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.

Don’t forget every “expert” who embraced Mubarak and his kind

The embedded journalists, writers, commentators and think-tankers who spend their hours urging “moderate” regimes in the Middle East – namely Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others – never cared too much about the democratic aspirations of the Arab people themselves. Too messy, too inconvenient. And as long as Israel was happy, well, Washington (and its colonial allies, hello Australia and Britain) could just sail along.

No more.

Middle East Report issues a stunning editorial today:

Every US administration has its mouthpiece in Washington’s think tank world, its courtier that will slavishly praise its every utterance. For the blessedly bygone Bush administration, that echo chamber was the American Enterprise Institute and the neo-conservative broadsheets in its orbit. For the Obama administration, it is the National Security Network, an operation founded in 2006 to bring “strategic focus to the progressive national security community.”

With one US-backed Arab despot dislodged and dodging Interpol, and another facing an intifada of historic proportions, many eyes looked to Washington, hopeful that President Barack Obama might reprise his ballyhooed Cairo speech of June 2009, showing the restive Arab masses that he felt and, perhaps, really understood their pain. Instead, Arab populations have heard a variation on Washington’s long-standing theme: “The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.” That sentence, taken from the National Security Network’s January 27 press release, says it all: Democracy is great in theory, but if it will cause any disruption to business as usual, Washington prefers dictatorship.

n the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans wondered why their country had been targeted. Many, of course, settled upon the solipsistic, emotionally comforting explanation that “they hate us for our values” or resorted to conspiracy theory about Islam and world conquest. Saner sorts looked to the US history of support for Israel in its colonization of Palestine or coziness with certain kingdoms sitting atop vast pools of petroleum. But these factors have never been the whole answer. All who continue to wonder about the rest should ponder this day, January 28, 2011. The words of Obama and his chorus of apologists say it all: When it comes to the aspirations of ordinary Arabs for genuinely participatory politics and true self-determination, those vaunted American values are suspended, even when “special relationships” and hydrocarbon riches are not directly at issue. And the anti-democratic sentiment is bipartisan: On this question, there is less than a dime’s worth of difference between “progressive” Democrats and Republican xenophobes, between pinstriped State Department Arabists and flannel-clad Christian fundamentalists, between oil-first “realists” and Israel-first neo-conservatives. There is none.

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Let’s not forget Israel loves autocrats to maintain its life

How does the Zionist state survive in the Middle East? Bribery, pressure, money and US backing. Nothing about democracy or rights or decency. And Egypt has been central to this for decades.

So now what?

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz that Tel Aviv may have a few problems on its hands. Friends? More money may be required to purchase them:

The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse.

From now on, it will be hard for Israel to trust an Egyptian government torn apart by internal strife. Israel’s increasing isolation in the region, coupled with a weakening United States, will force the government to court new potential allies.

Israel’s foreign policy has depended on regional alliances which have provided the country with strategic depth since the 1950s. The country’s first partner was France, which at the time ruled over northern Africa and provided Israel with advanced weaponry and nuclear capabilities.

Now, with Mubarak struggling over the survival of his government, Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. These two allies promise to strengthen Israel’s Eastern battlefront and are also working to stop terror attacks and slow down Hamas.

But Israel’s relationship with these two allies is complicated. Joint security exercises are modest and the relationship between the leaders is poor. Jordan’s King Abdullah refuses to meet Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is waging a diplomatic struggle against Israel’s right-wing government. It’s hard to tell how Jordan and the PA could fill the role that Egypt has played for Israel.

In this situation, Israel will be forced to seek out new allies. The natural candidates include Syria, which is striving to exploit Egypt’s weakness to claim a place among the key nations in the region.

The images from Cairo and Tunisia surely send chills down the backs of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his cronies, despite the achievement they achieved with the new Hezbollah-backed Lebanon government. As long as the Arab world is flooded with waves of angry anti-government protests, Assad and Netanyahu will be left to safeguard the old order of the Middle East.

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Washington, backing Facebook in Egypt isn’t quite enough

Here’s some free advice to the US State Department; trying to keep Twitter or Facebook or other social networking sites alive inside dictatorships is a fine task but have you stopped for a minute and wondered what citizens think when your own government has backed these brutes?

The State Department has been working furiously and mostly behind the scenes to cajole and pressure Arab governments to halt their clampdowns on communications and social media. In Tunisia there seem to have been real results. In Egypt, it’s too soon to tell.

Ever since the State Department intervened during protests by the Iranian Green movement in June 2009, convincing Twitter to postpone maintenance so opposition protestors could communicate, the U.S. government has been ramping up its worldwide effort to set up a network of organizations that could circumvent crackdowns on Internet and cell phone technologies by foreign governments. That effort faced its first two major tests over the last few weeks and the State Department has been working with private companies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions to activate this network and put it to use in real time.

“Our mission is to provide a lifeline of protection when people get in trouble through a range of support for technology and then support for the activists and the people on the ground,” Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) Michael Posner said in an interview on Friday with The Cable. “I think there will be an increase in contacts on several levels in the coming days and weeks.”

Even before the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, the State Department was working to drastically increase its activities with the internet freedom organizations, many of them using State Department funding provided through a grant program administered by DRL. This month, State announced it would spend another $30 million on this project.

For Posner, the drive to create an “open platform” for Internet communications is part of the overall drive to protect the universal rights the administration has been trumpeting in recent days and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out in her speech on Internet Freedom.

“What we’re really talking about here is the ability of people to speak freely, to demonstrate peacefully, to associate and assemble in the public square. These are the human rights that are being restricted,” Posner said.

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Times suddenly wakes up to disastrous US backing of Cairo

New York Times editorial on Egypt says that America should only cut aid to Mubarak if “[the President] turns the protests into a bloodbath and fails to open up Egypt’s political system.”

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Not a Twitter revolution

Parvez Sharma:

#Egypt became strong only AFTER #internet etc died 80 million people? 1% have smartpnones THE POOR DONT TWEET They walk into bombs & bullets

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The picture that shows why Obama has no idea about the Middle East

Taken yesterday, 28 January, in the White House. A bunch of white men who I’m sure have a wonderful idea about what the Arab people really want:

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People of Gaza and Egypt need freedom from our thug

Burn, baby, burn. Israel and America are scurrying for some kind of response to the Egyptian uprising. The poor lambs. What on earth will they do if a compliant dictatorship actually falls? For example, the siege on Gaza may well be about to change. I hope. And so do the people of Gaza. They deserve nothing less.

US neo-con Eli Lake, who spent the last decade backing every US-led war in the Middle East, is offering free advice to Barack Obama. Thanks, Eli, your understanding of the world seems about as nuanced as the “liberation” of Iraq.

Robert Fisk is on the ground in Cairo:

It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.

And as Cairo lay drenched under clouds of tear gas from thousands of canisters fired into dense crowds by riot police, it looked as if his rule was nearing its finish. None of us on the streets of Cairo yesterday even knew where Mubarak – who would later appear on television to dismiss his cabinet – was. And I didn’t find anyone who cared.

They were brave, largely peaceful, these tens of thousands, but the shocking behaviour of Mubarak’s plainclothes battagi – the word does literally mean “thugs” in Arabic – who beat, bashed and assaulted demonstrators while the cops watched and did nothing, was a disgrace. These men, many of them ex-policemen who are drug addicts, were last night the front line of the Egyptian state. The true representatives of Hosni Mubarak as uniformed cops showered gas on to the crowds.

Such average citizens are exactly the ones Mubarak, Israel and the US have ignored for decades.

Blocking the internet entirely appears to have had little effect on information getting out.

The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker believes Washington is working out a post-Mubarak period:

With his plans to attend the Cairo Book Fair today regrettably disrupted, President Mubarak will instead spend the day choosing a new cabinet to replace the one he dismissed on television last night.

But his sudden offer of “dialogue” after 30 years in power is not going to cut any ice with the protesters on the streets whom he laughably accused in his TV broadcast of being “part of a bigger plot to shake the stability and destroy the legitimacy” of Egypt’s political system. Nor will his promise that “We will not backtrack on reforms”. The people want him to go and will not be satisfied until he does, but he is not listening yet.

Mass arrests are allegedly taking place, including against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Editor Ahmad Shokr provides interesting background:

Well, the people who initiated the protest call are largely a group of youth activists that have been organizing through social media, mostly through Facebook. They started a Facebook page to call for this demonstration, which immediately received just an outpouring of support. Tens of thousands of people signed up and expressed support for the demonstration, inspired largely by the events of Tunisia a few weeks ago. So this was a youth-led spontaneous movement that’s being fueled by the anger of young people across Egypt at all of the things that I listed before.

“Egypt is a Praetorian regime”, says Juan Cole.

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We should be thanking Mubarak, our bad

Seriously:

Reacting to the protests that have erupted in the capital and other cities, Mubarak urged calm, adding that only because of his own reforms over the years were people able to protest.

Mona El Tahawy, an Egyptian columnist and author living in the US, dismissed these comments.

“There is no political freedom in Egypt, that’s exactly why the protests happened,” she said.

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Watch the emotional power of whipping Mubarak

Two very clever tweets from Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker.

One:

Israel’s analysis of Egypt is looking like the biggest intelligence failure since Iraqi WMD

Two:

Israel should henceforth be referred to as “the only democracy in the Middle East that supports dictators”

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Thanks for taking stand against Colombo’s bloody hand

Why political statements can matter:

The main reason for the disappearance of a journalist is an investigation he carried out on the alleged use of chemical weapons by Sri Lanka forces, says his wife.

Sandhya Ekneligoda, the wife of the disappeared political columnist and cartoonist Prageeth, says his husband went missing after he published a piece on his investigation and informed diplomats over the issue.

“In 2008, Prageeth wrote and informed the diplomats about the Sri Lankan government’s usage of chemical weapons against the people in the north,” she told the BBC.

The Sri Lanka government has always denied using chemical weapons in its war against the Tamil Tigers.

“And he actively supported then opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka’s campaign,” Mrs Ekneligoda added.

Before the disappearance a year ago on 24 January 2010, he was abducted by a group came on a white van in August 2009 but was released a day later.

His wife has travelled to Galle on Friday, together with their eldest son Sanjaya,16, to appeal to international writers and authors in finding her husband.

“I think he was abducted by people who did not like the truth,” Sanjaya Eknaligoda told the BBC.

Distributing leaflets among the participants of Galle Literary Festival (GLF) on Friday Mrs Ekneligoda has requested the help of world renowned writers to exert pressure on Sri Lanka government.

“I welcome you on behalf of the wives and children, of journalists in Sri Lanka, who have been abducted, killed or forced to flee the country as a result of their work,” the leaflet distributed by Mrs Ekneligoda among the Festival delegates said.

She could only distribute the letter though she expected to address the forum, Mrs Ekneligoda told BBC Sandeshaya, but she was grateful that she was allowed to enter the Festival.

“I welcome you, to a country, where thousands of women and children weep silent tears for a nation of innocent civilians who have been killed or disappeared on account of their ethnicity. Welcome to Sri Lanka.”

Mrs Ekneligoda expressed her gratitude to award winning authors Arundathi Roy, Noam Chomsky and others and the campaign groups Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Journalist for Democracy (JDS) for calling for a boycott of the Festival at a time journalists and activists facing constant threats.

But the Festival organisers, Sri Lanka government and some human rights campaigners have criticised the call for boycott.

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Who is providing the handy help for Cairo block the web?

Vultures (thank you Timothy Carr):

The open Internet’s role in popular uprising is now undisputed. Look no further than Egypt, where the Mubarak regime today reportedly shut down Internet and cell phone communications — a troubling predictor of the fierce crackdown that has followed.

What’s even more troubling is news that one American company is aiding Egypt’s harsh response through sales of technology that makes this repression possible.

The power of open networks is clear. The Internet’s favorite offspring — Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — are now heralded on CNN, BBC and Fox News as flag-bearers for a new era of citizen journalism and activism. (More and more these same news organizations have abandoned their own, more traditional means of newsgathering to troll social media for breaking information.)

But the open Internet’s power cuts both ways: The tools that connect, organize and empower protesters can also be used to hunt them down.

Telecom Egypt, the nation’s dominant phone and Internet service provider, is a state-run enterprise, which made it easy on Friday morning for authorities to pull the plug and plunge much of the nation into digital darkness.

Moreover, Egypt also has the ability to spy on Internet and cell phone users, by opening their communication packets and reading their contents. Iran used similar methods during the 2009 unrest to track, imprison and in some cases, “disappear” truckloads of cyber-dissidents.

The companies that profit from sales of this technology need to be held to a higher standard. One in particular is an American firm, Narus of Sunnyvale, Calif., which has sold Telecom Egypt “real-time traffic intelligence” equipment.

Narus, now owned by Boeing, was founded in 1997 by Israeli security experts to create and sell mass surveillance systems for governments and large corporate clients.

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What Egyptian uprising says about the desperate desire for freedom

The Arab world is shaking. Crowds are seething. Anger is everywhere. Egyptian protesters are showing America, Israel and Mubarak what they think of them. Some of the latest reports here and here.

From Al-Jazeera:

The internet has been central to these protests, though impossible to tell how important. In an age of mass surveillance, it’s also vital that web activists in Egypt and beyond watch very carefully how they communicate; authorities are all-seeing.

I love this story from the last days:

When protestors in Cairo’s Tahir Square experienced an outage in cell phone data service, nearby residents reportedly opened their home Wi-Fi networks to allow protesters to get online.

Ultimately, the message from these protests should be a fundamental re-writing of Western policy in the region. If not, the Arab world will increasingly embrace extremists who rally against American and Israeli violence, instead of Islamists who may want a different kind of nation. Leadership is up for grabs. So is the future. Obama’s reaction thus far has been clear; say little, back Mubarak, be fearful for Israel. That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice.

Secular countries across the Arab world would be my ideal but I don’t live there. Isn’t it about time that we respect the wishes of the people there?

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