxic portfolios, its consequent embarrassing lack of actual earning assets, and its desire still to net a full return. Stripped of the cant, what it says to the U.S. government is this: We screwed up. But if you don't rescue us on our terms, you'll all be in trouble.

Deutsche Bank (and all the others) want governments – not only in America but everywhere – to pay them the full fictionalized value of the non-performing assets on their books or they’ll be ruined (the governments, not the banks). It’s the old stand-and-deliver ultimatum. Unfortunately, politics being what it is – and the stranglehold John Maynard Keynes’ curious view of economics has on government, ditto – we can be sure the big banks have got ’em by the pawnshop balls.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The Bali Times is at

Among Friends in the Real Bali
THE Diary had a delightful outing the other day – a marriage ceremony in rural Karangasem that precisely demonstrated the magic of Bali and why it is so much better to live here than just visit. The happy couple – already married in the Balinese custom by virtue of an initial ceremony in 2006 – was completing the process at the bride’s home village. Their two-year-daughter was along for the ride (as well as 20-plus partygoers who travelled by bus from Tabanan for the occasion).

What made the occasion so special for The Diary (and Mrs. Diary) was that the bride was their former housekeeper, a young woman who is a friend as well as a former employee. It is these personal links that add so much to life in Bali.

The Diary’s thoughts on this occasion turned to the sterile and dismissive advice (immediately rejected) of a former short-term associate, also an expatriate who lives in Bali and does some business here, who a long time ago, observing that the young couple were friends with “visiting privileges” at their home, said he never got that close.

What a parched existence such “disengaged” expats must live. They refuse see the real value of Balinese life, will not share in the joys and sadness of it, and as a result deny themselves everything that makes the island what it is. You wonder why they’re here, really, other than to enjoy the cut-price benefits of their ersatz bling and bolly scene and to gouge some money.

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls
IT TOLLS for them, apparently. Australia’s fiery tragedy in the southern state of Victoria has drawn condolences from around the world – from Queen Elizabeth (still incongruously monarch of that southern realm), from President Barack Obama, from the leaders of Germany, Singapore, Timor Leste and many other nations. And Indonesia? Well, the consul-general in Melbourne delivered a letter of condolence to Victoria’s state premier (and that’s great) and says Indonesia is preparing to send a forensic team to help with victim identification. But from Jakarta itself? Nothing heard: Not from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; not from Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda.

Australia’s population is 22 million. The fire toll will certainly exceed 200 lives (it may yet be many more). That’s the equivalent per capita of 2000 people if the disaster had happened in Indonesia – a measure of the relative impact of the disaster on Australia. Even on the actual numbers, it exceeds the frightful toll from the first Bali bombing. Ding!

Incidentally, The Diary heard from a mate in Canberra the other day, a chap who runs a very successful public relations outfit in Australia’s centre of government. He was asking people to donate blood to assist hospitals cope with the large number of burns victims – noting that he used to donate blood regularly but hadn’t, for all sorts of reasons, done so in recent years. The tragedy had brought him back to the realization that everyone needs to help. The Diary would help if possible, but distance makes that difficult. But top marks, Mark Croxford, for civic thinking.

They’ll be Banning Apples Next
FRESH from their triumphant banning of yoga and not-quite-banning smoking – good luck there, guys – the luminaries who seek to remove from modern Indonesia all sorts of things (some beneficial, some not, but all elective human behaviour) that offend their reading of Islam’s requirements have now set their sights on service clubs.

Specifically, they assert that Rotary and Lions – the voluntary associations that do so much charity work not only in Indonesia but around the world – are Zionist fronts associated with Freemasonry. The focus at the moment is on Bandung, the pleasant hill town in Java which, among other achievements, held the 1955 conference that started the Non-Aligned Movement as a force in world affairs. According to Athian Ali Muhammad Da’i of the Forum Ulama Ummat Indonesia (FUUI), there are two Freemason-Zionist clubs in Bandung, West Java, they being the Rotary Club and the Lions Club.

He says that in 2001 the Attorney General’s office told him these Zionist entities operating in the city raised money that was sent to America and thence to Israel. He has asked President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reinstate presidential edict No. 264 of 1962, which outlawed the Rotary Club in Indonesia.

He adds that fatwas issued by clerics in Mecca and the Egyptian Al-Azhar Fatwa Commission stated that any Muslim who joined either the Rotary Club or Lions Club thereby became a kafir, or infidel. Here is yet another case of Indonesian Muslims being encouraged by mistaken assumptions among the more fundamentalist-minded of their leaders to adopt views from very far away that have little to do with Indonesia and nothing at all to do with common sense.

Both Rotary and Lions in Indonesia run valuable health and social improvement programs that directly benefit poor Indonesians who would otherwise not get – for example – cranio-facial surgery to correct disfiguring conditions, clean water or dental care. What next? Perhaps the Forum Ulama Ummat Indonesia will seek to ban the infidel practice of growing apples for commercial profit, something else that was brought to Indonesia to the healthful benefit of the people.

Weak End at Bernie’s
BERNIE Madoff, whose headline-grabbing US$50 billion Wall Street fraud starkly demonstrates the fundamental moral collapse of American financial ethics, lists among the (unquestionably stupid) victims of his multi-billion-dollar fraud top Hollywood stars (Kevin Bacon, who clearly won’t be bringing any home, and John Malkovich, who can’t be very pleased with being himself); Larry Silverstein, the man rebuilding the World Trade Center; veteran CNN talk show host Larry King; and baseball luminary Fred Wilpon, who owns the New York Mets.

The list at the US Bankruptcy Court in New York shows thousands of people invested with Madoff before his arrest in December and the collapse of his alleged multi-billion dollar sucker scheme. Other prominent victims include some of the world's leading financial institutions: UBS, HSBC, J.P. Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas and Citigroup. A string of museums, charities and pension funds are also listed.

Bernie didn’t just sting strangers. The 162-page list contains many of those closest to the 70-year-old Madoff. His wife Ruth appears, as do their sons and Madoff's brother. Following his arrest, Madoff was able to enlist only his wife and brother to back his US$10 million bail, which was subsequently tightened to full house arrest in Manhattan. His lawyer, Ira Sorkin, also appears on the list.

He has not yet been indicted. In America these things can take a very long time. Although maybe not as long if your lawyer is smarting.

Apa Kabar, Ibu Hillary?
THE world spotlight will be on Indonesia next week when new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits us on her first overseas trip. Her spokesman says she wants to “reach out” to the Muslim world and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, is “an important country for the United States.”

President Barack Obama himself, who as everyone now knows spent some of his childhood in Indonesia and has been hanging for a really nice nasi goreng ever since, has tagged Indonesia as a great place to visit. Hey, Mr. President, Visit Indonesia Year was last year! But he’ll be along shortly, count on it.

Secretary Clinton (seen in our photo practicing her Hi and Bye Wave) will meet senior officials in Jakarta on Feb. 18-19, immediately after a stop in Japan, to discuss “the close and growing partnership with Indonesia and developing matters of common interest in South-East Asia.” From here she will go on to South Korea and China.

Fancy a Sheikh-down Cruise?
WE’RE not sure whether it’s just fate making bad timing of an otherwise great idea, or if the oil-rich Gulf States really are recession-proof. But Abu Dhabi’s first international yacht show – as in, one for the mega-mega super-yachts – gets under way next month and by all accounts will a global showstopper. The promoters even ask: “Tired of the Mediterranean?” And answer their own question: “Abu Dhabi is the new hotspot for super-yacht enthusiasts.”

The show – it’s on from March 12-14 – capitalizes on massive infrastructure investment in the Gulf, of the sort that accommodates the floating gin palaces of the super rich and really famous, and spins off the area’s reputation as a place that combines history and the future. It’s a big pitch, certainly at the moment when the market in super yachts may be down just a tad as the suddenly not quite so mega rich count their pennies. But the organizers, themselves apparently refugees from the suddenly poorer Med where they also organize the regular Monaco shindig, seem happy enough to be spruiking the new show.

We hope the Abu Dhabi show is a huge success – and that the flow of investment funds from the Gulf in the general direction of Indonesia will not dry up in a rush. It would be even better if this funding fully focused on building a productive future instead of re-inventing history.

Just a thought: If things do eventually go belly-up, and the world’s super-yacht fleet is reduced to a responsible number (one or two seems appropriate), our very own Benoa Harbor might just manage to squeeze them in.

Flustered Feathers
SINCE your Diarist takes a close interest in birds – well, he would, wouldn’t he; ones of the avian variety, of course – it is disturbing to hear news that the Java hawk-eagle may be in trouble because of its well publicized endangered status and its high-profile role, courtesy of former President Suharto, who in 1993 named it Indonesia’s national rare animal. This seems to have attracted the attention not only of conservationists and legitimate collectors, but also of illegal bird traders.

Chris Shepherd, of the Malaysian based wildlife body TRAFFIC, says that over the last 20 years 70 Java hawk-eagles have been recorded in trade, most of them in recent times. It is regarded as one of the world’s rarest birds and is highly sought after for zoos and private collections. But it has never been bred in captivity.

Nisaetus bartelsi – the scientific name commemorates Hans Bartels – is clearly in need of greater protection. As Shepherd notes, raising the profile and awareness of threatened wildlife needs to go hand in hand with effective laws to protect the species concerned. In other words, the Java hawk-eagle doesn’t need a PR campaign as much as it needs real interest in its fate, coupled with official determination to ensure its survival.

Yes, Well, Just Don’t Drown
DOMINQUE Strauss-Kahn, the euphoniously named French head of the International Monetary Fund, apparently likes to be frank. Perhaps he finds it a bit of light relief, given that in his homeland the euro long since replaced that other franc.

Conceding that most nations would inevitably see an increase in public debt from measures to avert catastrophe and that the world had to deal with the crisis before addressing the recovery, he added this little bon-mot: “When you have a fire in the house, you first need to put out the fire and then you see how you evacuate the excess water.”

DSK, as he is sometimes known, is one for hot water himself, being French. Last year he narrowly escaped the otherwise likely consequences of being sprung on a one-night-stand with an IMF employee, a lady who – as that delightful old phrase puts it – was not his wife. His wife, apparently culturally attuned to la vie amoureuse francais, said she understood.

Departing Soon: Rumour Airlines
OUR eye was caught this week by a curious item in the regular Bali Update put out by Bali Discovery Tours. It said Australian aviation sources reported Brisbane-based airline, SkyAirWorld was planning 14 flights a week between Darwin and Bali. We assume they meant seven return services a week. Even so, the schedule seemed, shall we say, somewhat brave, given you could just about squeeze Darwin’s entire population into Kuta on a Saturday night.

SkyAirWorld operates company charter and limited scheduled services with Embraer jets in Queensland and also flies Brisbane-Solomon Islands. The Bali Update report suggested the airline was also about to start services from Darwin to Dili in Timor Leste. Well, in relation to Bali, we shall see. Given Garuda couldn’t sell a seat out of Brisbane (city and surrounding population 2 million-plus) and had to cancel its proposed service before it started, plus Pacific Blue’s and JetStar’s existing services, it looks a little like a flight of fancy. SkyAirWorld tells us no announcements have been made.

Friday, February 06, 2009


The Bali Times is at

That Yoga Ban: Get Knotted
IN India, ancestral home of yoga – the ancient symbiosis of meditative and manipulative practice that is said to keep you fit in both mind and body – Muslims are free to bend and chant at will. That’s according to the scholars at the Darul Uloom Deoband, the country’s chief Islamic academic religious council. Its deputy vice-chancellor, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, said this of the problem that has arisen in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Egypt, over the un-Islamic nature of yoga: “[It] is a good form of exercise. If some words which are supposed to be chanted while performing it have religious connotations, then Muslims need not utter those. They can instead recite verses from the Koran or praise Allah or remain silent.”

Yoga guru Swami Ramdey had earlier made the same suggestion, saying yoga practitioners could use other devotional words in place of the Yogic chant “Om”. His organization had already asked its Muslim and Christian followers to begin yoga with a prolonged utterance of Allah or God. The Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, meanwhile, says exercises similar to those in yoga are found in Sufi practices.

One of the benefits of meditation is that it stimulates the practice of lateral thinking, something else that has been lacking in organizational Islam’s response to beneficial influences from outside.

Davos Man in Mass Extinction
THAT annual look-in-the-mirror, aren’t-we-fabulous love-in for the masters of the universe, the Davos Summit, was a bit of a fizzer this year. This was evident as much from the list of the formerly great and powerful who couldn’t attend because they are no longer great and powerful as from the farcical irony in this year’s most Quotable Presence being one Vladimir Putin, former Soviet KGB enforcer and enemy of the capitalist world.

Vlad the New Impaler is no longer an enemy (well we don’t think so) but at the same time, given he presides over the world’s greatest kleptocracy, it is somewhat odd that his views should be deemed the best available in the clear wintry air of the Swiss Alps. He did remark that planned economies didn’t work. And he does know all about that, of course. So perhaps there is some residual value in listening to him on that score.

The theme of this year’s summit – shaping the post-crisis world – might also have been a little ahead of itself. Don’t think we’ve seen the actual crisis yet. Not the real one. It was pleasing, though, that the list of miscreants scratched from the attendance list was so luminously apt:

No Dick Fuld, who ran Lehman Brothers until he ran it over a cliff last September, intensifying the crisis. No John Thain, who couldn’t be there as Merrill Lynch boss because his new bosses at Bank of America sacked him just days earlier. No Ramalinga Raju, founder of India’s formerly heralded Satyam Computer – he’s behind bars for some very creative accounting indeed.

The biggest no-show was the Barack Obama team, plus White House economist Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Even that globetrotting Aussie, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, cancelled, along with his Treasurer (finance minister) Wayne Swan.

Jungle Treat
THE Diary hasn’t been along there itself – it’s in the must-do file though – so we are happy just to report the positive words of a recent visitor to the hot springs in Tabanan regency. It’s a relaxing experience, he tells us. There is something quite magical about taking the waters deep in the jungle, surrounded by nature, and in an environment matchless elsewhere on planet Earth.

Too many visitors to Bali get stuck on the regular circuit. There’s nothing wrong with the regular circuit, of course. As regular circuits go, it’s pretty damn good. But those with a taste for the more Karmic experiences of life should get away from the well-beaten tracks. And there are few things more worthwhile than relaxing in nice, natural hot water soaking away the cares of the workaday world.

It’s an easy drive. One thing though: if you are a tourist, and not aware of the full variety of climates that our tropical paradise provides, remember that it can get a little cool – especially if it’s raining – at altitude. The springs aren’t all that lofty, but it’s best to be prepared. Makes that nice warm water even warmer, of course! Bali always finds a way to add value to a visitor’s experience.

Most tour drivers would know the way there. And back, always an advantage.

Now For the Hard Bit
THE plush St Regis property at Nusa Dua – nicely situated on Geger Beach, The Diary’s pick as Bali’s best stretch of sand – opened “softly” quite a while ago. Sort of like an engagingly compliant oyster. Now it’s time for the hard opening. The big bash is on Feb. 28, invitation only of course as befits somewhere catering for the rich and wannabe famous. We guess that means even more fireworks. There’s nothing like a good show of pyrotechnics to get the crowd stamping.

It’s a great property. It’s a worthy addition to the plush portfolio Bali presents as a lure to visitors. These are somewhat difficult times, but quality always wins out. And we’re sure the distinctive ambience that the St Regis label provides will stand it in very good stead.

The Diary has connections with the place. Not at the management level (that’s for much more exalted beings) but at the coalface. One of our best chums serves drinks there to the clients, resident or just passing through.

A Moral Lesson from the Deep
IT WAS interesting to read the item in last week’s paper that reported researchers of social mores had discovered – apparently to their surprise, which is actually a surprise because they can’t have much of a grip on the widespread presence of selflessness in humans or on the history of British social mores if they were surprised – that many British victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912 may have gone down with the ship because they were so well mannered. The selfish mores of today’s “It’s Me!” culture, which is as unfortunately evident in post-courtesy Britain as anywhere else, would result in a killer gallop for the few lifeboats willy-nilly, no doubt.

A Swiss economist, Professor Bruno Frey at the University of Zurich, and an Australian colleague, Queensland University of Technology behavioural economist David Savage, found that Britons on board the fated and supposedly unsinkable super-liner were 10 per cent less likely to have survived than all other nationalities. Americans had a higher survival rate than others. Maybe that’s not surprising. The “It’s Me!” culture originated in the U.S. and perhaps the iceberg that the Titanic steamed into at high speed – it was on its maiden voyage and its captain was trying to break the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing – illustrates the prototype of this future bad behaviour.

The principle of looking after people for whom you are responsible (your children and their mother, e.g.), or less fortunate than you are, or even more defenceless, is a good one. The conscious awareness that someone else’s life might actually be more valuable than your own is surely what makes humanity humane.

There were 2200 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic. Some 1500 of them drowned. They didn’t drown solely – or even chiefly – because they were selfless individuals, or just because they were polite. They drowned because the criminal clowns who built and owned the ship did not provide enough lifeboats.

Statue of Limitations
IRAQ’S most famous journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, has briefly had his feat of valour in throwing his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush honoured in a statue erected in Tikrit, the home town of that old dictator, Saddam Hussein. As in, the statue was created and erected – someone even wrote a poem for the occasion – and then was un-erected on the orders of the Iraqi authorities.

Al-Zaidi (pictured here performing his heroic act of defiance on Bush’s last visit to Iraq as President, last Dec. 14) was worthy of the honour, according to a foundation that cares for children whose parents have died in the violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion led by the U.S. The foundation’s president, Shaha al-Juburi, said the statue – it’s a sculpture really, a big shoe on a plinth – was not backed by any political party or organization. Maybe not; but it was certainly making a political statement.

Wonky Wonkettes
THAT treasure trove of American leftist good thinking, the glorious and always good for a laugh Wonkette website, had a little spit the other day about the Washington Times – the other paper in the U.S. capital that, for reasons unfathomable to Wonkettes, fails to comprehend that the ultra-liberal Washington Post is the only authorized script around town – and its marketing of George W. Bush commemorative items.

The Diary has enough clutter around the place to make a decision not to acquire a President Bush Commemorative Cigar or a copy of the W. Commemorative Book very easy. We agree with Wonkette’s assessment, on that basis, that such items unquestionably deserve classifying as unwanted crap.

But isn’t it time wonky American liberals moved on? They’ve had their victory. The evil regime of King George has been swept away by the sainted regiments of Good King Barack. And how the Washington Times chooses to spend its time is up to it and its fate is up to its readers. That’s the real force of the market.

Mama Mia!
THE Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is well known for dropping clangers. It was he no less who committed the unpardonable sin, when Barack Obama was anointed last year as the next President of the United States, of publicly envying his natural sun tan. Italians, all hedonists in some way or other, are into the body beautiful.

Berlusconi is from the country’s north – that bit where the fun-loving populace likes to quip that Africa begins at Rome (funny, it used to be Naples) – and also an unreconstructed political rightist. Since he is a billionaire (still, it seems, even in the winter of our global economic discontent) and doesn’t have a disappeared future to worry about, this may be explainable, if not understandable. He’s prime minister principally because of the revolving-door nature of Italian politics. Well, we think so. He shows no other aptitudes for the job. And he’s a foot-in-the-mouth man from way back.

His latest crime is to suggest – following a decision to deploy troops to combat an epidemic of street crime – that rapes will not stop until there are “as many soldiers on the streets as there are pretty girls.” He says he meant it as a compliment to the self-expressed sex appeal of Italian women and their semi-dressed way of showing it. Female liberators the length and breadth of Italy have taken offence. They’ll seize any opportunity for a cat fight, after all. But here at The Diary we much prefer the riposte from Alessandra Mussolini, the right-winger who is the granddaughter of the mid-20th century fascist dictator and who campaigns for tougher penalties for rapists. She said: “The fact is we need so many soldiers because there are so many ugly men.”

Where’s My Change?
BRACE yourself for Japanese tourists – the ones still travelling that is – who all sound like Barack Obama. His speeches are thought so appealing in the Land of the Rising Sun that they are now providing English lessons for many Japanese. The English-language textbook The Speeches of Barack Obama – no, there are no prizes for having guessed the title – has become a bestseller in the country, topping the list at Amazon’s Japanese website, where it’s apparently a snip at the equivalent of just Rp 118, 100. Translator Yuzo Yamamoto of Asahi Press, the publishers, says: “His speeches are so moving, and he also uses words such as ‘yes, we can’, ‘change’ and ‘hope’ that even Japanese people can memorize.”

There’s no doubt about it. The Bam is just so audacious. He’d have no trouble at all asking for his change.

Virtual Airline
GARUDA is flying a pretty little corporate advertisement promoting the brand at its 60th birthday on the Drudge Report, the U.S. web-based news-and-biting-comment site. It’s in Indonesian, which may mystify most viewers (unless The Bam is looking in from the Oval Office – Apa kabar, Bapak Presiden?). But since it’s getting all those lovely new Boeings, perhaps the notional airline is planning an extensive transpacific network.