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.

Accepting realities

Australia’s Muslim community is growing – and under ever-increasing scrutiny – and yet this is rarely reflected in the mainstream media. I can’t think of one regular Muslim commentator in the country. A shameful situation for a media elite that prefers white, privileged, Anglo, middle-age “experts.” Australian parochialism rages on.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a weekly columnist for the UK Independent. A progressive Muslim woman, her musings are frequently challenging and punchy. Her latest, “Hitler couldn’t have put it better”, discusses Israel, the Muslim world’s attitude to the Jewish state and much needed perspective on Western culpability (subscription required, so I’ve posted the full article below):

“Let me try and describe to you my reactions since the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made his deplorable and inflammatory remarks last week. My brain feels as if it is a squash court, balls hitting various points, then another, and another with confusing speed and force, a repetitive condition if you are, as so many of us are, people who seek to push for a more equal and decent world where might is not right and universal rights and obligations are incumbent on all.

“Ahmadinejad said Israel should be “wiped off the map”. Hitler couldn’t have put it better. The Fuhrer would have played the audience similarly – a conference of emotive students marking Jerusalem Day, who would readily rise to imagine the glorious obliteration of the Jewish state. You know the type, furious people like millions of others across the Middle East, disenfranchised and stamped on by their own leaders, who displace their anger by turning their eyes on Israel, lusting for its annihilation in a kind of political pornography which provides temporary relief but can only lead to a greater sense of hopeless impotence and homeless rage.

“So the president picked the right crowd for his demagoguery, the right place too. Tehran is always willing to join in with “spontaneous” agitation, flag burning and marches to register defiance of the West while their own liberties are strangled noiselessly.

“It is not wrong to deplore the way Europe created Israel and the brutal cynicism with which the anti-Semitic European continent deported its own guilt to the Middle East, stealing the land of Palestinians who were not responsible for the Holocaust but were asked to pay for it with their lives and their inheritance. It is also legitimate strongly to criticise the actions and policies of successive Israeli governments. But Israel exists, and it must, a post-Second World War sanctuary for Jewish people persecuted for 2,000 years. And it is vital for progressive Muslims to stand up and say so.

“The president’s remarks have been condemned by the righteous across the globe, and by individuals who like to believe they are righteous. The UN, the EU, our Parliament, Russia, China, even the new sober generation of civic Palestinian leaders, Israel obviously, and reformers within Iran have come out to express their alarm and dismay, clear rejoinders to the speech made by a leader who was once Mayor of Tehran and was elected to his present position only three months ago.

“The hateful Ahmadinejad is the worst thing to happen to Iran in recent years. A mean, lean little man with little parts and even less imagination, his restless inadequacy grasps at cruel despotism, nuclear military ambitions and religious certainties. His best friends are the Revolutionary Guards and “immorality” police who are once again beating up women and girls who dare let a wisp of hair escape the hijab. To see him isolated is heartening.

“But when Blair and Bush and the grisly John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN, start to strut and warn Iran off with imperial arrogance, my outrage against Ahmadinejad is overwritten by fear and revulsion provoked by these leaders who have already led Iraq into such bloody chaos that it isn’t even a state any more. There it is again, that glint in Blair’s eyes, seeking another folly, another chapter for his dodgy legacy, another theatre to use our weaponry and wealth to show upstart nations who is boss.

“Domestically, commentators talk of Blair as a busted flush, a leader whose hold on his Cabinet is slipping away. On this week’s Any Questions, poor Tessa Jowell tried pathetically to defend Blair’s authority. He was one of the all-time great leaders of the Labour Party, she claimed devotedly. You felt for her as the audience and the other panellists laughed in her face, especially as she attempted to remind people that we have a UN and that reactions needed to be modulated and agreed by that august body. Yeah, right.

“Bush is in serious trouble too, in Iraq and at home, and may well choose to galvanise and distract Americans by attacking Iran, admonitory blows similar to those used by Reagan against Libya and by the adulterous Bill Clinton against Iraq when he was in trouble over Lewinksy.

“Then there is the Israeli leadership, buoyed up by this escalating situation, rushing to and fro making demands which I hope will be put down firmly. The foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, has said on Israel radio: “We have decided to open a broad diplomatic offensive. I have called on all my counterparts through the world not to turn a blind eye and to stop once and for all the Iranian games.”

“They want the UN Security Council to meet, to take tough actions against the republic of Iran. Their political allies are already supplying aggressive postures and assembling “evidence” that Iran is likely to use nuclear weapons. In truth, there is only one country which has the capacity to use nuclear weapons in the region, and that is Israel, a nation that flouts all international directives and UN resolutions on nuclear weapons and on its policies in the occupied territories, which have victimised generations of Palestinians.

“The really terrifying fact is that nobody knows how big are the stockpiles of these weapons, not even the US, even though it freely supplies what it can to a country in which many volatile and unbalanced politicians get themselves elected. Nobody inspects Israel’s nuclear capacity; the subject is never openly raised domestically or internationally.

“If the heat continues to be turned up by hardline leaders on all sides, we could get “pre-emptive” strikes by Israel, now that the principle has been established by the allies who embarked on the illegal war on Iraq. They may be unwise enough to think that such an action would secure Israel, and that the world would approve of it; in reality, it would only strengthen the already bellicose anti-Semitic heroes of the Middle East, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad foremost among them.

“And where is the proportionality? The Iranian president said dreadful and dangerous things. He will have encouraged suicide bombers already in the pipeline, waiting to shatter their lives and those of others. So in that sense, these weren’t only words. But other powerful Iranians have intervened to cool the flames. The nicely named Expediency Council has said Iran wanted a fair two-state settlement for Israel and Palestine.

“So the thoughts knock about in my head, and I find once again that it isn’t possible to emit simple outrage against one party or to agree that powerful and supremely armed, confrontational nations can do what they will, but that less powerful, well armed and confrontational nations must be punished. And the headache pounds away.”


Letter of the month

The following letter appeared in the UK Guardian on October 27:

“Two thousand Americans are dead. Fifty times that many Iraqis are dead; 300 times that many human beings are injured. One million times that have been indirectly affected by a barbarous act of inhumanity. War is about numbers. The small number of humans who have much to gain by war. The large number affected. The small number who sit home and rally the large number to send their kids to die physically or mentally. The largest number who say nothing. The financial numbers are so huge that millions aren’t accounted for, and millions more are paid in bonuses.

“I’m a Vietnam infantry veteran who has taken the time to peel away the onion of war. Strip off the uniforms, the flags, the nationalities, the slogans. War is, at best, the failure of leaders to solve problems. At worst, war is a massive money-generating machine with no regard for life. It’s all in the numbers.”

Arnold Stieber
Grass Lake, Michigan, USA


"A nation that’s on fire"

Seymour Hersh interviews Scott Ritter.

(For Sydney readers, Ritter will be speaking on 28 November at the University of Sydney.)

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Making choices

Michael Gawenda, Sydney Morning Herald, October 31:

“The CIA leak scandal is partly about politicians and journalists and the way they interact. No doubt that’s cold comfort for Judy Miller, who has been publicly executed for crimes many journalists commit.”

Gawenda is being disingenuous. Journalists make choices. Journalists are not forced to report unsubstantiated “facts” before a potential war against a sovereign nation. Journalists – the best ones, anyway – are always sceptical, suspicious of “official” leaks and rarely fully trust political sources.

Gawenda may feel sorry for Miller, but he should be taking a closer look at his own role in perpetuating the ever-worsening incestousness between the powerful elements in society. Many journalists and politicians are part of the problem, not the solution.


Compare and contrast

Australian culture “defined“:

“Almost 50 per cent of people believe getting drunk occasionally is part of being Australian, a survey suggests.

The study of more than 1500 Australians, by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, found one in 10 reported having a problem with alcohol at some point in their lives. Three in five said they knew a friend or family member who had experienced an alcohol problem.

Germany, on the other hand – with its own myriad of problems, to be sure – recently hosted the annual Frankfurt book fair, the largest in the world:

“The other pleasant discovery was the real seriousness with which the German media treat the fair. Almost every radio network in the country (they are state-based there) had a huge outside-broadcast van parked near one of the five huge exhibition halls; television interviews with authors, critics and publishers seemed to run non-stop; the newspapers treat it thoroughly.”

Hard to imagine in Australia. After all, why celebrate an “elite” artform, when you can grab a beer or ten?

Australia’s cultural immaturity lives on.


The war is lost

The devastation must end.

It’s time to wage peace.

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Two sides of the fence

The Israeli blogosphere rants and raves about the Gaza withdrawal, occupation, the West Bank and Palestinian human rights.

Living in Gaza” is worth a read. Written by a Swedish woman who is married to a Palestinian native of Gaza, the couple recently moved to Gaza so that their young children would get to know the father’s family and learn more about his Muslim heritage.


It’s beginning…

The charges have been laid. And the pressure will only increase on the Bush administration.

Next step on the road to recovery (in a just world, anyway): Bush, Blair and Howard in the dock for their lies over Iraq, WMD and occupation.


Our leaders lie

Robert Fisk examines the rhetoric of Bush, Blair, Iran…and Australia:

” But for Bush, America is not anxious to withdraw from Iraq. Far from it. The United States is fighting enemies who want to establish a “totalitarian empire”, he says, a “mortal danger to all humanity” which America will confront. Washington is fighting “as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced”. Come again? What about Hitler’s Nazi Germany? Mussolini’s fascist Italy? The cruel, expansionist Japanese empire which bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941?

“In Australia a couple of weeks ago, I found Muslims in Melbourne and Adelaide regaling me with stories of abuse and obscenities in the street. New laws are about to be introduced by Prime Minister John Howard to counter “terror” which will not only allow detention without trial, but also the extension of “sedition” laws which could be used against those (mainly Muslims, of course) who oppose Australia’s preposterous military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Well, count me in, John. I think you live in a great country with great people, but I’m planning to turn up in Adelaide again in the spring to argue against any Western involvement in those two countries, including yours. I look forward to a sedition charge. And to Lord Blair “doing something” against North Korea. I hope Mr Bush never does discover enemies worse than the Wehrmacht and the SS. And I sincerely trust that the little satraps of the religious neocrocracy that is Iran will grow up in the years to come. Alas. Like Peter Pan, our leaders wish to be forever young, forever childish, and forever ready to play in their bloodless sandpits – at our expense.”


Taking some time

I’m taking a short break in Melbourne. It’s my birthday. How old? Let’s just say I’m older than Paris Hilton and younger than Gore Vidal. I’ll be back online early next week.

Some weekend reading. John Pilger’s latest New Statesman column, “The Epic Crime That Dare Not Speak Its Name“, compares the Iraq immorality with the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership.

Check out the fascinating Democracy Now interview with the former head of Abu Ghraib, Janis Karpinski. She discusses how they broke the Geneva Conventions and Israel’s (possible) involvement in the now infamous abuse.

Israel is calling for Iran to be booted from the UN after its recent outrageous comments – though Israel’s actual behaviour, rather than rhetoric, requires more than condemnation – and keep checking the Huffington Post on the latest regarding the Plame/Bush/Cheney/WMD/Iraq illegality saga.

See you Monday.


Making the right decision

Ilan Pappe, senior lecturer in political science at Haifa University, Counterpunch, October 27:

“No Israeli government in history, backed by the US, has offered equal rights to the Palestinians, either in Israel or in the occupied territories. Israel has always demanded a Jewish majority and exclusivity in the shared land, while allowing, in the latest peace proposal, an impossible Palestinian state over a fragmented 8% of historic Palestine. More generous Israelis offer a few more percent.

“Snippets of Palestinian territory, reminiscent of South African Bantustans – as the failed Oslo accords have proven – is a recipe for more bloodshed. It will drag the United States even more deeply into an endless conflict – one which could be solved today by embracing the very values Americans hold dear: equal rights and justice for all.”


Who are the real Jews?

Bahrain blogger Zainab Alkhawaja, based in the US, reads a book, “Real Jews”, and understands the complexity of the contemporary Jewish community:

“…Different groups all claim to be real Jews and throughout the book they accuse each other of being like the Nazis. It is actually very complicated and by the time you finish reading the book you feel that there is real chaos. Before reading this book I had no idea of how serious and complex the situation is. Now I understand why they still don’t have a written constitution.”