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.

What war does to the reporter’s soul

Janine di Giovanni is one of Europe’s leading war correspondents. Last night I read this moving extract from her memoir. Beautifully written, it examines the relationship between her and her partner Bruno and their child, Luca and how reporting in various horror zones eventually entered their hearts and minds and wouldn’t go away. War can be like a drug for some in the media. You’ll rarely hear the people living under the bullets and bombs thinking similarly:

I had been tested for post-traumatic stress disorder a few years previously by a Canadian psychiatrist writing a book about war reporters. He said I did not have it. Aside from one brutal flashback after the murder of two of my colleagues in Sierra Leone by rebel forces I thought I had managed, somehow, to escape a syndrome with which so many had been afflicted. At one point, a psychiatrist in Sarajevo told me that nearly the entire population of the besieged city probably suffered from it.

I never had nightmares in the years of moving from war to war – perhaps some inner survival mode would not allow me to be introspective enough – but they started now: vivid dreams of burning houses, of people without limbs, of children trapped inside shelters. I thought endlessly of the days in Chechnya when I listened to the helicopter gunships and put my hands over my ears, sure I would go mad from the sound of the bombs. Or the time that I rode on the back of a motorcycle in East Timor and smelled the burning of the houses, saw the terror in people’s faces.

While I was actually there, I felt nothing. I never talked about what happened in those places, but I wrote about them. I disagreed that reporters suffered from trauma; after all, I argued, we were the ones who got out. It was the people we left behind that suffered, that died. I did not suffer the syndromes, I did not have the shakes. I did not have psychotic tendencies. I was not an alcoholic or drug addict who needed to blot out memories. I was, I thought, perfectly fine and functioning.

Much later I met another trauma specialist in a cafe in London, who told me that PTSD can also appear later, long after the events. He asked me to describe all I had seen, in detail, but nothing was as painful as Luca’s birth: the helplessness, my inability to protect him, and the sense that anything could and would happen. He listened carefully and recorded my words, which he later sent to me in transcript form. “There are people who live in extremes,” he said, “and you are one of them. You cannot think that will not affect you in some way. It has. It always will.”

The birth awakened fears that had been buried. It started when I hoarded water in our kitchen: plastic packs of more than 50 bottles, which I calculated would last us 20 days. Every time I went to Monoprix to buy food, I bought more and had it delivered. I hoarded tinned food, rice, pasta – food that I remembered stored well in Sarajevo during the siege – and things that might be hard to get – medicine, vast supplies of Ciprofloxacin and codeine – which I got my confused doctor to give me prescriptions for. I hoarded bandages, gauzes, even the field dressings that I had saved from Chechnya which were meant to be pressed against bullet holes to staunch the blood, and I read first aid guides of how to remove bullets and shrapnel, set broken bones and survive chemical attacks. Bruno would watch, concerned but non-judgmental.

“We’re in Paris,” he would say, “not Grozny. Not Abidjan. We’re safe.”

“But how do you know? That’s what people said about Yugoslavia. One day they went to the cash machines and there was no money.”

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As Glenn Beck leaves Murdoch’s bosom, this is what we’ll miss

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Watching a new Palestinian tactic unfold

Rami Khouri writes in Lebanon’s Daily Star:

While the Arab world is experiencing a historic series of citizen revolts against nondemocratic governments, something equally significant is happening among Palestinians in their struggle with Israel and Zionism. Very slowly, almost imperceptibly, Palestinians seem to be making a strategic shift in their mode of confrontation with Israel, from occasional military attacks toward a more nonviolent and political confrontation.

This development seems to be driven by two factors: that various kinds of armed struggle against Israel, by Palestinians or Arab armies, have had little or no impact on changing Israeli policies; and, that nonviolent political protests are more in keeping with the spirit of the moment in the Arab world, where unarmed civilians openly confront their oppressors and in most cases seem to be making headway.

The signs of Palestinian political struggle, as opposed to militarism, are most visible in four dimensions or incidents these days. The first were the two days in May and June when symbolic numbers of Palestinian refugees marched to the borders of Israel to proclaim their right to return to their homes. Israeli as usual replied with gunfire, killing over a dozen Palestinians. The scene at the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank north of Jerusalem was especially poignant, as Palestinian young men used slingshots – that great Hebrew Bible symbol – to pester the Israeli soldiers in full battle gear on the rooftops raining tear gas down on them. I suspect this is not the last time we will see unarmed Palestinian civilians march en masse in affirmation of their rights, whether in Israel, in Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands, or around the world.

The second is the flotilla of ships that is expected to set sail this week from nearby Mediterranean ports to break the Israeli siege of Gaza, even though the siege has been eased somewhat in recent months, especially since the new Egyptian government opened the Rafah crossing to a nearly normal flow of trade. The flotilla follows half a dozen others that have made the journey in the last three years with the same purpose: to challenge the Israeli sea blockade and affirm the rights of Palestinians to have normal contacts with the rest of the world.

The third sign is the Palestinian insistence on asking the U.N. General Assembly to vote this September on recognizing a Palestinian state within the borders of the lands occupied by Israel in 1967 (West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem). This move has incensed the Israeli government and its many proxies in the U.S., where a vehement campaign is underway to stop the United Nations vote from taking place.

The intensity of the Israeli and American opposition to the vote strategy is hysterical to the point of irrationality, given that a U.N. General Assembly vote in itself has very little practical value or impact in political or legal terms. Yet the Israeli response is telling of a deeper fear. What frightens the Israelis is the determination of Palestinians to use all available political means to carry on the struggle against Zionism and Israel, until Palestinian rights are achieved and Israelis and Palestinians can live in adjacent states with fully equal rights. Israel has never developed a strategy for countering a serious Arab political offensive against it, and it shows.

The fourth sign is the continued development of the global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it complies with its obligations under international law and conventions. Palestinian civil society launched BDS in 2005 as a strategy that allows people of conscience around the world to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.

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Internet turning into tool of national security state

We see evidence for this everywhere, in both democracies and repressive nations alike. But how many of us in Western states recognise that tools like Facebook can be utilised for both “good” (connecting friends and family) and bad (surveillance)?

Freelance journalist Inga Ting interviewed me for this piece in Crikey yesterday:

Yet the problem may not simply be historical myopia; it may be cultural. In Western liberal democracies where citizens are continually told they are free, citizens are simply not as wary of their governments — or each other — as they perhaps should be.

“The bottom line of this is that if we can use certain tools to communicate, bring people together, identify people, make friends, etc, exactly the same things can be done by the other side,” said freelance journalist and author Antony Loewenstein, who has conducted extensive research on the internet in repressive regimes.

“Sort of a self-evident thing to say, but a lot of people simply don’t think of it like that. In repressive states they do because they know how it works… The regime in Iran, for example, has literally armies of Iranian cyber-warriors who go around identifying dissidents or trying to destroy dissident websites… China is of course the most extreme example. No one knows an exact figure but at least 150,000 people every day surf the internet looking for suspect comments, websites.

“So the amount of thoughtless information that people put on Facebook simply doesn’t happen in a repressive state… It literally is a matter of life and death.”

David Vaile, executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of NSW, hopes the aftermath of this event will serve as a clear warning to social media users.

“In real life it’s recognised that we don’t want to live in a police state … [yet] people are putting up on Facebook evidence that they [the police] would have had to get a warrant for before,” Vaile said.

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Obama’s war in Afghanistan simply becoming more privatised

It’s occupation by another name. Pratap Chatterjee explains:

The number of contractors in Afghanistan is likely to increase significantly in the next year as the Obama administration pulls back some of the extra 68,000 troops that it has dispatched there since January 2009.

Typically, the U.S. pays one contractor to support every soldier that has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. The ratio of contractors to troops increases dramatically during a military surge as well as during a drawdown, and often stays higher than troop levels when military numbers are low, i.e. down to 30,000-50,000.

The reason is simple — the military needs extra workers to build new bases as well as to shut them down. Just like a hotel or restaurant, a military base also needs a minimum number of people to do the basics like janitorial or food service work. And as troops withdraw, U.S. diplomats are likely to hire extra security contractors as they are doing now in Iraq.

Using a range of 1.3 to 1.4 (based on what Afghanistan needed before the surge and Iraq needed after the drawdown), I would project that if the Obama administration draws down to 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by September 2012, they will need 88,400 contractors at the very least, but potentially as many as 95,880.

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Fighting for rights, from indigenous Australians to Palestinians

As the Gaza Flotilla 2 is soon to sail – despite attempts to sabotage the boats and other delays – what makes the attempt so moving are the personal stories of people who speak up for Palestine, despite the (almost) comical moves to smear them. Amira Hass profiles two Australians, both of whom I know and admire:

This is not the first time that Sylvia Hale, 69, has been asked why she is so active for the Palestinian cause. What about the discrimination against the Aborigines in her own country, Australia, for example?

Hale, a former Green Party parliamentarian who is still active in the party, immediately responded: “Undoubtedly, Australia has a very racist history. Aborigines were give the right to vote only in 1967. But whoever asks us ‘what about the Aborigines,’ are not the ones who are interested in their rights, and not the ones fighting for those rights. They are using this as a diversionary tactic for evading the debate over Israel’s policy, or to delegitimize criticism of Israel.”

And yes, for anyone who is interested: She was and remains involved in other struggles. She has rallied against the initiative to limit the rights of the Aborigines, fought the discriminatory attitude toward refugees in Australia and opposed the policy of stopping boat refugees.

Prior to entering parliament, she hid two refugees in her home so that they would not be arrested.

This week Hale and three of her compatriots will climb on board the Tahrir, the Canadian ship that is participating in the flotilla to the Gaza Strip. She and her Australian colleagues traveled the greatest distance of all the participants. Their flight lasted 48 hours, including the stops in various airports.

Hale and her friend, Vivienne Porzsolt, also 69, give the impression of being typical Western tourists, middle class, middle aged, staying at the hotel where the passengers of the Tahrir have gathered.

But Porzsolt’s involvement also stems directly from being Jewish, she says. “My activism against the Israeli occupation is linked to my Jewish-secular background, the values of equality and morality in the home of my parents [who were] natives of Prague who managed to escape from it immediately following the Nazi occupation in March, 1939. During the 1990s the Jewish element in my life became stronger and I became more interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Because Israel considers itself the country that represents all the Jews of the world, my participation in this voyage is my way of declaring that Israel is not acting on my behalf.”

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Wikileaks suffers privatised censorship

More here.

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Google head, fond of Chinese censorship, worries about Arab repression

His comments are fair and yet I can’t help but wonder about Google’s complicity with a range of autocratic regimes to censor some of its content, from search returns to YouTube clips:

The use of the web by Arab democracy movements could lead to some states cracking down harder on internet freedoms, Google’s chairman says.

Speaking at a conference in Ireland, Eric Schmidt said some governments wanted to regulate the internet the way they regulated television.

He also said he feared his colleagues faced a mounting risk of occasional arrest and torture in such countries.

The internet was widely used during the so-called Arab Spring.

Protesters used social networking sites to organise rallies and communicate with those outside their own country, such as foreign media, amid tight restrictions on state media.
‘Completely wired’

Mr Schmidt said he believed the “problem” of governments trying to limit internet usage was going to “get worse”.

In most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television”

“The reason is that as the technology becomes more pervasive and as the citizenry becomes completely wired and the content gets localised to the language of the country, it becomes an issue like television.”

“If you look at television in most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television imagery to keep their citizenry in some bucket,” he added.

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Non-violent Palestinian clowns met by violent Zionist forces

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How privatised war only brings profit before people

What the “war on terror” has become; countless companies making a killing. And what do they want? More war in more places:

Najlaa International Catering Services won a $3 million five-year contract in February 2010 to prepare food for the U.S. Agency for International Development compound in Iraq. The deal was approved despite the fact that Bill Baisey, CEO of the Kuwaiti company, faces numerous complaints and court actions for non-payment of bills and alleged fraud in Kuwait and Iraq.

U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been plagued by private military contractors that have performed poorly or failed miserably in fulfilling their contracts. Some overstated their capabilities or were badly managed and under-skilled, while others committed outright fraud.

Past investigations concentrated on major contractors such as Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), but recently the smaller companies – such as Najlaa – to which these giants subcontract have drawn fire.

“The government has limited visibility into subcontractor affairs and limited ability to influence their actions,” said former U.S. Congressman Christopher Shays at a July 2010 hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. “This fact presents a challenge to transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayers’ dollars. Poorly conceived, poorly structured, poorly conducted, and poorly monitored subcontracting can lead to poor choices in security measures and damage to U.S. foreign policy objectives, among other problems.”

The United States, however, has become so dependent on contractors who do the laundry, feed the troops, and build and run facilities that it would be difficult if not impossible for the military to continue without them.

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Wikileaks meets the Social Network via US State Department

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The deep reach of Zionist lobby in the Australian Parliament and society

One of the new Australian leaders of the Israel-first brigade is millionaire Albert Dadon, who founded the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum. What’s that? Taking journalists and politicians to Zionist Israel and making them realise that uncritical praise for its glorious democracy is the way it must be, now and always. Being wined and dined clearly helps the participants love apartheid Israel. Occupation? Racial discrimination against Arabs? Moves to silence dissent inside Israel? All totally ignored, of course.

We now have, thanks to Greens leader Bob Brown, the list of politicians and journalists who took the junket last year. The fact that so many were willing to be taken on a propaganda tour (and how many even thought of visiting the West Bank for longer than five minutes, let alone Gaza?) shows the level of obedience to the Zionist agenda in Australian elite circles. Thankfully, studies prove that the general public are increasingly supportive of the occupied Palestinians:

Annex 1: The Australian Delegation-Australia Israel Leadership Forum 2010

# Title First Name Surname
1 The Hon. Kevin Andrews MP
2 Sen. Guy Barnett MP
3 Sen. Mark Bishop
4 Dr John Byron
5 Sen. Kim Carr
6 Mr Steven Ciobo MP
7 Mr Ron Cross
8 Mrs Debbie Dadon»
9 Mr Albert «Dadon AM
10 Mr Michael Danby MP
11 Mr David Dinte
12 Mr Eitan Drori
13 Mrs Mary Easson
14 Ms Amanda Easson
15 HE Andrea Faulkner
16 Sen. Mitch Fifield
17 Mr Con Gallin
18 Mr Rohan Ganeson
19 The Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP
20 Mr Peter Khalil
21 Mrs Lydia Khalil
22 Master Yong-Sup Kimm
23 Prof Douglas Kirsner
24 Mr Maha Krishnapillai
25 Ms Naomi Levin
26 Mr Steve Lewis
27 Dr Marion Lustig
28 Mr Richard Marles MP
29 Sen. Brett Mason
30 Mr Yair Miller
31 Ms Kelly O’Dwyer MP
32 Mr Mark Paterson
33 The Hon. Christopher Pyne MP
34 Mr Bernie Ripoll MP
35 The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP
36 Senator Scott Ryan
37 Mr Emmanuel Santos
38 Mr Tom Scotnicki
39 Mr Greg Sheridan
40 Ms Kristy Somers
41 Mr Niv Tadmore
42 Ms Lenore Taylor
43 Mr Evan Thornley
44 Mr Chris Uhlmann
45 Mr Tony Walker
46 Mr John Weiss
47 Mr Antonio Zeccola
48 Ms Margaret Andrews
49 Ms Shelley Kelly
50 Ms Amanda Mendes Da Costa
51 Ms Jessie Sheridan
52 Ms Nicola Wright
53 Dr Carl Ungerer
54 Mr Thom Woodroofe
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