Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

It’s getting hot in here

Healthy motives, shame about the execution.

Two teenage American flag-burners recently took their dislike for George W. Bush a little too far. Full marks to their political awareness, however.

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The new black times

At last week’s National Newspaper Publishers Association convention in the US, it was announced that the New York Times company will be starting an African-American newspaper in Gainesville, Florida.

Writing in the Chicago Defender, George E. Curry, head of BlackPressUSA.com and regular media commentator, offers the Times a few home truths:

“Black publishers freely concede that anyone has the right to start a newspaper. That is not the issue. What is so galling is that White-owned media companies that have done such an embarrassingly poor job of accurately portraying people of colour on their pages and broadcast outlets are now seeking to supplant the only legitimate Black media voices that have performed that task admirably for more than a century. It is arrogant and ridiculous to think that newspapers that primarily portray African-Americans as criminals, athletes and entertainers will suddenly be able or willing to present African-Americans in their full complexity.”

Curry says that that the main reason behind the move is financial due to declining newspaper circulation over the last decade. Furthermore, he writes:

“Equally culpable are companies that refuse to advertise in Black-owned media but are willing to place ads with White-owned publications, broadcasts and Internet outlets targeting African-Americans. They should be publicly exposed and boycotted. In fact, every Black newspaper should identify them each week so that African-Americans will be able to support only corporations that respect and support them.”

Gawker gives the thumbs-down to the proposal: “Forgive us, but it’s positively absurd to insinuate that the Times doesn’t accurately portray people of colour. Why, just today, the paper’s ‘black coverage’ included fraudulent leaders in Darfur, angry soldiers in Florida, and Bill Cosby’s infidelity.”

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Don’t be surprised

Bob Dylan has sold out. Actually, that’s (maybe) unfair. Starbucks have announced a deal for the exclusive marketing rights to a new Dylan CD. The release is an early Dylan’s recording at the Gaslight coffee house in New York’s Greenwich Village in the autumn of 1962.

Dylan has been fighting his public image for more than four decades so what’s a mutually acceptable financial agreement with a chain selling average, frothy coffee?

Mike Marqusee writes in the Guardian: “With its corporate regimentation and single-minded dedication to maximising profit, Starbucks is diametrically opposed to the ethos of the Gaslight. In fact its cut-throat policies have pushed independent coffee houses out of business.” And yet it likes to portray itself as your one-stop-cosy-shop for all things hot.

Marquess says that, “it’s impossible not to marvel at the apparently limitless capacity of corporate behemoths to appropriate the trappings of their opponents – from images of Che Guevara to G8 protests.”

Perhaps Sir Bob was in need of some cash. After all, he featured in a 2004 ad for Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

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No accounting for taste

Proof positive that popularity contests are about as meaningful as, well, Ronald Reagan’s policies towards Latin America. The former, now deceased, US President may have helped “restore American morale”, but he was also involved in the sales of arms to Iran while diverting the funds to the vicious Nicaraguan Contras. In other words, a true believer in freedom and democracy.
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Labor blues

I’ve deliberately avoided commenting on the current Labor blues surrounding Mark Latham’s biography, not wishing to add yet another voice to an already crowded field. The ALP is in dire straights, lacking direction, policy or solid ideology, but I’m hardly the first to say that, and nor will I be the last. Australia needs a strong Opposition – and Keating’s former speechwriter, Don Watson, outlines how essential that should be – but Labor under Beazley is struggling for relevance.

The SMH’s David Marr put it best at the launch in Sydney yesterday: “The sharks were hoping for blood. A packed room of press had gathered on a Crows Nest rooftop expecting to hear Senator John Faulkner do what he’d never done in his long career: drop a bucket on his own party.”

Faulkner’s speech was actually very interesting, in a kind of picking over the carcass kind of way. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t too happy with the book, “Loner: Inside a Labor Tragedy”, but offered an honest appraisal of the Latham experiment: “Mark was a bold politician, passionate about the future Australia he imagined. Part of his tragedy is that he became leader of the Labor Party at a time when his boldness and his passion were not enough.” Faulkner also took aim at the factional system of the party, a constant albatross rejecting real progress.

The SMH’s Peter Hartcher, not one to ever see past the pure politics of the moment, writes that Latham has shown his true colours: “Everything Mark Latham has done since losing last year’s federal election has vindicated the electorate’s decision to reject him…In fact, his latest comments are so puerile and show such total lack of self-reflection that anyone reading them can only feel Australia dodged a bullet in deciding not to elect him prime minister.”

When Latham accuses the Labor of being “beyond repair, beyond reform”, who could seriously doubt his credentials? How relevant are the ALP in today’s Australia? And who can name any major policies released by the party in the last years that have had major impact?

Latham will be releasing his own diaries in early October (through my publisher, Melbourne University Publishing) so there is much more to come. If Labor ever gets back into power – according to the Australian’s Greg Sheridan, Beazley “stands an excellent chance of winning the next election. I’d rate him as just under even money against John Howard and just better than even money against Peter Costello” – what will they stand for? Who will they represent? And what kind of Australia will they shape? Many people may not wait around to find out.

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Finding the right man

Speed dating with men of the moment. Kim Beazley, Mark Latham and Shane Warne get the once over. It’s not pretty but then, with Ms. Fits, it never is.
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Making connections

Christopher Hitchens, former thinker, doesn’t seem capable of linking his support for the Iraq war to its disastrous post-invasion phase. On last night’s ABC Lateline, he revealed his true colours:

TONY JONES: “Christopher Hitchens, a final question, if I can. Has your own faith – and I do suspect I know the answer to this, but has your own faith in the righteousness of this war been shaken at all by the way in which the US has handled the post-invasion phase?”

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: “Well, the two things don’t really relate to each other, do they? I mean, one can be absolutely convinced that it was both a just and necessary war, as I am, and be fairly voluble about the immense failures of post-war planning and the immense continuing risks. My support for it doesn’t depend on how well it’s going. I think it’s an inevitable confrontation that was put off too long. That’s partly the reason it’s going so badly now. But I’m on the other hand very heartened by the developments among Iraqis, by the extraordinary attachment to democracy and liberty that they show, by the way they refuse to turn on one another in spite of many provocations to do so, the way that predictions about fratricide haven’t been fulfilled, and I wouldn’t consider it decent even to suggest abandoning them to the sort of fate so that the so-called insurgents – who are in fact the secret police of the former regime allied with the scum of the earth from foreign jihadists – have in store for them.”

Hitchens lives in an ideological world completely divorced from reality. Sounds like somebody else we know.

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Quickies

– Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, offers “The Roving Thoughts of a Liberal Insomniac.” Hilarity in the face of disaster.

– A Victorian Supreme Court judge orders the Royal Women’s Hospital to release the records of a woman’s late-term abortion. Patient privacy and confidentiality has been struck an ominous blow.

– Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz continues his campaign to stop the publishing of Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah. The Nation articles outlines the various ways the free-speech advocate has intimidated, threatened and provoked the University of California Press. Finkelstein’s thesis utterly destroys the intellectual underpinnings of Dershowitz, so his fear is understandable, though attempting to censor the work shows the man’s profound hypocrisy. It is still possible that the book will not be released, the latest release suggests. Lynne Withey, director of the University of California Press, puts it best: “To say that the book is anti-Semitic is to say that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.”

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Inside the mind

Time magazine interviews an Iraqi insurgent on the US presence in the country, his motivations and reasons behind joining the resistance.

Essential reading.

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Iraq: a bloody mess

The best recent report of the current quagmire in Iraq by the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting in recognition of his writing on Iraq over the past year.

He paints a devastating picture of growing insurgency, restricted journalistic access, restless citizens, lack of basic living essentials and sham democracy.

George W. Bush, during his televised address last night, asked Americans not to “forget the lessons of September 11” and support the Iraq war. Virtually nobody believes anymore that the conflict is making Americans safer and maintaining the current policy will work in bringing stability. “Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country,” he said.

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Patriotism

Should the media be patriotic? Yes, according to a number of Americans rating the performance of their media. The results give an interesting indication that many people believe the media’s role, ipso facto, isn’t to question government spin but rather to promote “American values”, whatever that means.

Yet another nail in the coffin of objective journalism.

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Short memory

Remember Judith Miller? She’s the New York Times journalist who was promoting bogus claims of Iraqi WMD before the 2003 invasion. When it was discovered that she had been sourcing her material from none other than fraudster Ahmed Chalabi, she kept her job and remains one of the Times’ key reporters. So much for accountability at the “paper of record.”

Now she’s caught up into another scandal. Miller and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine face up to 18 months in jail for declining to name the source (or sources) who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to them. Miller never wrote about the story, but researched background information about it. Miller did cover the Plame case. Miller has launched a website to support her case.

Speaking to Editor and Publisher, Miller said she would not likely be writing additional pieces for the site or starting a blog. “I don’t know a lot about this Web stuff,” she said. “I have a full time job writing for The New York Times. I don’t need to write for a blog.” Good to see Miller understands online journalism. She’s too busy finding false information to help launch illegal wars in the Middle East.

Scepticism towards Miller is a natural reaction, however, it appears that her journalistic ethics are being threatened in this case. A reporter’s sources are sacred and should be protected. One can see why those in power would like these long-established norms to be challenged. Watch this space.

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