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.

How the ALP tries to keep any pro-Palestinian thoughts well hidden

Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald examined Labor Party head-kicker Mark Arbib and his supposedly magical powers within the ALP. Lucky him.

Then there was this paragraph:

He kept a tight rein on the state’s MPs. Julia Irwin, then the Member for Fowler, says he responded to a speech she gave on the rights of Palestinians by ordering her to take a trip to Israel and asking her to submit further speeches on the Middle East to him for clearance. She refused and the demands were not followed up. Arbib has denied asking her to travel to Israel.


How the Melbourne Film Festival embraces apartheid Israel

Back in 2009, film-maker Ken Loach withdrew his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival after it was revealed that the Israeli government offered financial support for the event.

This year there was supposedly no controversy despite the festival again taking funds from the Israeli government (the director, Richard Moore, is a Zionist whose son has served in the IDF).

And then something changed a few weeks ago, an issue that has thus far received no mainstream media coverage. Australian, Jewish academic Ned Curthoys has written an exclusive report for this site:

About a fortnight ago, some friends of the Palestinian people alerted the production company Human Film that the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival lists the state of Israel as a cultural partner and therefore official sponsor of the festival. Their award-winning Iraqi film Son of Babylon was due to screen on Wednesday the 28th of July and Friday the 30th of July.

On behalf of Human Film, the Director Mohamed Al-Daradji, the Producer Isabelle Stead and the Producer Atia Al-Daradji wrote on Sunday the 25th of July to the Executive Director of MIFF, Richard Moore, stressing that Son of Babylon is a Palestinian co-production and that as they, as filmmakers, are ‘wholeheartedly against the Israeli governments’ actions against the Palestinian people and as such cannot screen our film at Melbourne IFF whilst there is Israeli government support involved’.

The signatories stressed that they are not against the Israeli people or Israeli filmmakers but ‘against the Israeli government actions against Palestine’ and that they refused to have any association with the state of Israel until it respected the human rights of the Palestinian people. They repeated their request to withdraw the film.

[MIFF head] Richard Moore responded by agreeing to disagree on the political aspect of the matter and, complaining of the logistical impossibility of withdrawing the film on the eve of screening, informed the signatories that the Monday screening would be shown but that he is prepared to countenance financial compensation for the Wednesday the 28th screening.

Isabelle Stead, the main producer of SON OF BABYLON, writing on behalf of Human Film, responded that she really hoped that he, Richard Moore, had respected their wishes and withdrawn the film from the festival, entirely. This isn’t about politics, she wrote, this is about humanity.

She made the point that it had only just been brought to their attention that MIF festival was supported by the state of Israel, and that upon receiving this information, they acted as promptly as they could. Isabelle was surprised that Melbourne IFF had not informed filmmakers whom have a Palestinian element/connection to their film that the state of Israel are involved in funding the festival. She pointed out that the festival was informed in enough time to stop the screening – as in 2009 when Ken Loach withdrew his film on the eve of its screening. MIFF should not underestimate Human Film’s resolve to ensure that their film is not associated with the state of Israel as long as it continues its illegal crimes against humanity.

Richard Moore refused to acknowledge that he had any obligation to inform a Palestinian co-production about Israeli sponsorship, instead claiming that revocation of permission to withdraw the film and to take action against the festival if it does not withdraw the film was a ‘divisive act’ that contravenes the film company’s ethos of breaking down cultural barriers.

Isabelle Stead repeated her willingness to reimburse the festival and repeated her point that the festival must hold some responsibility in not informing a Palestinian co-production that it was being supported by the state of Israel. She reminded Moore that in the 1980s Mr Rod Webb, The Sydney Film Festival Director, refused to accepted any sponsorship or screen films from apartheid South Africa. When Israel is no longer an apartheid state, she wrote, we will of course be proud to screen our films in conjunction with them. In the interim she would be happy to help Richard Moore find alternative sponsorship that is independent of Israel’s support for Melbourne IFF in the future.

She welcomed Moore’s allusion to their mission statement and pointed out it was still in full force and effect, since they were ‘acting from a humanitarian stance’. She asked that Richard Moore respect their wishes not to screen Son of Babylon and wanted to be informed if the film had been screened at the festival.

Richard Moore then revealed his hand by declaring, against the common wisdom of Jimmy Carter and Desdmond Tutu, that the comparison of Israel with an apartheid state was ‘odious’. He now claimed that Human Film had not taken the issue of compensation seriously, and, to rub salt into the wound, smugly talked of how much the patrons had enjoyed the screening and that he hoped the film scored well in audience awards.

Isabelle Stead now accused Richard Moore of petulance, and was clearly upset that he had disregarded the multiple requests of Human Film not to have any screenings of their film at the festival. Isabelle wrote that she had spoken to the producer of Looking for Eric – who informed her that they were not requested to pay the festival any monies for pulling the film in 2009. She reiterated that she had made a fair offer to reimburse the festival for the shipment costs along with any monies paid to their sales company to screen the film. She reiterated that any permissions granted to Melbourne IFF to screen SON OF BABYLON had been revoked.

Isabelle. in a later correspondence, suggested that she was disgusted with the behaviour of the festival towards Human Film, and very saddened that Moore couldn’t see past the politics to the real heart of the issue. Human Film would now prefer to offer the proceeds of the admissions for the screening of Son of Babylon to a charity of their choice.

The second screening of Son of Babylon on Wednesday went ahead without any signal that this was against the express wishes of Human Film. One can safely draw the conclusion that just as MIFF and Richard Moore failed in their ethical obligation to inform international film makers of Israeli sponsorship of the festival, they have also engaged in a conspiracy of silence to prevent you knowing about the principled ethical objections of Human Film to screen Son of Babylon.

The public can make up their own mind but audiences of the MIFF 2010 and the wider public have a right to know about the way in which Richard Moore himself is deliberately politicizing the festival.

Yesterday Crikey published the full email correspondence between MIFF and the film-makers.


Many truths within Wikileaks, if you care to look

The faux outrage over the Wikileaks revelations related to Pakistan’s closeness to the Taliban should be dismissed as propaganda (a point reinforced by Tariq Ali in the Guardian yesterday).

Wikileaks has announced that more “secrets” will be forthcoming, despite the group’s testy relationship with corporate media.

Here’s founder Julian Assange’s modus operandi:

We have clearly stated motives, but they are not antiwar motives. We are not pacifists. We are transparency activists who understand that transparent government tends to produce just government. And that is our sort of modus operandi behind our whole organization, is to get out suppressed information into the public, where the press and the public and our nation’s politics can work on it to produce better outcomes.

The most concerning part of this week’s Wikileaks was the American media’s reluctance to expose the full extent of the revelations:

The possibility that the leaked documents might lead to more discussion of civilian casualties was frequently raised as a concern in U.S. media. The Washington Post editorial tried to minimize the documents’ revelations on this issue: “The British newspaper in turn highlights what it says are 144 reported incidents in which Afghan civilians were killed or wounded by coalition forces. But the 195 deaths it counts in those episodes, though regrettable, do not constitute a shocking total for a four-year period.” That point of view was echoed on CBS Evening News by correspondent Lara Logan:

“Well, the issue of civilian casualties is a major one. And the U.S. has taken a lot of criticism because of this. However, what’s interesting to note is that according to the documents, 195 Afghan civilians have been killed. But also according to the documents, 2,000 Afghan civilians have been killed by the Taliban, which is more than 10 times the number said to be killed by U.S. and NATO forces. And very little is being made of that. If the coverage would indicate that it’s more of an issue for the U.S. to kill Afghan civilians than it is for the Taliban to do so.”

The suggestion that this tally of 195 Afghan civilian deaths is comprehensive is absurd on its face, given that the WikiLeaksGuardian noted, that number “is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.” Estimates of civilian casualties vary, but several thousand noncombatant Afghans were killed by U.S. and coalition forces during these years of the war. As for Logan’s point about who bears more responsibility for civilian killings, there have been various attempts to make such determinations. In 2008, for instance, U.N. monitors counted over 2,000 civilian casualties; when responsibility could be determined, 41 percent of the deaths were attributed to U.S./NATO forces.

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Revolutionary Guards pulling strings in Iran

A new blog by a colleague who knows Iran inside out. Iran Dispatch is essential reading. Like this post that discusses where real power today lies in the Islamic Republic:

Iran’s opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi says Iran Revolutionary Guards has been behind the election fraud and now controls the whole economy of the country.

In an exclusive interview with BBC News Karroubi claims the private sector has been forced to leave the market and a monopoly has been concentrated in the hands of the IRGC.

Karroubi says Ahmadinejad Government awards sole-source contracts to the Guards and sales state owned enterprises, such as the Telecommunication Company, without going through the tender procedures.

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Obama’s Bush mannerisms

The ACLU on Obama’s morphing into George W. Bush:

In the eighteen months since the issuance of those executive orders, the administration’s record on issues related to civil liberties and national security has been, at best, mixed. Indeed, on a range of issues including accountability for torture, detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians, there is a very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration. There is a real danger, in other words, that the Obama administration will preside over the creation of a “new normal.”

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BDS backers are basically terrorists in disguise (in hasbara minds)

This is almost funny. Palestinian activists and writers, such as Ali Abunimah and Diana Buttu, backing BDS are, according to this Zionist propaganda video, “anti-Israel” because they don’t accept the two-state solution, a pipe-dream that is both impractical and immoral.

Seriously, this is what Zionism is left with; smearing Palestinians who demand full rights instead of collaborating with their Israeli masters:

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A few easy steps to buy products from West Bank colonies

This is the face of modern Zionism. A Rabbi looking to help those poor souls in Israel. Help!

One of Brooklyn Heights’s most-influential Jewish leaders fought back against an anti-Israel rally last Friday by doing what influential rabbis do in such situations: he bought cosmetics.

Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham picked up some Ahava products at Ricky’s cosmetics shop on Montague Street just a few days after the store was picketed by protesters claiming that selling the West-Bank-made lotions supported Israel’s “illegal” occupation of the West Bank.

Raskin said he did his shopping simply to “make a stand” against the protesters. He also e-mailed 2,000 congregants and friends urging them to support Ricky’s and Israel by buying Ahava goods, which are made in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

“It is inescapable to see [the protest] as anything other than an expression of anti-Semitism,” Raskin said in the e-mail.

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The futility and vindictiveness of destroying Bedouin homes

Heartbreaking and enraging.

Footage this week of Israel demolishing the homes of a Bedouin village in the Negev desert. 300 people are now homeless:

The Bedouin of the Negev (Naqab in Arabic) are full Israeli citizens, but some 76,000 of them live in “unrecognized villages” that receive virtually no government services including water, electricity, and sanitation.


Google and CIA work together

Just what the world needs:

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

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Anything to protect the privatised asylum seekers

Following my article in yesterday’s Crikey about the out of control privatisation agenda in Australia, two heavy hitters respond today in the publication in predictably shallow ways. Spin, spin and more spin:

Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman Sandi Logan writes: Let me assure Crikey readers the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) — and its detention services provider Serco — treats seriously its duty of care to all people in detention.  The safety and good order of all of our detention facilities is paramount.

Serco, our current detention services provider and the subject of your correspondent’s report, was selected as the Australian Government’s detention services provider through a fair and transparent tender process. Where areas for improvement have been identified since Serco was contracted by DIAC, appropriate action has been taken to remed these issues.

If Loewenstein knows of anyone in detention who has complaint about the way they are being treated or the detention environment in general, he can advise them there are clear complaint-handling mechanisms in place to ensure their concerns are treated seriously, investigated promptly and resolved.

Finally, contrary to the tenor of your Loewenstein’s report, and as Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young herself said in recent days, there is a community feeling among detainees at Curtin Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) as well as goodwill towards those in charge.  Clearly he was writing about Australian immigration detention arrangements without recent first hand knowledge.

Emma Needham, Communications Director, Serco Asia Pacific, writes: I write in response to Antony Loewenstein’s references to Serco in yesterday’s edition of Crikey.

Serco has grown to become one of the world’s leading service companies by working in partnership with its customers, mainly governments, to manage change smoothly and positively. Citizens want faster and better services so we think innovatively to help governments improve services across a diverse range of sectors. Serco has been operating in Australia for more than 15 years, partnering with governments in the delivery of services in transport, health, justice, immigration and defence.

Serco began operations in 1929, known then as RCA Services Limited. In 1987, RCA Services Limited was renamed Serco Limited and in 1988, the company achieved a full listing on the London Stock Exchange as Serco Group plc. Serco has no connection or association with KBA or Halliburton as inferred by Mr Loewenstein.

Serco’s values-based approach and strong management capability are underpinned by a robust accountability framework in all contracts we operate, including immigration services. Serco is subject to closely monitored contractual requirements and the company will be penalised where it does not meet these requirements. Furthermore, governance and accountability is assured through a rigorous independent inspection and monitoring framework, which is often far more comprehensive than that to which the public service is subjected.

Serco aims to positively contribute to the communities in which we operate and has a strong history of high performance. We are working closely with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to deliver a humane and dignified service for the people in our care. Following a two day visit to Christmas Island last week, Professor Patrick McGorry spoke of the improvements that have been made, describing the centres as, “a more supportive and humane environment” where staff are treating asylum seekers as clients, not criminals.

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YouTube generation gives the finger to the mullahs

Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” reframed as a defiant call of support for those backing democratic change in Iran. Tehran’s authoritarianism is being noticed:

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Knowing that Afghanistan is a failure

Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian that the Wikileaks war logs are significant. But will the media war cheer-leaders be listening?

Is it the death of war? In Vietnam the horror of fighting was brought to TV screens in real time. Such was the reaction that American citizens withdrew their consent. In the 1980s computers were said to have restored the aloofness of battle by enabling armies to fight and defeat an enemy by remote control. They could locate the foe, direct fire and drop bombs with pinpoint accuracy.

That thesis is now threadbare. There is no such thing as a secure computer, let alone an accurate one. Every jot of information is leaky, permeable, corruptible, accessible, free-to-air. Computerisation and miniaturisation have stripped command of all secrecy and rendered every success or failure vulnerable to WikiLeak. As a result, like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, computers can change sides and become the enemy.

Far from defeating the enemy, technology is portrayed as shielding soldiers from the immediate result of their actions, hence distorting tactics and corrupting strategy. By recording failure in meticulous detail, the logs mock the moral basis for so-called wars among the peoples. Like Vietnam’s TV images, they leave the Iraq and Afghan conflicts as bloodthirsty killing fields, devoid of rational justification.

The war logs are not so much sensational as relentless. Most of the material was known. It is the detail that bears devastating witness. Afghanistan 2001 now enters firmly into the pantheon of folly, from the wooden horse to Napoleon in Moscow to Vietnam. Indeed it bears the added crassness of coming two decades after the Russians committed the exact same folly in the same place.

In 1971 the Pentagon papers revealed the deception of the Johnson and Nixon governments during the Vietnam war. The papers were credited with collapsing US morale as the war drew to a close. The Afghanistan logs convey a different message. They show George Bush, Tony Blair and their generals to be so dazzled by their massive military (and intellectual) firepower that they thought they were invincible against a tinpot Taliban.

Anyone who visited Kabul in the past eight years knew that a western war of occupation would end in tears. The Taliban were a concept, not an army. Al-Qaida was an unwelcome guest, but only the Taliban were likely to expel it. Mujahideen would ooze from the rocks if provoked and never stop fighting until the infidel was expelled. Pakistan, long holder of the key to the Afghan door, had a powerful interest in backing the Taliban, an interest promoted and financed by the CIA in the 1980s. All this was known – and is now confirmed.

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