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.

News bytes

– Romania decides to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

– How Iranian Jews are learning to live with Ahmadinejad.

– Dahr Jamail on the real power in Iraq.

– A campaign to boycott Israel’s Gay Pride festival.

– Just how much are Palestinian lives really worth? Murdoch’s Australian shows its true, bigoted colours.

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Good friends disagree

Relations with our neighbour remain as challenging as ever:

A recent poll has found that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of NSW men between ages 40 to 49 felt that Australia did not stand up enough to Indonesia in its dealings.

And overall, the poll found that 58 per cent of Australians believe our government should stand up to Indonesia more often. In contrast, 31 per cent said we are strong enough.

Younger Australians are significantly more likely to perceive Indonesia positively, the poll found. 62 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 held a positive opinion of Indonesia and only 16 per cent negative.

Older Australians were more likely to hold negative perceptions of Indonesia; however, they still regarded the relationship as important.

A growing number of Australians have travelled to Indonesia and hold the country in high regard. After all, politicians are usually far behind public sentiment (as shown by flagging, public support for US foreign policy.)

Indonesia may be a complex country with contradictory aims (like any large nation), but Australia’s recent move to appease the Indonesians over refugee policy is misguided and not supported by the general population.

Once again, John Howard has been incapable of managing one of our most important relationships.

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Quote of the week

“Running the story about the money-tracing program is a version of giving Anne Frank’s address to the Nazis.”

Richard Valeriani, Huffington Post

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Importance noted

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper understands news. Hence today’s page-one lead. A serious story about individuals who thrive on selling advertisements between diet shows.

Perhaps it would have been better to discuss Condoleezza Rice’s belief that the US has “moral authority.”

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Demanding sovereignty

The Daily Star, June 27:

It is understandable that US officials would react with outrage to the idea of forgiving insurgents with American blood on their hands. As Senator Carl Levin said, “the idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable.” But Senator Levin and others like him seem to forget that liberating something means setting it free.

The Iraqis need the space to make hard decisions that will help them restore stability in their country. But they will never find this space so long as US officials continue to micro-manage the Iraqi government according to their own plan. What the Iraqis really need most now is what the Americans promised them long ago: freedom. And that ought to include the freedom to govern their own country in a way that will benefit the Iraqi people. 

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The end is nigh

As Israel commits war crimes in Gaza (more here and here), a former adviser to the Israeli prime minister argues that the US Zionist lobby offers little more than fighting a perceived “enemy”:

Writing during the Rabin era in an article entitled “Foreign Affairs: Mischief Makers,” Tom Friedman argued, “It is as if these organizations can only thrive if they have an enemy, someone to fight. They have no positive vision to offer American Jews.”

It would require huge institutional and personal efforts and realignments, but it is still not too late for AIPAC to be a part of providing that positive vision. That would mean cutting the umbilical cord to the neoconservatives, the Christian right, and Israel’s (now fringe) Likud party. The alternative for AIPAC would be to ultimately become a much loathed obstructionist footnote in history. The alternative for the moderate majority of Israeli and American Jews will be to forge new alliances and ensure that this time, the shared interest of peace and ending the occupation carries the day. 

Zionists are unlikely to take this advice. After all, creating an enemy makes good financial sense.

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More empire, please

My latest New Matilda column discusses the growing, Western admiration for empire:

Despite the odious history of the British and US Empires in the last centuries, it has become increasingly acceptable to express respect for these long-forgotten days (in the case of Britain) or their continuation (in the case of the US). After all, there are an awful lot of uncivilised people around the world just waiting to be invaded and occupied.

Britain is currently undergoing such a discussion. Niall Ferguson is a Harvard professor of history, senior research fellow at Oxford University and a senior fellow at Stanford University. He writes polemics for the UK Daily Mail (and irregularly contributes to The Australian). His main area of interest is empire — he’s rather fond of it.

My New Matilda archive is here.

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Head-bangers

Islamabad rock, exposed.

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The real story

When the New York Times and a host of other newspapers recently published stories about the US Treasury Department’s program to covertly monitor worldwide money transfers of “terrorists”, it was a necessary and important story.

It is not the job of journalists or media companies to support any administration or governmental authority. It is certainly their duty to undermine actions that are unaccountable and possible illegal. The Bush administration is a legitimate and worthy target of contempt, and should be undermined at every opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, a number of extremists are claiming the Times should be punished and prosecuted. Some are even issuing death threats to senior members of the Times family. Such individuals or groups would clearly prefer to live in a nation where the press simply publishes governmental press releases, asks no questions and conducts wars as silently as possible. Such people don’t believe in democracy.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the Iraqi town of Fallujah continues to struggle under the weight of US occupation.

UPDATE: The New York Times answers its critics.

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Bullseye!

The Columbia Journalism Review Daily reports:

In November, 2001, at the outset of its military campaign to oust the Taliban and hunt down Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a U.S. missile levelled the Kabul bureau of the Al Jazeera television network. In his new book, The One Percent Doctrine, Ron Suskind alleges that Al Jazeera was intentionally targeted.

So why isn’t the press paying attention?

If Suskind was somewhat vague about the incident in his book (he writes that “inside the CIA and White House there was satisfaction that a message had been sent to Al Jazeera” on the day of the bombing), he cleared up any ambiguity during an appearance this week on CNN’s Situation Room. “My sources are clear that that was done on purpose, precisely to send a message to Al Jazeera, and essentially a message was sent,” he told Wolf Blitzer. “…There was great anger at Al-Jazeera at this point.” He added, “I’ll tell you emphatically it was a deliberate act by the U.S.” 

Suskind’s statement is hardly the last word on the matter, but the deliberate US bombing of al-Jazeera should open the eyes of anyone who still believes that the US aims to bring democracy to the Middle East.

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Hate grows

Poland is currently experiencing a resurgence of the far-right (recently highlighted here.) This latest news is bound to cause concern:

Piotr Farfal has had a stellar career. The 28-year-old Pole is a lawyer. He is also a far-right political activist, a card-carrying right-wing extremist and former editor-in-chief of the Polish skinhead magazine Front, which openly supports anti-Semitism and right-wing extremist violence.

And now he has been appointed as deputy chairman of the board of Poland’s state-run public television. People are wondering how this could have happened – even in a country such as Poland that is going through dramatic social and political change.

Farfal, however, has powerful friends in high places. Among them is the leader of the right-wing League of Polish Families, Roman Giertych, who is also Poland’s deputy prime minister and education minister in the country’s new government. It was Giertych that got Farfal his appointment. 

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Get some control

Amartya Sen, International Herald Tribune, June 26:

Informed by the harrowing lessons of World War II, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Exactly 61 years later, the UN review conference on small arms will open on Monday in New York. This will be the first major conference on the UN program of action on the global menace of small and light weapons of combat.

In recent years, discussions on terror and safety have tended to concentrate on weapons of mass destruction. And yet there are other problems that are already causing havoc, which also demand urgent attention. It is important to appreciate why an effective system of the control of trade in small arms is so badly needed right now.

First, the use of small arms is constantly fed and heavily promoted in the world by the sellers, for there is much profit to be made there. While it is true that arms trading needs willing buyers in addition to eager sellers, the pushing of arms is no less a phenomenon today than the pushing of drugs. 

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