Sunday, April 29, 2012


This week is the last for the Jakarta Globe in its current form. I am decidedly uneasy about this, partly because of the direction of the paper and partly because of who is steering the ship. Mostly, though, it's because the paper which I helped get off the ground and at which I've spent my longest tenure is in the midst of its death throes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Think globally, print locally

I've spent the last week or so covering the international news desk over at Globe Towers. Filling in usually only lasts a day or two, but we're so thinly staffed that even one medium-term absence leaves us scrambling. We muddle through somehow, though, and changes are on the way that will fundamentally rearrange who does what and where.

One nice thing about doing international news is having all the news wires at your fingertips. As I've written previously, the goal is to find interesting articles that tend more toward analysis and insight than spot news, so having AP, AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg, DPA, the Washington Post and the New York Times to pick from is a great help. With one day left until the regular guy returns to his post, I wanted to share some of the more interesting stories I used in the section.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Color me unsurprised

After living in Indonesia for a while, you tend to pick up on certain tendencies that happen around you. There are the obvious ones, of course, such as jam karet ("rubber time," where inconvenient things like deadlines and appointments often pass by with a sort of blithe amnesia), the omnipresent traffic and the fact that doing anything that requires paperwork will take at least twice as long as you think it will.

There's also a kind of chronic short-termism that pervades Indonesian life. Politics is rife with it — just look at the years of hemming and hawing over fuel subsidies resulting in absolutely no action — though you could accuse just about any government on the planet of taking up populist causes instead of doing what is in the people's long-term interest. That $14 billion Indonesia spends on subsidizing fuel prices would do wonders for upgrading the country's infrastructure, education system or any number of social programs, but why risk short-term pain when you know that keeping gas cheap and playing to the masses will keep you in your cushy, phony-baloney job with all the perks that you can possibly lavish on yourself?

With "leaders" like those behaving like the proverbial vampire squid and sucking away at the public purse, you could understand if the common folk (who do not have a legislative seat to treat like a debit card) did what they could to supplement their income. Still, there are limits. You remember that $130 million early warning system that was put in place after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed 170,000 people just in Indonesia? Apparently people would rather have a few extra shillings in their pocket than advance notice of a killer tsunami — its buoys have been stripped and sold for parts.
"We have had problems with theft and vandalism of our system for a while," Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP.
"We got the tsunami warning from a seismograph but because so many of the buoys are destroyed we can't tell how big a potential tsunami would be."
Nugroho said just three of 25 buoys in Indonesian waters were in operation, mostly because of vandalism.
Since the system was set up in 2008, fishermen have reportedly used the buoys to moor their vessels, at times damaging the instruments.
Never a dull day here, I tell you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quite contrary

Not liking something because it's popular is one of the more annoying ways people choose to show their individuality these days. Whether it's hipster doofuses, counter-culture warriors or professional contrarians, there always seems to be people who will go out of their way not to go with the crowd regardless of the quality of the popular thing in question.

I, for the record, do not count myself among their number. My tastes do tend toward the eclectic, but I won't dismiss something just because it strikes a chord a large group of people. Why am I doing all this preamble? Because tonight I saw "The Raid: Redemption," one of the biggest Indonesian movies to hit theaters in recent years, and my take on the film is apparently well in the minority.

O, they will know we are Christians... our anonymous, virulent misogyny and obsession with rape.

I've written before about Jessica Ahlquist, the Rhode Island teenager who asked to have a prayer banner taken down from a wall in her public school and became a pariah after winning her case in court. That was back in January, but the Christian community hasn't stopped expressing its special kind of love toward her.

If that's too small for you to read, here's the text of the letter Ahlquist received in the mail recently:
The cops will not watch you forever. We will get you good. Tell your little asshole sister to watch her back. There are many of us, “crusaders,” we have a betting pool to see who gets you first! Your fuckin old man better move or keep you locked up if you know what’s good for you. We know where he works, what kind of cars you have and the plate numbers of the cars. Get the fuck out of RI you bitchin whore. You are nothing more of a sex toy of a slut. Maybe you will (sic) gang-banged before we throw you out of one of our cars. We will get you – look out!
Can't you just feel the love and forgiveness? The cheek-turning is just palpable. Nice, friendly folks up there in Rhode Island -- the kind who would ostracize and terrorize a 16-year-old girl for asking for equal standing under the law of the land.

Remember, folks: Religion is a force for good. Non-believers should work with the religious community and emulate them. It's those shrill, militant secularists who are the problem.