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.

The year that was…

2005 will be remembered as the year that citizens across the world started to realise the rules of the game in the “war on terror.” Extraordinary rendition, US supported and administered torture, unauthorised spying on citizens, privatised killing, diving support for the Iraqi quagmire and a growing Iranian influence. Liberation, indeed.

In other news, we saw the shameful response to Hurricane Katrina, world apathy on the Sudanese genocide, military threats towards Iran’s supposed nuclear arsenal, Latin America’s challenge to US imperialism, Israel’s talk of peace but further entrenchment of the occupation, Pacific islands starting to feel the effects of global warming and climate change starting to be taken seriously, in some quarters anyway.

We should take heart from the fact that the US’s global influence is waning. Still a superpower but heavily weakened by the Iraq war and imperial arrogance, Latin American countries provide perhaps the best example of a way forward towards a world without constant US threats and bullying. The mainstream media is being challenged like never before and many people are simply ignoring the “establishment” sources and looking elsewhere.

In Australia, we experienced the full force of the Latham Diaries – the finest and most insightful political book about the local scene for a very long time – and the Howard government’s control of the Senate saw a flurry of legislation likely to benefit the business community and the Murdoch press, but few others. Opinion polls now show the ALP in front, a direct connection to draconian industrial relations “reforms.” The Labor party remains an archaic institution and appears to inspire less people every day. Support for the Greens is steady but climbing in some states. Robert Fisk made his first tour to the country (and returns next March.)

On a personal note, the year has been challenging. My book on Israel/Palestine is nearly finished and will be released in July next year through Melbourne University Publishing. My time in the Middle East – and constant, almost obsessive, threats – makes me even more determined to challenge the Zionist version of the conflict.

I’ve recently signed with Random House to write a book about the parlous state of the Australian media, the often corrosive impact of the US media and the curse of “insider” journalism. It will be released in 2007.

My regular column for growing online magazine New Matilda – and the positive emails I receive after nearly every article – has proven that there is an appetite for dissenting work in the Australian media.

After being appointed to the board of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, we intend to inject some humanity and diversity to the often one-dimensional, Orientalist and racist views of the Arab world and Islam present in Australian society.

There are a number of other projects in development and I should be able to confirm these early in 2006.

As for this humble blog, thanks for all the comments, thoughts and suggestions. I have a number of ideas to expand the site next year. Let’s all try to lower the abuse and increase the insights.

I’ll be back in the first days of the new year.

Peace to you all.


News bytes

– Yet more evidence that Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is bankrupt and unable to house its many displaced citizens.

– Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer, has died. Will the country’s media landscape change in 2006 as a result of this news?

– The Jerusalem Post reports:

Some 5,700 emigrants have returned to live in Israel in 2005, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. This figure represents a significant jump from the 5,000 returning citizens in 2004, and eclipses the 3,052 new immigrants from North America this year.”

Many Jews clearly believe that the Jewish state is the best place to raise their families. I wonder how many of these Jews will live on occupied West Bank land.

– Josh Marshall examines John Yoo, the key lawyer involved in drafting Justice Department memos that gave George Bush almost unparalleled powers to do as he wished in the “war on terror.”

– The Bush administration increases pressure on the mainstream media to not publish articles that could threaten “national security.” Publish and be damned. For the US government – experts at spin and outright lies – to caution the press is a joke and should be treated with contempt. Sadly, we’ve already seen evidence of the cowered media in action.


From Beverly Hills with love

Never let it be said that car dealers don’t make great US ambassadors:

“The US embassy in London was forced to issue a correction yesterday to an interview given by the ambassador, Robert Tuttle, in which he claimed America would not fly suspected terrorists to Syria, which has one of the worst torture records in the Middle East. A statement acknowledged media reports of a suspect taken from the US to Syria.

“Torture is banned in the US but the CIA has been engaged in a policy of rendition, flying terrorist suspects to countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world where torture is commonplace.

“Although Mr Tuttle, a Beverly Hills car dealer and major donor to George Bush’s re-election campaign, has been ambassador in London only since the summer, he is proving to be accident-prone. Last month he vigorously denied British media reports that American forces used white phosphorus as a weapon in Iraq, only to be undercut by an admission from the Pentagon the next day.”

Nepotism is alive and well in the Bush administration. And so is outsourcing torture.
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The constant struggle

Bahrain enjoys relative political freedom for a Middle Eastern nation and the blogosphere has exploded accordingly. Political punditry is now common. Take the example of Mahmood Al-Yousif:

“Shops, restaurants, coffee houses, garages and other workshops could be forced by law to close for two hours for Friday prayers, if MPs get their way. Those caught opening from 11am to 1pm on Fridays would be fined or their establishments closed for a week, under proposals backed by parliament yesterday.

“Petrol stations could also be closed under the proposed new law, which will now be submitted to the Cabinet.

“MPs said the proposal was in keeping with what is written in the Quran.”

The news does not make the blogger happy:

“Can anyone suggest a country I might consider emigrating to that will allow me just to live my life without anyone imposing their interpretation of whatever religion on me and my family? A country that is tolerant that might appreciate its citizens and protect their freedoms, rather than one whose parliament has made it its mandate to rule by and from pulpits?”

Very few Middle Eastern countries would even allow a discussion about the role of Islam in government and society and yet Western media prefers to classify the “Arab world” as a homogenous mass.

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No state here

A headline in today’s Sydney Morning Herald reads: “Sharon may be ready to accept an independent Palestinian state“:

“The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, would turn over more territory to the Palestinians and accept an independent Palestinian state if elected to a third term, according to a draft platform of Mr Sharon’s Kadima party released yesterday.”

Sharon has not become a peace-maker, however. His definition of a Palestinian state is both inadequate and contradictory:

“But it still falls short of Palestinian demands, as Mr Sharon wants to keep control over all of Jerusalem, and has said he wants to retain large blocs of West Bank settlements. Yesterday Israel announced plans to expand two settlements there despite a ban on such construction in the US-led plan for peace with the Palestinians.”

While West Bank settlements continue to expand and checkpoints make life next to impossible for many occupied Palestinians, the SMH headline-writer clearly needs to read more widely than the syndicated news feeds.


Dissent not allowed

Israel appears to see an Australian peace activist as a threat to national security:

“An Australian woman has been detained by Israeli authorities for the past five days after refusing to leave the country.”

Shiri Lock had been planning to attend a peace conference in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, but was denied entry into Israel.

“‘Well, Shiri and her friends are actually peace activists and they have come to a non-violent conference in Bethlehem, and she was denied entry under the reason that she presents a security threat,’ [her lawyer] said.”

“‘We believe that peace activists do not represent any security threat or other threat to the state and that’s why we decided to appeal.'”

Israel is notoriously frightened of dissent within its own borders, such is the fragility of its democracy.


Welcome to reality

Iran’s leading hard-line newspaper has called Iraq’s recent elections as “the creation of the first Islamist state in the Arab world.”

It went on:

“Of the 275 seats in Iraq’s new parliament, 140 will belong to pious Islamists, 60 will be occupied by Kurds with excellent ties with Iran, and 40 will belong to Sunni Arabs, most of whom want a sovereign, Islamist state.”

The Western nightmare continues.


Kids and the bomb

One of Australia’s most popular online forums – a dance music website, of all places – discusses the current crisis between Iran and Israel and the nuclear question.

A fascinating insight into the debate far away from the commentariat and “experts.”

UPDATE: Der Spiegel analyses the likelihood of military strikes against Iran in 2006. Turkey may be a big player in this potential disaster.

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Asking the impossible

Australia’s top spy is in the business of wishful thinking:

“New ASIO director-general Paul O’Sullivan has warned his spy network not to allow politics to colour their intelligence-gathering and to avoid overstepping their new counter-terrorism powers.

“As spy agencies around the world reel from accusations of political bias, Mr O’Sullivan has told the intelligence community “judgments need to be unbiased and not influenced by political considerations”.

“‘What the Government needs is balanced assessments that draw on both classified and unclassified information,’ he told 200 new spies from several security agencies in a speech.

“Western intelligence agencies have been heavily criticised in the past three years for being too beholden to their political masters.”

The intelligence services, especially in a post 9/11 world, have become increasingly politicised, to the point where governments only want to hear viewpoints from a certain political perspective. Lance Collins, former senior intelligence officer and now whistleblower, explains:

“The system is very heavily weighted to produce a certain answer that is acceptable to a certain political party and its agenda rather than the nation and its well-being.”


Dusty trail to death

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, December 23:

“On Sunday morning of last week Mahmoud Shawara, a labourer, mounted his mule and set out from his home in the village of Nuaman to look for work in the neighbouring village of Umm Touba. At about 9 A.M., he was arrested by a Border Police unit that detains workers who do not have an entry permit to Israel every morning.

“The Border Police ordered Shawara to get into their jeep. He refused. He did not want to leave his mule unattended. At 9:30 his brother saw him for the last time, healthy and sound. At 4 P.M. a resident of Umm Touba named Mohammed Hamadan noticed a mule galloping toward the village and dragging something behind it. From a distance, Hamadan thought it might be scrap metal. As the mule came closer, Hamadan saw that it was dragging an injured, battered man. The mule, he says, was galloping down the slope and looked frightened. He stopped the animal and then discovered that the person being dragged across the ground was Mahmoud Shawara, from the neighbouring village, whom he knew well. Shawara’s left hand was roped to the mule’s neck. He was unconscious and barely breathing. His skull and face were smashed on the left side and blood was pouring from him. He managed to utter a few broken, unclear words or parts of words and then stopped breathing.”

Also read this fascinating article by Amira Hass about the forthcoming Palestinian elections.


Jesus time

Merry Christmas to all believers, Jesus-freaks and Christians.

For the rest of us, let’s enjoy the public holiday.

I’ll be back in a few days.


Leading a banana republic

There is a name for countries that utilise rampant, unchecked power:

“In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the [US] federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.”

The Bush administration seems to believe that any action it takes can be justified as defending national security. Thankfully, many disagree. Perhaps Bush and his cronies would be better suited to running a banana republic in Latin America.