Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hands across the sea

Regardless of the playing staff's struggles on the field, you have to give Arsenal credit for its confidence as an organization. The Gunners have announced their intention to tour Indonesia in July, returning to the archipelago for the first time in 31 years after visiting China and Malaysia to kick off recent seasons. Arsenal's visit would add to Indonesia's growing stature as a destination for European clubs. Queen's Park Rangers, Inter Milan and Valencia played friendlies in Indonesia last year, and the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter and Boca Juniors have either expressed interest in or started youth academies in the country.

But does Arsenal really know what it's getting into in Indonesia? The tour is obviously a money grab and marketing ploy -- only the most credulous of Gooners would swallow the official club line about "giving our loyal fans the chance to see their heroes in action" -- and no doubt Arsenal hopes to tap into the country's deep love of football. Don't whip out the checkbook and block off July 14 on your calendar yet, though. For one thing, proposed friendlies have a tendency to vanish almost as frequently as they arise. Consider this succession of cancellations just in the last six months.
  • Espanyol B (Sept. 5)
  • North Korea (Sept. 8)
  • Thailand (Oct. 16)
  • Sudan (Nov. 14)
  • The Philippines (Sept. 15)
  • Everton and Galatasaray (Java Cup, July 26-29)
  • United Arab Emirates (Feb. 1)
  • Jordan (Jan. 31)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From the 'Just Doesn't Get It' files

Bowtie Bro is outraged about t3h wimmenz further encroaching on Heterosexual Male Territory. Odd how this Manly Man -- who reportedly has a wife and daughters -- stayed quiet when his party submarined efforts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in the dying embers of the last Congress. Then again, the reauthorization would've extended protection to the LGBT community and Native American women, who we all know aren't real people. Here's to you, Tucker Carlson. You've earned it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bad Idea Bears strike again

A quick tour through the news, featuring decisions that might not look so clever in retrospect. Perhaps the Bad Idea Bears have taken their show on the road.

Chinese workers revolt over 2-minute toilet breaks
Shanghai Shinmei Electric Company wants its factory workers to take no more than two minutes when they answer the call of nature. Efficiency is great and all, but do you really want workers watching the clock not only when they're on the assembly line but also in line for the loo?
Hundreds of Chinese factory workers angry about strictly timed bathroom breaks and fines for starting work late held their Japanese and Chinese managers hostage for a day and a half before police broke up the strike.
About 1,000 workers at Shanghai Shinmei Electric Company held the 10 Japanese nationals and eight Chinese managers inside the factory in Shanghai starting Friday morning until 11.50 p.m. Saturday, said a statement from the parent company, Shinmei Electric Co., released Monday. It said the managers were released uninjured after 300 police officers were called to the factory. ...
"The workers demanded the scrapping of the ridiculously strict requirements stipulating that workers only have two minutes to go to the toilet and workers will be fined 50 yuan ($8) if they are late once and fired if they are late twice," said the security guard, surnamed Feng. "The managers were later freed when police intervened and when they agreed to reconsider the rules."
Let elderly people 'hurry up and die,' says bureaucrat in world's first gerontocracy
Strike another blow for nominative determinism. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso (pronounced AH-so) says the elderly -- who, at last check, make up an alarmingly large part of Japan's population -- should hurry up and pop their clogs to help ease the government's burden. Looks like the Liberal Democratic Party (which is neither liberal nor democratic and only barely a party) is as fuzzy and lovable as ever.
Japan's new government is barely a month old, and already one of its most senior members has insulted tens of millions of voters by suggesting that the elderly are an unnecessary drain on the country's finances.
Taro Aso, the finance minister, said on Monday that the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to relieve pressure on the state to pay for their medical care.
"Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government," he said during a meeting of the national council on social security reforms. "The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die."
Aso's comments are likely to cause offence in Japan, where almost a quarter of the 128 million population is aged over 60. The proportion is forecast to rise to 40% over the next 50 years.
New Zealand cat lovers pounce on eradication campaign
Some Kiwi environmentalist named Gareth Morgan envisions a New Zealand without cats. Why? Because they might pose a danger to the archipelago's native birds, of course.
Morgan has called on fellow Kiwis to make their current pet cat their last in a bold attempt to save the country's native birds. He set up a website, Cats To Go, which includes an image of a kitten with devil's horns under the heading: "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer".
He does not recommended owners euthanise their cats: "Not necessarily, but that is an option," he admits, but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. The economist and well-known businessman also suggests cats remain indoors and local governments make registration mandatory.
But Morgan's campaign is not proving popular in a country that boasts one of the highest cat-ownership rates in the world. "I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives," Bob Kerridge, president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said on the television show Campbell Live. "Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Too good to be true

There's an old line that's popular in the circles of grizzled, ink-stained wretches: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." Such bleak humor was popular among newspaper folk before the industry entered its current death throes, of course, but in it lies an important message for journalists and media consumers alike -- credulity is not a virtue.

That willingness to question everything has been shown as embarrassingly lacking in the ongoing Manti Te'o "girlfriend" saga. In brief, for those not immersed in Sporting Culture: Te'o -- a devout Mormon of Samoan descent and standout linebacker for the University of Notre Dame football team -- received many accolades for his play this season, but that praise was amplified by the presence of a too-good-to-be-true narrative that tugged at even the hardest of heartstrings. Prior to the Fighting Irish's game against Michigan State, Te'o learned that not only had his grandmother died, but girlfriend Lennay Kekua succumbed to cancer. Taking the field with a heavy heart, Notre Dame's emotional leader played the game of his life and led the team to a 20-3 victory, receiving the game ball from coach Brian Kelly to take back to Hawaii in honor of Kekua.

At least, that's what we were told. As it turns out, Kekua and the narratives spun around her untimely demise were all a load of blarney. "Lennay Kekua" never actually existed -- despite some claims to the contrary -- and was the creation of at least two individuals out to pull a hoax on Te'o. Why this hoax was perpetrated is just one of many questions still lingering over this sordid affair. According to a Notre Dame statement, Te'o and his family notified the school on December 26 (almost two weeks before the national championship game against Alabama) that the player had learned he'd been duped. Why did this news take so long to surface, and why did it require the intervention of Deadspin, a popular sports website but not exactly a bastion of investigative journalism?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More of the same

Taking a brief look back at my old stomping grounds, I see not much has changed in Indonesia. Good governance is as fleeting as ever, with cheap and easy populism filling the (many) gaps left by the absence of real, decisive leadership. Multinational corporations say the investment and business climate in Indonesia is increasingly hostile and, with incidents like government ministers trying to dictate private firms' activities and state-owned enterprises hoovering up what's left over when foreign companies get chased off, it's hard to argue.
Having been the darling of foreign investors and business pundits for the past couple of years, Indonesia is now finding that some of its biggest and longest-term investors, especially in the energy sector, are growing fed up with policy shifts and the climate of hostility toward multinational companies.

With the mining and energy minister having said recently that ExxonMobil's local CEO would be turfed out of the country over a stalled asset sale, executives say they are confused and worried over the future here and are concerned about speaking out for fear they will be forced to follow him out.

The growing intimidation of multinationals operating in the country prompted Chevron Indonesia Thursday to warn the nation's interim upstream oil and gas regulator that the deteriorating investment climate could lead to lower future investment by the company, which has been operating in Indonesia since 1952 and is the country's largest oil and gas producer.
It's nationalistic behavior like this that sees business stories about the big picture in Indonesia listing almost as many caveats as reasons for optimism.

Not to be outdone, Indonesia's soccer shemozzle continues unabated. The country's favorite sport has been in turmoil for more than two years as rival factions jostle for control, paying little heed to the steady downward trend of Indonesia's success in Asian and international competition. The latest twist is that the newly installed youth and sports minister has threatened to disband both rival factions if they fail to meet FIFA's latest toothless deadline.
Soccer in the southeast Asian country has been long plagued by infighting between the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) and the breakaway Indonesian Soccer Rescue Committee (KPSI), with FIFA threatening to suspend them if the dispute was not resolved by Dec. 10.
But Indonesia somehow dodged a ban and were given a three month extension to resolve the fight for power after emergency talks involving soccer's world governing body and the Asian Football Confederation.
Roy Suriyo, who was appointed as the country's new youth and sports minister on Tuesday, was confident of solving the bitter feud before the FIFA deadline, the Jakarta Globe said in a report.
"FIFA has given us a deadline of March 16. So, we have to solve the problems by then," Suriyo told the newspaper. "I have neither interests nor attachment to the ... PSSI and KPSI. So, God willing, I will solve it."
Looks like Roy already has a good grasp of public grandstanding, one of the most crucial skills for any Indonesian official. Much like predecessors Andi Mallarangeng -- who left the job in December while being investigated for corruption -- and Adhyaksa Dault, the new guy is in the job far more for his connections to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party than his ability with youth or sports.

Don't expect much to change under Roy's watch. The PSSI and KPSI -- not to mention their respective sugar daddies -- have deep divisions that extend far beyond the sporting arena. If either side had the best interests of the sport or the Indonesian people in mind, they would have come to the table and worked out a deal long ago. Instead, the status quo will remain firmly in place. FIFA has shown no interest in forcing the issue in Indonesia, but rest assured it will ride in with guns blazing should Roy or SBY do anything that resembles "government interference." Of course, if you ask some people, that might all be for the best.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Going nowhere fast

Moving to Omaha seemed like a good idea at the time. More people, more jobs, more folks I know -- where better to pad my savings a bit before my next departure? Turns out I was partially correct: There are more jobs out here, but no one wants to hire me to fill them. I've spent the past three weeks applying for just about any position I've found.
  • Hy-Vee
  • Omaha World-Herald
  • UPS
  • Ralston Arena
  • Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Gamers
  • Teddy Bear Connection
  • Ameristar Casino (two positions)
  • Runza
  • Nebraska Medical Center (two positions)
  • Whole Foods (two positions)
  • Blockbuster (two positions)
  • University of Nebraska-Omaha
  • American Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • US Airways
  • State of Nebraska
  • 1st National Bank
  • Arby's
  • Embassy Suites
  • and more....
Not a single nibble -- no offers, no interviews, not even a callback. The Nebraska Medical Center sent me two rejection e-mails not 12 hours after I applied, and the open positions were only for food service. So much for all those skills I picked up in journalism translating to the real world. I socked away money so I wouldn't have to go on unemployment in this kind of circumstance, but at this rate I'm going to need a mess of scholarships to pull off my next move without a crippling amount of debt.