8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Global Politics

Born Free

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

THERE is a release, of sorts, in being relieved of the duty to write for a publication. You’re freer to write what you really think, in the patois of your choice, in the absence of a publisher’s preference for the Life Unmolested, and in a timeframe that suits your own elastic concept of deadlines. It’s a bit like being Truman Capote (though only in certain respects) except that he was famous and could deal with deadlines by simply ignoring them.

Those of us at the grafting end of the writer’s writ must obey those who pay. Or else the dosh does not materialise. So when there’s no dosh to be had, and you’re your own proprietor, publisher, editor and virtual printer, deadlines can take a back seat. Though not too far back: it’s sensible to remember Idi Amin’s advice that if you don’t want to vanish with a boot up the bum, you have to give the population something to hum.

As most of you know, Hector is a retired cockatoo. He squawks a lot (the habits of a lifetime are hard to retire and can’t be fobbed off with a gold watch) but only when he wants to, or can be bothered. A lot bothers him, of course. You’ll have noticed that too. He proposes to continue being bothered, because he can, and to do so on a malleable seven-day plan, from wherever his cage is situated. This is his first in that new milieu.

Cease and Desist

SUCH orders are given rather more frequently than might be understood in today’s media world, where genetically mixed American actresses becoming engaged to British princes fifth in line to the throne, and President Trump’s latest twittering insults to people outside the “native” white oligarchy he prefers to favour, are deemed more newsworthy than real events. Cease and desist sometimes has legal utility, though mostly it’s a waste of time (see Trump, above).

It would be nice if we could issue one against Nature, which is giving us a hard time in the central archipelago at present. It’s quite understandable that volcanoes should erupt from time to time – it’s what they do, after all – but it would really be much better if they could manage to stick to a schedule and advertise it. We’ve also had a cyclone, though it hit Central Java, the province of Yogyakarta, and East Java, where it killed 19 people, far harder than Bali and Lombok. It was unusual in forming inside the normal exclusion zone for cyclones (10S-10N, the equatorial belt) and was less powerful than those experienced in true cyclonic areas. They’re not unknown, but are rare. The climate change shamans did rain dances about it, of course.

UPDATE (Dec. 7): The Java cyclone death toll more than doubled to 41 in latest reports on the aftermath, including 25 people killed in a single landslide.

Notional Airline

WE try to love Garuda, which is up there with the high flyers for cabin service. We’ve even renewed our membership of its frequent flyer club, though we more frequently fly with other airlines that charge you less for the privilege of defying gravity.

Garuda is impossible to contact by phone. Its sales office in Kuta won’t even take calls. If you can’t book online – and that’s a mammoth struggle, mostly – you have to actually go to the office. It used to be at Nusa Dua, which is where we went two weeks ago when we needed to book flights to and from Lombok. It was there no longer, however, and the helpful security guard at the entrance to the Bali Collection shopping centre told us it had moved to Jimbaran Square. We worked out that this was actually Benoa Square and went there. There was an office but it was unoccupied. Other helpful security people at the scene told us the real one was at the Kuta Paradiso Hotel, in Kuta. We called Garuda’s customer service number (sic) and they gave us a number to call. It was the Kuta Paradiso Hotel. Um, thanks guys. So we went there and finally managed to buy tickets.

Our flight to Lombok was uneventful. The trolley dollies just managed to get round the packed cabin with the sweet buns and water bottles they were required to hand out. The pilot deserved credit for flying his Boeing 737-800 at what seemed to be just above stall speed, so that the flight time could stretch out to the required 30 minutes. (It’s 18 minutes Ngurah Rai to Lombok International at jet speed, at the most.)

Our flight back to Bali did not take place. Gunung Agung on Bali had spewed ash into the atmosphere in the interim. Lombok’s and Bali’s airports were open on the day we were due to fly – Dec. 1 – but Garuda had cancelled all its Lombok-Bali flights that day. You only found that out when you got to the airport. The melee inside – that is, past the melee of the security screening – was not to be borne, and we didn’t. We left the scene, got a taxi to Senggigi where we stayed overnight, and a boat to Bali next morning. Apparently Garuda’s interest in customer service does not extend to calling in extra staff to deal with reallocated flight requests in such situations. Our next task: to get a refund on our unused return tickets.

Scrofulous Scribbles

THE volcano drama has brought out the best – that’s as in, the worst – of the foreign scribblers who get paid for dramatizing events by interviewing people (or sometimes themselves) so they can gild the lily and get their names up in lights. This is especially so if they want to have a go at airlines that cancel flights not because volcanic ash is deadly to aircraft and possibly their crews and passengers, but because they’re on a mission to mess with the personal holiday plans of Mr or Ms Aggrieved. Fuckwits are a swiftly growing demographic (see – there’s one immediate benefit of blogging rather than writing for print). They’re ripe for satirising, and should be thus dealt with, as some brazen outlets have done. There was a lovely piece the other day, somewhere or other, which foretold shocking disaster for any Aussie tourists still stranded in Bali when the Bintang ran out.

The other side of that coin is seen in the sterling efforts of expatriates and locals alike in getting essentials such as food and water and basic medicines and health preservatives to the poor Balinese who have been shipped off to evacuation camps because their villages are in the volcano exclusion zone. There’s one camp in particular that we know of, at Kubu on the northeast slopes of Agung, where 110 people are living in appalling conditions. The charities I’m An Angel and Solemen Indonesia and others are helping out there, with donated funds. A food convoy the other day was met with smiles from people who in reality were close to tears of despair. That’s the human story. It’s not about poor Wozzer and Tosser, world travellers, yair, mate, whose sense of Anglosphere entitlement excludes consideration of anything beyond their own convenience.

Serial Affendi 

YES, we know. The shocking issue of dominant male versus submissive woman, the result of residual caveman genes and men’s stupidity, isn’t really something to laugh about. But nonetheless, we’ll keep trying. There really is humour in everything, if you look hard enough.

So we were pleased to see a report in The Straits Times on Nov. 28 about a chap in Singapore whose cerebral cognisance is so severely deficient that even though he was shouted at by his victim after he touched her thigh in a bar, he was not deterred from later touching her breast while her boyfriend had his arm around her.

Take a bow, Affendi Mohamed Noor, 54. You really are a prize chump. The annual Darwin Awards honour idiots who remove themselves from the gene pool by misadventure. There should be a Weinstein Award for those other idiots who apparently live by the motto, “I’ve Got a Prick, So I’ll Be One.”

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Belt and Braces

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2017

 

DONALD Trump made a remarkable speech in Warsaw ahead of the economic summit he attended later in the historic Hanseatic League city of Hamburg, where he demonstrated exactly why the Group of 20 is now the G19 + 1. It was a good speech, too, well crafted, though redolent of former times or perhaps vainglorious hopes for the future. To his credit, he stuck to the script. A juvenile tweet-storm it was not.

The world has been asking Donald for some time where his trousers are. So it was fun in a way to see him turn out in Warsaw in both belt and braces. He is six months into the most profoundly dysfunctional American presidency since, well, we can’t think when, as the forty-fifth holder of that elected kingship. His office was created by the Founding Fathers of the American revolutionary union and it has been causing difficulties ever since. We should never say that America is in no position to teach the world anything. Its system of national government, formed as it is on the basis of rival electoral bases (for reasons that at the time were completely understandable) is a prime lesson in how not to run a country.

Predictably, the preserved-in-amber Western triumphalist cohort got a fit of the rah-rahs when it heard what Trump had said. It was helpful that Trump for once stuck to the script. We wonder who wrote it. But while a good speech can be good politics, it’s not necessarily good policy. And that’s where it comes unstuck.

These are difficult times, and that’s not just because No. 45 seems to be stuck in a time warp of his own fake making and to be determined to reintroduce both American isolationism and the Monroe doctrine. These are elements that are applauded by the American right-wing columnist Mark Steyn – who is still a Canadian citizen and really should know better – and the flagship of Little England’s Brexit misadventure, the London Daily Telegraph, among others.

Sense and Insensibility

NICK Cater is a thoroughly responsible journalist with whom we once toiled, which was nice, and with whom we share a fondness for North China cuisine, which is lovely. He’s now executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, named after the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, which as current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reminded everyone this week is not a conservative party. Turnbull was speaking in London where he had gone after not being a headline act at the G19+1 summit, for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose party is Conservative.

Cater had a piece in The Australian this week (Jul. 11) in which he had a go at the good-thinking folk who would like to rearrange Australia, its workplaces, its pastimes, its society and its culture, by means of ethnic and other quotas, whatever Australians think about that. It’s a mad idea, we agree.

So he made a good argument – the piece was headlined “Curing our country of whiteness” – though it seems to us “whiteness” (whatever that is: last time we looked we were a sort of mottled beige) is itself a matter of subjective perception. We guess it’s banal code for “We’re Aussies”. That said, Australia does need as a nation to return to common sense and an understanding of what (beyond self-interest) really drives human responses.

We had a laugh on the way through a serious subject. Cater cited American academic Joan C. Williams’ belief – she makes a point of it in her somewhat dense book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America – that cultured homosexuality began as transgressions among 19th-century European artists.

Sappho and a few other prominently ancient Greeks, not to mention Persians of equal antiquity, would be surprised to hear that.

Java’s Great

Well, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Jul. 19.

It’s a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 5, 2017

 

THERE are many ways to judge a man’s character. The gender is specific in this case, and the point is pertinent to the activities of the current president of the United States and, in this instance, his Indonesian associates. These people are of course his corporate or commercial associates, not political, although given that the two polities engaged are America and Indonesia, the distinction is moot. Read on.

Donald Trump’s corporate mate in the archipelago, Hary Tanoe, was recently banned from travelling outside Indonesia pending inquiries into aspects of his business and financial affairs. Tanoe is engaged with Trump’s business empire, which isn’t in escrow while he’s in office, as you might expect of anyone with an appropriate view of public service, but is being managed for profit by his family. The Trump empire has two major projects on the go in Indonesia.

One is a theme park near Bogor in West Java – we’ve seen the concept drawings and done a Munch – and the other is the takeover of the property at Tanah Lot in Tabanan previously managed by Pan Pacific and now to be demolished in favour of some Trumpist excrescence.

The Bogor project is now back on track because the government has taken over the stalled project to build a toll road to the area, without which Trump said he wouldn’t proceed. The land value of his holdings has thus increased by extortionate proportions.

At Tanah Lot, where the Nirwana property has members with purchased rights to holiday accommodation whose entitlements are now under question because of the buyout, the issue is different. Trump’s proposed redevelopment requires more land, but local landowners are apparently holding out for better prices. The workforce at the property has been paid out – by what quantum is unknown – and the entire superstructure is to be demolished.

It is also unknown how Trump and Tanoe will deal with the issue of compensation for strata title owners. The precedent set by Trump in a similar instance, with his golf resort in Florida, doesn’t bode well. Basically, there, the members were screwed. That’s how Trump does business.

Which brings us back to the cautionary point: character. A quote attributed in 1972 to the magazine founder Malcolm S. Forbes is apposite. He said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” An aphorism published in 1948 by the novelist Paul Eldridge goes along the same lines: “A man’s character is most evident by how he treats those who are not in a position either to retaliate or reciprocate.”

Trump’s known business practices fail the “nice” test, and his personal behaviour breaches many of those implicit in the two quotations above. In Indonesia, some in the national business elite (and here in Bali in both the local and the expatriate business community) have a very well developed grasp of how to benefit themselves at the expense, if necessary, of anyone who gets between them and a buck (or a rupiah).

The Four Corners program on Australia’s national broadcaster the ABC this week screened an exposé of Trump and Tanoe’s business connections here. It didn’t say anything much that’s new, but it did collate the available material rather well and it was certainly compelling viewing. More character studies are indicated. 

Feisty Gal

MARA Wolford, who makes organic soaps and surfs a lot – she’s in the Mentawais at the moment – posted on her Facebook this week an item reprising the incident a year ago in a Bali bar that fortunately ended as well as it could have, but which could so easily have not.

Her drink was spiked. She’s sure it was Rohypnol, nowadays the spiking agent of choice of low-life men who can’t get consciously consensual sex from a woman their poisonously defective little minds have told them they fancy, or can’t be bothered trying to;  or whom, as she notes, have marked her as a robbery target. If it’s sex, it’s chiefly a power thing, not lust, and it’s a disgraceful element of male stupidity, sexual power, and arrogance. Those who do that sort of thing richly deserve a session with a sjambok. We do wish we’d never given ours away.

Wolford puts it this way:

“One year ago today, people I didn’t even know tried to kill me. They either wanted my diamond earrings or they wanted to gang rape me for several days, it’s up in the air. Two drinks double-dosed with Rohypnol nearly did me in. Dear friends, a strong constitution and a bit of divine intervention saved me. I made this event public, with 21,000 shares on FB. Mostly, I got called a dumb bitch for not knowing better. One thing I do know is that the last thing I am is a dumb bitch. Trusting, perhaps. Willing to believe in best intentions, certainly.

“I was absolutely furious that a man would feel the need to render me physically helpless in order to take from me what he couldn’t allow me to decide to offer, or not. I don’t know what kind spineless cretin would do that, and I don’t know what kind of world we live in when that is considered normal behaviour that I am expected to know to protect myself from.”

The bar in question was subsequently shut down by the police and – Wolford notes – another upside is that drink spiking has dropped off in Bali since the publicity about her case in Canggu last year. That’s great.

Dumb bitch, she isn’t. Feisty gal, she certainly is.

It’s such a shame that Rohypnol became the “date rape drug” in the hands of low-life losers. We used to use it back in the day as a travel pill, when it was legally obtainable. The Distaff, who did a lot more solo international business travel than the Diary, swore by it as her tailored sleeping pill. Quartered, a pill gave her two hours of sleep; halved, four hours; and the full monty, eight. It was just the job, she always said, if you had to leap off your plane at your destination fresh as a daisy and ready for work. Or, occasionally, play. 

Oh, Come On!

THE annual Walkley Awards may mean very little to anyone outside Australia – or even outside the Australia media – but they are locally valuable as recognition of excellence in journalism. Until now they have included an award for foreign reporting.

Given that global distempers now visit everyone’s lounge room via the gigantic flat-screen TV, when the footy’s not on, that’s good. Those who inform from dangerous places (or even just interesting ones) deserve recognition. And we know, by many means ranging from pub talk to blogs and even official government advice, that according to Australians the outside world is an alien and unquiet space.

The Walkley organisers have announced that they’re dropping the international category from the awards. It’s one of four categories cut as part of a review of the awards. It’s an odd decision, because while it’s certainly true that journalism is rapidly changing, so too is the impact of international affairs on Australia. These certainly need to be covered with an Australian perspective, and (reasonably) to be recognised in the country’s premier media awards. Doubtless, as the organisers say, international coverage can still be nominated within other categories. But given the parochialism that thrives in Australia, to its detriment, it might be hard for carnage in Aleppo to beat best pumpkin at the Bega Show for a gong.

We’ve added our voice to the chorus suggesting that the Walkley people should change their mind.

Training Runs

WELL, not runs, really. We mean our morning walks on the Outanback Track, the rudimentary road that notionally links The Cage with the rest of the limestone Bukit. It’s a rough trot, our “road”, and steep in parts. There are two nasty inclines on the outbound leg, which we’ve pinned on our smart phone map as Little Dragarse and Big Dragarse. After a glass or three of premium Aga Red the evening before, as is our custom, they’re … difficult.

We’re trying to get walking-fit for a forthcoming European sojourn that will take us on footpaths and other public utilities of the sort that are rare in Bali, and at rather more length than the modest 2400 metres that form our usual morning gasp.

Never mind. It’s worth it. We think.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Jul. 19.

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Beggaring Belief

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other (usually) non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

 

FAITH is a personal compact between a person and his or her deity. The faithful, of any ilk, should be honoured for their commitment to a life beyond secular concerns and for the higher calling that this condition imposes. Those who study their religious texts and who seek to live within the strictures these impose, are honourable people.

In the secular west – fundamentally these days a godless society – these things, and the various deities in whom a great many people believe, are often scoffed at or made the topic of comedic intervention. That is wrong, when the objective is only to get a cheap laugh. It’s possible – or it should be so in a rational society – to debate the existence of God. It’s plain rude just to slag off at people who believe, if you yourself don’t.

The three Abrahamic religions, each of which sprang from the Levant or its contiguous desert interior without any intervention from Europeans until after their invention (a seminal fact that Europeans should note and really should try very hard to comprehend) share syncretic theologies, a melange of mythologies, and, in the Old Testament, a common liturgical origin. Yet each has historically been at war with the others (and often with themselves) forever, philosophically if not actually.

That’s a rather cursive way to get into a matter of current concern in Indonesia, but it’s necessary to set the parameters of debate and to avoid stepping unnecessarily on possibly angry toes. Of course, the problem is far wider than just the archipelago. Islam’s sectarian schism leaves the former fatal fractures within Christianity for dead, so to speak.

In Indonesia, where, except for Aceh, Islam has traditionally adopted a Southeast Asian rather than an Arabian face over the half a millennium of its establishment here, a more fundamentalist mind-set is taking root. That cannot be denied. Neither can its future risk to the integrity of Indonesia if it flourishes.

The proselytes of Indonesian Islamic fundamentalism assert that theology is the driver of their intentions. It’s perfectly possible to encourage deeper religiosity in the faithful, and to prescribe firmer and more restrictive patterns of social behaviour for them, from a philosophical standpoint. It’s when the boys with the bother boots take to the streets that problems emerge. There’s very little that’s philosophical about a mob armed with sharpened sticks and intent on enforcing their own interpretations of Ramadan rules, after all. These actions may be clothed in Islamic cloth, but their purpose is political – it is to manoeuvre government policy – and thus is plainly secular.

There’s an interesting article in The Diplomat, written by Benedict Rodgers – for context: he’s East Asia team leader for the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide – that illustrates the point. He instances a broken long-term friendship between two fifteen-tear-old girls at a Jakarta high school, one Christian, the other Muslim. Rodgers reports that the Christian girl got a phone call from her Muslim friend telling her: “We can no longer be friends. My God does not allow me to be friends with people like you.” It sounds almost apocryphal, or would if the messages that are coming out of the mosques weren’t couched in similarly simplistic and fundamentally threatening terms.

There’s much more than this to Rodgers’ article, which is very readable. He cites the conviction and imprisonment of now former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), a Christian Chinese-Indonesian, for blasphemy; and Aceh, church burning, death threats and other signals of restrictive intent. He warns that Indonesia could become Pakistan.

That’s a bit dire, and Rodgers says so himself in the article. Indonesian culture is very far from those of the sub-continent and (like anywhere else) Pakistan is what it is because of its own cultural mix, not someone else’s. But it’s understandable that other Islamic sects, moderate Sunnis (the great majority) and other religious communities should feel deep concern.

The real risk, and the real warning that needs to echo through the rainbow archipelago, is that doltish insistence on Islamic exclusivity will ultimately risk fracturing Indonesia. Political figures whose vision fails to extend beyond the next convenient deal and endless machinations to buy votes should consider that. Seriously.

That said, there is some brighter news. Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (the FPI), faces arrest when he returns from Saudi Arabia if he fails to answer his third summons from police – he ignored the first two, of course – to answer questions about alleged breaches of the anti-pornography law. He wanted the porn laws and he influenced their scope. What an interesting case this will be.

It’s That Man Again

THE unedifying spectacle of Donald Trump shoving through the throng and shouldering lesser leaders out of the way to get to the front of the photo opportunity at the NATO summit last week, and then posing, Mussolini-like, complete with superior grin, is further evidence that real-estate shysters and reality TV hosts do not necessarily make good leaders.

They said of No. 45 that he probably needed time to become presidential. Time was not the only thing he needed, as events and growing awareness that they’ve been duped among many who voted for him last November now show. Some character would have helped. H.L. Mencken, who in the 1920s predicted that profane and populist politics meant that America would one day have an imbecile for its president, would be rolling his eyes if he were not rolling in his grave.

Trump still has a cheer squad, of course, not all of it confined to America where he’s making things grate again. We saw an Asia-based Australian observer’s view this week that suggested his hard line on NATO funding and self-reliance had paid off, because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said publicly that America’s allies needed to do more.

They do. You get what you pay for. But the obverse of that coin, for “the leader of the free world” (whatever that is) and his country, is a proportionate reduction in America’s clout within NATO. That mightn’t be quite what the master of the universe is looking for, but it would be no bad thing, since the Custer gene remains ascendant.

Sent Home 

SCHAPELLE Corby, 39, the Australian woman who was convicted of drug trafficking in Bali in 2005 and spent nine years behind bars before being paroled three years ago, was deported from Indonesia on May 27. Immigration authorities put her on a plane to Australia. That is all.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. It appears monthly. The current diary was published on May 24 and the next will appear on Jun. 21.

Law v Lore

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017

 

THERE’S a great deal of misinformation about on the issue of Sharia law, particularly in western countries. So when Ubud identity Darsih Gede passed along a handy brief from a long-time friend, an American woman married to an Indonesian Muslim, we thought it would be good to share.

Here it is:

“If you are anyone who feels fear when you hear the words ‘Sharia law,’ or interpret it to mean that something is coming to get you, or will be imposed upon you, I really hope you’re listening.

“Time for a little ‘Sharia Law 101’:

” 1. All Muslims believe in Sharia law.

“2. No. 1 is true because Sharia law is the religious law governing the members of the Islamic faith; it is formed by what it written in the Quran (Muslim holy book) and in the Hadiths (reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).

“3. Do not confuse Sharia law with the laws that exist in countries that call themselves ‘Islamic’ or happen to have a Muslim majority: Absolutely not the same thing. For example: the fact that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive has nothing to do with Sharia law or Islam; it has to with men trying to control women under the guise of religion just like they try to do in various ways in the United States.

“4. Part of Sharia law (Al-Baqarah 256, from the Quran) states that ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’

“So, to summarise: Sharia law is something that Muslims follow willingly, and no one can force you to become Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law).

“It would be great if people from other religions wouldn’t attempt to force people to follow their religious leanings by attempting to legislate their views into civil laws that are applied to the masses, especially in a country like the United States, wherein religious freedom is supposed to exist.

“Thanks for listening. ~ A Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law)

“Note: Please, find a Muslim and ask them questions instead reading articles from Fox News and/or listening to what uninformed people like Newt Gingrich have to say about Islam. They have no idea what they are talking about, ever.”

That’s a message that needs to be heard far more widely than only in the USA, where a tidal surge of untreated dyspepsia has just been converted into bother boots under the big desk in the Oval Office.

Trumped

THERE is something seriously wrong with the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. It’s not his policies that worry me in this instance, though many of them seem to be based on a Locker Room-Neocon-Robber Baron belief that the clocks can be turned back to earlier imagined eras of American capitalist supremacy and gross private wealth and some are frankly execrable.

It’s his behaviour. Half a million invisible people were at his inauguration. He lost the popular election by 2.5 million ballots because undocumented aliens and other illegals didn’t vote for him. The CIA loves him to death and he took along his own cheer squad to demonstrate this when he visited Langley. All three of these things are plainly delusional. He has senior people on his staff whose fortitude doesn’t extend to being able to tell him so, and who, moreover, will tell lies for him. That’s a real worry.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if he were just another Idi Amin intent on gazumping some poor little country somewhere that no one really cares about, even if they should. And we all understand the political imperative to deliver something that will make the people hum, since, as a lovely old ditty puts it, the alternative is to vanish with a boot up the bum.

But it’s America we’re talking about: the place some people still think of as the leader of the free world.

At this point in the Trump presidency the best policy is still to laugh. It’s his Beer Hall Moment, even though his oratory gets nowhere near the exclamatory splendour achieved by a certain murderous malcontent of Central European origin and late gross notoriety.

A beer hall rant is something the duplicitous Trump might manage. He’d be a sorry failure at a Nuremberg rally.

His trade policy, which during the election campaign was taken by the duped masses to mean he’d bring factories and jobs back from China where successive American governments and multinational corporations had sent them, risks a trade war with China.

This in turn creates risk for other nations rather closer to the locus of China’s acquisitive predispositions than the USA, and, in turn, may prompt political responses that (to take up the point a late Japanese emperor made in his surrender broadcast at the end of World War II) may not develop to our advantage.

His Mexican wall policy is risible, though it’s of less concern globally than other aspects of his Bonfire of the Vanities platform.

We could go on. But we’re not quite ready for Seppuku, our hara-kiri moment, just yet, so we won’t.

Except to have a lovely laugh at a report that a Native American nation in Arizona whose traditional lands include 120 kilometres of Mexican border won’t be allowing the POTUS to erect his ridiculous wall along it.

Mexico is known for Montezuma’s Revenge (think Bali Belly). Perhaps Mr Trump is about to experience Geronimo’s Revenge as well. That thought, at least, gives us a smile.

Not So Bad

WHEN sometimes it may seem that one’s life is a mess, or at the very least, is conflicted, it is useful to have friends in far more interesting places.

An acquaintance who works in West Africa and who seems to spend a deal of time in Burkina Faso advised yesterday that he had just checked in (again) at the Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital city.

“Bullet holes have been removed now,” was his laconic situation report. We shot back a note: “Splendid!”

Rice Field View

WE made a brief foray to Ubud this week, to stay with an amusingly lovely French friend who – we discovered – has a fondness for North African music, which is right up our alley. Her house, in the rice fields and just completed, is up an alley too. The Diary’s trusty mini-SUV just made it through, in L for go really slowly, exterior mirrors retracted.

It’s lucky we were staying the night. The little thoroughfare back to the main road might have been a challenge on a rainy evening after a glass or two of red. It was eminently negotiable the next afternoon, by which time enough restorative coffee had been taken. Though we did take the precaution of switching on the iPod’s drive-time playlist to drown out the Distaff’s exclamatory outbreaks.

On the way home through the mayhem of pre-Gong Xi Fa Chai traffic we decided to extend our French experience. We stopped at La Tartine on the bypass at Sanur for refreshments dans le style français. The scrambled feta salad was wonderful (the Distaff had quiche Lorraine) and we were quite unable to resist trying the Unicorn Poop afterwards, as a shared desert. You really can’t beat the French for chocolate cake.

Back to Work

WELL, that’s in the notional sense, since we are retired gentlefolk who live quietly and whose singular mission is to fail to ripple anyone’s pond. But being of Australian provenance, one of us fully and the other by long adoption, we’ve always found it difficult to get back into harness until Australia Day has come and gone, which it now has.

It is celebrated on the same date that India celebrates its Republic Day. Perhaps this secretly inspires Australian non-monarchists, those chaps who are always looking for an excuse to fast-forward a forthcoming inevitability. Patience is not a public virtue in these days of instant crowd-funded issues.

Anyway, this weekend has been set aside for quill sharpening and post-it noting. Focused scribbling has recommenced.

Flaming Feathers

WELCOME to the year of the Red Rooster, aka Fire Rooster. If flaming roosters of our acquaintance – these include the Distaff – can get through it without setting their tail feathers on fire, good luck to them.

The other occupant of The Cage has just managed to survive his Year of the Monkey. It is surely a cruel joke that our zodiacal challenges should be consecutive. Thank goodness there are 12 years between run-ons. Or run-ins.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. His next appears on Feb. 1.

Waiting for the Last Trump

U.S ELECTION

Sep. 29, 2016

 

Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye and singing ‘this’ll be the day that I die’ 

– Don Maclean, ‘American Pie’

161010-donald-trump-is-a-vulgar-pig

Update 10 Oct. 2016: This election sign somewhere in America says it all.

THE 2016 American presidential election pits against each other two candidates for whom I am grateful, as a non-American, that I shan’t have to vote. The Republican-Democrat stranglehold on federal power, a function both of machine politics and the complexity of government, prevents any alternative emerging.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is an inspiring figure. Both carry what is crudely called baggage. However, the American election is of interest, because the financial, political and military power of the US naturally impacts on the world at large, and which one of them becomes the next president of the USA is of critical importance.

So let’s briefly look at them both, from an outsider’s perspective.

Clinton has been part of the American political machine for more than two decades. She does know how it works (and probably that this is not very well) and she has standing on the world stage. She is a known factor in international diplomacy.

Things over which she may fairly be criticised are openly known; they are things with which other international leaders are familiar. She has fairly set out the international policy directions she would implement in office. They are mainstream positions. They won’t frighten the horses (or the Chinese, or the Iranians). They represent only modifications to the status quo.

She won’t set the world on fire. Most of us would probably say that this was a good thing.

Trump is a complete contrast. He has no public service experience. He says he’ll do deals with foreign nations, as if they were businesses that the Trump imperium either wanted to work with or to see in court – or to welsh on, another Trump SOP. That’s his record.

His pitch to American voters is that he’ll do things differently. And that’s fine, or it would be if Trump’s word were worth even a lawyer’s letter. His persona is vainglorious, his intellect (which is substantial) is focused on personal acquisition, his manners are appalling, his taste is execrable, his political direction is plainly scary, his social morals are questionable if not entirely absent, and his ethics are notional.

He is also risible, and it is on this last point that his real vulnerability exists. His supporters don’t care for policy, so arguing those is a zero sum game. He is more TV personality than leader in waiting (who would ever want to be Trump’s Apprentice?) He is loose with his language, crassly dismissive of all criticism, a sort of personal bonfire of the vanities.

Liberal democracies can deal with such personalities, if they wish, and if they have the energy and can find the courage. Trump is not actually a figure of fun – he is a clear and present danger – but he is vulnerable to ridicule. Most such people are.

And therein lies the beneficence of liberal democracy. We can slag off at our leaders, actual or putative, without risking police action on behalf of the rich and powerfully offended.

There was no tradition of liberal democracy in Germany when Adolf Hitler seized the public stage and later the nation. If a lot of people had laughed at him early in the piece, he might not have become quite the global problem that he later did. But it was left to the music halls of other western democracies and to Charlie Chaplin to make him a figure of fun, too late in the piece to head off disaster.

His fellow fascist, Benito Mussolini, was of course Italian, and Italy had (and still has) its own risible ways of conducting its politics.

Trump is no Hitler. But he might be a Mussolini, if left unchecked and un-laughed at. He probably does want to make the trains run on time. Mussolini managed that, but by means of adjusting the timetables to take account of time spent idle at train stations en route. He had some sensible ideas. Well, one sensible idea.

We haven’t heard a sensible idea from Trump in this election campaign.

We’ve heard that he’d like to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans and deport millions of illegal immigrants who are chiefly doing jobs Americans won’t do.

We’ve heard that he’d like to repatriate American money to create jobs, but no actual working plan that would achieve that.

He’d like to repudiate the architecture of global commerce and put European members of NATO on a pay-for-the-privilege program.

He thinks Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a good ol’ boy and that the irredentist Chinese, except for their success in stealing American jobs, are doing OK on a range of things, presumably including human rights, which anyway functionally fail to rate on the Trump scale of excellent ideas.

Lately, I’ve been criticised (by people I respect immensely) for making fun of Trump on social media and for playing the PC game. I don’t play the PC game. Economically I’m drier than Innaminka in a drought year. I make no apology for that. But neither do I apologise for publicly laughing at Trump, a living caricature, a man of other people’s means, a sociopath.

He is a risible candidate for POTUS. He is 72. There’s nothing wrong with that. I shall shortly achieve that milestone myself. But I don’t possess the sort of questionable and worrying vanity that would persuade me to wear a ginger stoat on my head.

Sorry, but if Trump’s the answer, the question is stupid.