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.

Is there any space where Serco won’t go?

Clearly not (and the Australian government is so desperate to “manage” asylum seekers, any multinational will do):

Australia’s newest immigration detention centre could open near Brisbane within months as the Federal Government negotiates to take over the Borallon jail.

The Courier-Mail understands the Federal Government plans to convert the high-security jail, 50km west of Brisbane, into immigration accommodation by the year’s end.

The state-owned, 492-bed facility on the outskirts of Ipswich has been managed and operated since January 2008 by Serco Australia, which also runs the Scherger Immigration Detention Centre near Weipa.

Serco’s five-year contract to operate Borallon is set to be transferred to the new 300-bed women’s prison at Gatton, due to be completed this year.

Borallon’s 476 inmates are expected to be moved to Woodford Correctional Centre, which has about the same number of spare beds.

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US citizens, including 25% Jews, speaking on Gaza flotilla 2

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ABCTV News24 on climate change and Gaza flotilla 2

Last night I was on ABCTV News24′s The Drum (video here) talking climate change policy and the Gaza flotilla.

I argued that dwindling public support for real action on climate change was because too many of its backers refused to seriously engage with the general public and denigrated opponents. Labeling “deniers” akin to Holocaust deniers is not the way to win the argument. Besides, as somebody who recognises the damage caused by climate change, it’s heart-breaking to see the Australian government so utterly incapable of prosecuting an argument, speaking of “reform agendas” without being able to convince the public that lack of action is too dangerous for our future. Inner city folk spend too much time speaking to each other (and yes, I live in the inner city).

There’s a false discussion in Australia about which major political party is a better economic manager when in fact they both subscribe to the same neo-liberal policies that have only entrenched the divide between rich and poor. Little dissent from this line is ever heard, and the media perpetuates the lie.

The Gaza flotilla was discussed and I supported the right of global citizens to highlight Israel’s illegal blockade and occupation of Gaza. Thanks to Sydney reporter Kate Ausburn for transcribing some of my comments:

…there are profound restrictions on equipment getting in [to Gaza]. … the idea somehow that the Flotilla is designed to support Hamas, which is exactly what the Israeli government say, is nonsense. It is about highlighting to the world, in a way where governments have failed, that Israel occupies Gaza, and more importantly continues to persecute people collectively, which is illegal under international law for that very reason.

Speaking on Israel’s threat to journalists taking part in the Flotilla to cover the story that they could have their equipment seized and receive a ten year ban on entering Israel:

I think the issue of the journalists being threatened is very clear. It is because they are petrified of a different narrative emerging. Last year when there were countless activists who were filming what happened, all the equipment was taken and destroyed, or at least not given back, and the idea this time is they only want to have one narrative which is that Israel has the right to board the ships. You shouldn’t forget one final thing, Israel boarded the ships last year in international waters, so which is essentially an act of piracy.

Israel has reversed the ham-fisted policy of banning reporters but it’s the sign of a Zionist state that only knows how to threaten (here’s yet another recent example of an Israeli hoax, this time a gay man supposedly opposing the flotilla, that has turned into a complete Israeli PR debacle).

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The real threat of allowing flotilla boats into Gaza

A good Haaretz editorial:

The term “flotilla” is understood in Israel as a declaration of war. This is the case with respect to the latest Gaza-bound flotilla, just as it was with the one that set off from Turkey in May 2010. Furthermore, due to unstable relations with Turkey, Israel is still feeling the repercussions of its deadly raid on that maritime convoy.

The latest flotilla, which has already begun heading toward the Gaza Strip and is scheduled to reach its shores Thursday, will apparently be far larger than the previous one. It will include about a dozen ships holding some 500 activists, along with food and medicine that is considered to be humanitarian aid for Gazans.

At first glance, there does not appear to be a practical reason to send the aid, since in the wake of the 2010 flotilla, Israel was compelled to lift many restrictions it had put in place as part of its brutal blockade, and Egypt has decided to open the Rafah crossing to civilians. Moreover, Israel has even offered to transfer the aid shipment to Gaza, as long as the ships don’t dock there.

At best, the flotilla’s contribution to lifting the blockade is symbolic, in that it reminds the world that Israel’s closure policy is still partially in effect, and that the population of Gaza remains under occupation. But the Israeli government imputes far greater significance to symbols than it does to wise policy. The government seems to be as frightened of the flotilla as one would think it would be of an attack by an armed naval fleet. It is preparing to keep the ships from reaching the Gaza coast as though it were preparing to fight an enemy seeking to infringe on Israeli sovereignty.

It appears that even though a year has passed since the first flotilla fiasco, Israel is showing that it has learned just one lesson: the military lesson. As though better military preparation or training for specific scenarios are what will save Israel’s honor. The country is not willing to give up a display of power, thereby no doubt contributing to inflating the flotilla’s importance.

Now trying to find ways to reconcile with Turkey, Israel would do well to avoid simultaneously finding new means to engage in conflict with countries whose activists will be on the Gaza-bound ships. A less fearful country would certainly have offered even to go as far as escorting the flotilla to the Gaza coast.

From Israel, we can at least demand that it let the flotilla get through to the Gaza Strip without once again endangering the country’s position in the world.

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Hands up who knows the enemies in the false “war on error”?

Robert Fisk on the “terrorists” so needed by the West to assist them in their own “war on terror”:

If you held a mirror up to the vast “anti-terrorism” conference in Tehran this weekend – the anti-Iranian version of terrorism, of course – you would see three men sitting down in private to discuss what happens when the US and its Nato partners stage their final retreat from Afghanistan.

Messieurs Ahmadinejad of Iran, Karzai of Afghanistan and Zardari of Pakistan – all jolly presidents sharing the stage with Talabani of Iraq, Rahmon of Tajikistan and (speak it in hushed tones), that elderly wanted man, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan – spent time discussing how all would react when the West ends its adventure in the graveyard of Empires.

Ironies were legion. The modern-day descendant of the Persian empire, so often accused by America of helping the “terrorists” of Iraq to kill US troops, is none too keen on the “terrorists” of the Taliban – at the very moment when the Americans are keen to talk to the very same Taliban so that they can high-tail it out of Afghanistan.

The flamboyantly cowled President Hamid Karzai, whose speech to conference delegates lasted a mere four anodyne minutes – anyone can condemn “terrorism” of any variety in that amount of time – is keen to have Iran help reconstruct his country, which was supposed to be what the Americans and the Brits and everyone else who loved democracy were keen to do after the Taliban’s brief defeat in 2001.

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What Israel is threatening against anybody reporting on Gaza flotilla

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Privatisation is just the way to make us all happier

David Mitchell writes in the London Observer in a paean to the private sector, a bunch of caring individuals who just want the rest of us to enjoy better and more efficient services:

The private sector is amazing, isn’t it? It’s easily the best sector. Apart from the voluntary sector, of course, which is inspiring and humbling and should give us all pause. But obviously, it’s not really a proper sector. By which I mean it’s vital – perhaps even more vital than the others – in just the same way that the Paralympics is perhaps more important than the Olympics.

But out of the two other sectors – which I’m certainly not going to call “the main two sectors” because that’s, I think, a really unimaginative way of looking at the vital voluntary sector – the private one has got to be the best, right? It’s like the free west, while the public sector is the Soviet Union but without the nuclear threat: all drab suits, grey offices, unattractive women and queues. You get a sense of concrete and drizzle, flares and puddles, all very 70s, whereas the private sector is dynamic and 80s. It’s much more Dynasty, more Howards’ Way, more using-proper-nouns-as-adjectives. It’s fax machines and swimming pools, shoulder pads and telling people where to stick it, in both professional and sexual contexts.

Yes, people who work in the private sector must look at public sector workers in disbelief. How did you end up there, they must think. What personality cocktail of laziness, self-loathing and intractable mediocrity would have led you to try to make your fortune (your incredibly modest fortune, albeit with overgenerous pension provision made possible only by tying the hands of enterprise) in that gloomy bureaucratic Mariana trench, far from the nourishing rays of the profit motive? How did the sorting hat of fate come to put you in life’s Hufflepuff (but with a touch of Slytherin thrown in when it comes to local government contracts)?

Those are the sort of questions that Carl Lygo, the chief executive of BPP, Britain’s only run-for-profit university, must have to bite his tongue to stop himself asking when talking to other educators. And he has been talking to them: he’s been discussing the possibility of running the business side of at least 10 publicly funded universities, going into “partnership” with them. They’d still make all the academic decisions, while BPP would deal with the admin. But isn’t this an uneven partnership? It lacks a shared aim. One half wants to run a good university, the other wants to make money. If a marriage is a partnership, isn’t this like getting hitched to a hooker?

Or maybe it’s just paying for goods and services. As Lygo says: “Most universities are running at high costs and don’t properly utilise their buildings. The private sector is better at procurement, because they are keener at negotiating better prices.” That’s the key argument in favour of outsourcing and subcontracting and other expressions for an institution giving up roles it was constituted to fulfil: the public sector is so congenitally wasteful that a private company will always be able to undercut it – that the inherent public-sector inefficiency equates to more than the profit the subcontractor takes.

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New New York Times editor on her Jewish identity

This story in the Jewish Forward highlights once again the centrality of liberal Judaism and Zionism to modern life in the US. It’s inconceivable that an Arab, let alone a Palestinian, would be appointed top editor at the Times. Jewish privilege is now entirely ensconced in elite society and yet still many Jews claim Jews and Israel are eternal victims. Such comments are made while sipping champagne at an opening at New York’s Kennedy Centre:

That Jill Abramson, the next executive editor of The New York Times, is Jewish does not distinguish her from many in the long line of top editors in whose footsteps she follows. Including her, four of the paper’s last six executive editors have been Jewish.

Yet, as the country’s most influential newspaper faces the critical challenge of surviving the reinvention of modern journalism, its leadership has chosen a top editor who is radically different from her predecessors in ways obvious (she is a woman) and subtle (she is actually kind of hip).

Abramson’s own Jewish identity is of a very particular kind. In an early version of the Times’ own story on her promotion, Abramson declared that “the Times substituted for religion” in her childhood home — a quip that drew fire from some right-wing commentators. But in fact, her upbringing was typically Jewish, in an Upper West Side-in-the-’60s sort of way. The first year that family members decided to light a menorah on Hanukkah, the candles singed their Christmas tree.

Both of Abramson’s parents were born into upper middle-class Jewish families in Manhattan. Norman Abramson ran a family textile-importing firm called Irish Loom Associates; his wife, Dovie, was a housewife, but one who had an undergraduate degree from Barnard College and who had begun but not completed a master’s in political science at Columbia University.

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Non-violence training in Athens for 2nd Gaza flotilla

Nonviolence training from Terje Carlsson & Bo Harringer on Vimeo.

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Alice Walker on why Gaza Flotilla 2 is essential

Foreign Policy: Why are you taking part in the flotilla mission?

Alice Walker: In 2009, I was in Gaza, just after Operation Cast Lead, and I saw the incredible damage and devastation. I have a good understanding of what’s on the ground there and how the water system was destroyed and the sewage system. I saw that the ministries had been bombed, and the hospitals had been bombed, and the schools. I sat for a good part of a morning in the rubble of the American school, and it just was so painful because we as Americans pay so much of our taxes for this kind of weaponry that was used. On a more sort of mature grandmotherly level I feel that as an elder it is up to me and others like me — other elders, other mature adults — to look at situations like this and bring to them whatever understanding and wisdom we might have gained in our fairly long lifetimes, witnessing and being a part of struggles against oppression.

FP: How long have you been involved in Palestinian activism? What drew you to it?

AW: It started with the Six Day War in 1967. That happened shortly after my wedding to a Jewish law student. And we were very happy because we thought Israel was right to try to defend itself by pre-emptively striking against Egypt. We didn’t realize any of the real history of that area. So, that was my beginning of being interested in what was going on and watching what was happening. Even at that time, I said to my young husband, well, they shouldn’t take that land, because it’s actually not their land. This just seemed so unjust to me. It just seemed so wrong. It’s really unjust because in America we think about Israel in mythical terms. And most of us have grown up with the Bible. So we think that we are sort of akin to these people and whatever they’re saying must be true — their God is giving them land and that is just the reality. But actually the land had people living on it. The people were in their own homes, their own towns and cities. So, the battle has been about them trying to reclaim what was taken from them. It’s important, when we have some new understanding — especially adults and mature adults — we must, I think, take some action so that younger people will have a better understanding of what they are seeing in the world.

FP: Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said the stated goal of “humanitarian assistance” was a false pretext for your mission — and it’s actually designed to serve an extremist political agenda, and that many of the groups participating in the mission maintain ties with extremist and terrorist organizations, including Hamas. Your reaction?

AW: I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves. If you go to Gaza and see some of the bombs — what’s left of the bombs that were dropped — and the general destruction, you would have to say, yeah, it’s terrorism. When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism. So these countries are terrorist countries.

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This is what US aid brought Egypt

Nothing:

Ninety percent of the total US$6 billion in USAID granted to Egypt over the past 30 years has been misused, while it is unknown where the rest was spent, a report by the Economic Studies Center revealed. USAID is a US agency whose primary purpose is to distribute civilian foreign aid.

The report said the grants were originally directed to support democracy and human rights, but were spent on salaries of foreign consultants, parties and conferences.

The center based its findings on reports by the USAID and the Egyptian Central Auditing Organization.

It also said that USAID gave the government $50 million to spend on education, of which $10 million were spent on scholarships for Egyptians to study in the United States.

The center requested the cabinet to investigate the disappearance of those funds, yet the cabinet said the information mentioned in the report was inaccurate.

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Bin Laden wanted to re-brand his little firm

Fascinating, if true:

As Osama bin Laden watched his terrorist organization get picked apart, he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem. His group was killing too many Muslims and that was bad for business. The West was winning the public relations fight. All his old comrades were dead and he barely knew their replacements.

Faced with these challenges, bin Laden, who hated the United States and decried capitalism, considered a most American of business strategies. Like Blackwater, ValuJet and Philip Morris, perhaps what al-Qaida really needed was a fresh start under a new name.

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group’s full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word “jihad,” bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to “claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam.” Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

The letter, which was undated, was discovered among bin Laden’s recent writings. Navy SEALs stormed his compound and killed him before any name change could be made. The letter was described by senior administration, national security and other U.S. officials only on condition of anonymity because the materials are sensitive. The documents portray bin Laden as a terrorist chief executive, struggling to sell holy war for a company in crisis.

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