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.

Zionist lobby happy to play dirty to defend apartheid Israel

At some point, and it will come soon, blind backers of Israel will be forced to acknowledge the horrific human rights abuses in their beloved homeland. But in the meantime they prefer to behave like bullies, trying to silence any voices that challenge Israel. Palestine? Don’t even think about such dirty things.

This is a revealing Al Jazeera investigation that uncovers some predictably under-hand tactics in the US:

Over the past year, I have obtained public records that shed light on how the Israel lobby works on US campuses. At UC Berkeley, my alma mater, as well as at UC Hastings School of Law, the documents reveal how the Israel lobby pressures university administrators to interfere with campus activity – both academic and political – that addresses Israel’s policies towards and treatment of the Palestinian people.

My requests were made in the shadow of two high-profile backlash campaigns to counter events at UC Berkeley and UC Hastings School of Law. In March 2011, esteemed legal academics and practitioners attended a conference called “Litigating Palestine” at UC Hastings School of Law.

On the eve of the conference, the UC Hastings Board of Directors voted in a closed emergency meeting to withdraw its sponsorship of the event without explanation. Though the conference was permitted to proceed, the Dean of the Law School was asked not to give opening remarks as planned.

A year earlier, a historic decision by UC Berkeley’s student government to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights violations and war crimes and occupation was overturned in response to similar pressure. Though the bill initially passed with a 16-4 majority, the student body president vetoed it and, after weeks of intense lobbying, the student senate was one vote short of overcoming the veto.

Though the fact of lobby pressure is a matter of common knowledge, it requires demystification. The records I obtained tend to reveal some of the ways in which the lobby actually applies its pressure. They contain valuable lessons for those who wish to defeat it. I draw several hypotheses from these documents.

Foremost among them is the proposition that the lobby’s influence stems primarily from the fact that, despite public criticism, it is largely uncontested by organised campaigns. Subject to intense pressure, university administrators often make decisions they do not like because they feel they have no other choice. 

In hundreds of pages I obtained from UC Berkeley, UC office of the president, and UC Hastings School of Law, I saw communications between the highest level university administrators – people who students can rarely meet or address – and lobbyists in Washington DC at the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organisation of America, and more.

Yet not a single letter came to these administrators on issues like UC Berkeley’s divestment campaign or the UC Hastings’ conference from similarly high-profile national community organisations like the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute, the Council for American-Islamic Relations, or the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

As a result, university administrators were presented with a one-sided view and the impression that the only organised feedback was negative. In both cases, they ultimately adopted the view in front of them, caving into pressure on policy decisions without making an effort to solicit the input of other groups. Where issues were clearly important not only to Jews but also to Arabs, Muslims, and others, administrators only took into consideration the position represented by the Israel lobby. But there is no rational reason why one group’s perspective should be privileged over the others.

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Australia is world leader in terrorising refugees with Serco

This feature in the New York Times yesterday is devastating; a thorough examination of the realities in Australia, America and Britain of using unaccountably thuggish firms, such as Serco, to imprison asylum seekers while governments get “tough” for a public allegedly baying for blood and secure borders.

It’s all a sham, of course, with no threats to territorial integrity but gee, isn’t it fun to attack the most vulnerable in society? Private companies will always be happy to fill the breach and make a killing in the process:

The men showed up in a small town in Australia’s outback early last year, offering top dollar for all available lodgings. Within days, their company, Serco, was flying in recruits from as far away as London, and busing them from trailers to work 12-hour shifts as guards in a remote camp where immigrants seeking asylum are indefinitely detained.

It was just a small part of a pattern on three continents where a handful of multinational security companies have been turning crackdowns on immigration into a growing global industry.

Especially in Britain, the United States and Australia, governments of different stripes have increasingly looked to such companies to expand detention and show voters they are enforcing tougher immigration laws.

Some of the companies are huge — one is among the largest private employers in the world — and they say they are meeting demand faster and less expensively than the public sector could.

But the ballooning of privatized detention has been accompanied by scathing inspection reports, lawsuits and the documentation of widespread abuse and neglect, sometimes lethal. Human rights groups say detention has neither worked as a deterrent nor speeded deportation, as governments contend, and some worry about the creation of a “detention-industrial complex” with a momentum of its own.

“They’re very good at the glossy brochure,” said Kaye Bernard, general secretary of the union of detention workers on the Australian territory of Christmas Island, where riots erupted this year between asylum seekers and guards. “On the ground, it’s almost laughable, the chaos and the inability to function.”

No country has more completely outsourced immigration enforcement, with more troubled results, than Australia. Under unusually severe mandatory detention laws, the system has been run by a succession of three publicly traded companies since 1998. All three are now major players in the international business of locking up and transporting unwanted foreigners.

The first, the Florida-based prison company GEO Group, lost its Australia contract in 2003 amid a commission’s findings that detained children were subjected to cruel treatment. An Australian government audit reported that the contract had not delivered “value-for-money.” In the United States, GEO controls 7,000 of 32,000 detention beds.

The second company, G4S, an Anglo-Danish security conglomerate with more than 600,000 employees in 125 countries, was faulted for lethal neglect and abusive use of solitary confinement in Australia. By the middle of the past decade, after refugee children had sewed their lips together during hunger strikes in camps like Woomera and Curtin, and government commissions discovered that Australian citizens and legal residents were being wrongly detained and deported, protests pushed the Liberal Party government to dismantle some aspects of the system.

But after promising to return the work to the public sector, a Labor government awarded a five-year, $370 million contract to Serco in 2009. The value of the contract has since soared beyond $756 million as detention sites quadrupled, to 24, and the number of detainees ballooned to 6,700 from 1,000.

The camp that Serco took over in the Australian outback, the Curtin Immigration Detention Center, had also been shut down amid riots and hunger strikes in 2002. But it was reopened last year to handle a surge of asylum seekers arriving by boat even as the government imposed a moratorium on processing their claims. Refurbished for 300 men, the camp sits on an old air force base and held more than 1,500 detainees in huts and tents behind an electrified fence. Serco guards likened the compound to a free-range chicken farm.

On March 28, a 19-year-old Afghan from a group persecuted by the Taliban hanged himself after 10 months’ detention — the system’s fifth suicide in seven months. A dozen guards, short of sleep and training, found themselves battling hundreds of grieving, angry detainees for the teenager’s body.

“We have lost control,” said Richard Harding, who served for a decade as Western Australia’s chief prison inspector. He is no enemy of privatization, and his praise for a Serco-run prison is posted on the company’s Web site. But he said Curtin today was emblematic of “a flawed arrangement that’s going to go wrong no matter who’s running it.”

“These big global companies, in relation to specific activities, are more powerful than the governments they’re dealing with,” he added.

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Cornel West on #OccupyWall Street

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Einstein believed in one-state solution in Middle East

A new book examines the historical record:

Albert Einstein thought and wrote extensively not just on the most difficult problems in physics, but also in politics. For the first time, this book collects his essays, interviews, and letters on the Middle East, Zionism, and Arab-Jewish relations. Many of these have never been published in English, and all of them contradict the popular image of Einstein as pro-Zionist. He was offered and refused the Presidency of Israel, but had he taken it, he may have said things the Zionists didn’t want to hear; he favored a non-religious state that would welcome Jew and Palestinian alike.One person’s letters, even Einstein’s, cannot resolve the crisis in the Middle East, but decades later, when horrors of the conflict in the Middle East are familiar to everyone, the reflections of one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers are a signpost, showing his commitment to social justice, understanding, and friendship between Jew and Arab.

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Those anti-Semitic Greens may well launch a pogrom next

Can you feel it, fellow Jews? The new Green Nazis are in town, talking all about Palestinian rights, as if those Arabs are under Israeli occupation. The shame of it all.

Yesterday’s Murdoch Australian continued its brave expose of a party that challenges individuals who accuse them of extremism and anti-Semitism:

Labor in NSW has accused the Greens of a “revenge attack” on a Jewish doctor who is being prosecuted by police because his anti-Greens posters did not include the name and address of the printer.

Luke Foley, Labor leader in the state’s upper house, yesterday called on the Greens to “drop their pursuit” of John Nemesh, who on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in Sydney’s Newtown Local Court to charges of distributing electoral matter “without particulars”.

Dr Nemesh, 55, distributed propaganda in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville during the state election campaign in March, attacking the Greens candidate Fiona Byrne for her anti-Israel comments.

“This is simply a revenge attack by the Greens Party, given they lost Marrickville because of their extreme campaign against the Jewish state of Israel,” Mr Foley said.

“This was a minor technical oversight by Dr Nemesh, who is new to political activism.”

Dr Nemesh, the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, fears his career as a medical specialist will be threatened if he is convicted.

More evidence emerged yesterday to support his claims the Greens are involved in his prosecution — claims senior figures in the party, including Ms Byrne, did not deny.

The police fact sheet in Dr Nemesh’s case, obtained by The Australian, says the charges originated when “members of the public who witnessed the signs being placed on the telegraph poles took photographs” of the ute Dr Nemesh and his supporters had rented.

“Copies of these photographs have been given to police,” it says.

Ms Byrne ceased to be mayor of Marrickville on Tuesday evening, deciding not to recontest after a rocky year in office dominated by the issue of a council boycott of Israel.

Even the day’s editorial chimed in, asking for leniency for a decent man who simply wanted to publicly challenge the new Nazis:

Rules is rules and society functions best when they are honoured. But every now and then there is such a clear case for the application of common sense it is hard to believe it has not taken precedence.

Exhibit one: the prosecution by NSW police of Jewish doctor John Nemesh for a minor breach of electoral rules — failing to put the name and address of the printer on an anti-Greens poster during the last NSW election campaign. Are the Greens behind this court action? They’re not saying, but common sense suggests that if they are not, they should come out and deny it. Fiona Byrne, the mayor of Marrickville at the time who was supporting a “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” campaign while also standing for the NSW parliament, clearly had cause not to like Dr Nemesh’s poster, which accused the Greens of racism and homophobia. Certainly, her support for BDS was a turn-off for voters in the March poll in which she was narrowly beaten. Did the posters make a difference? Who knows? But common sense would suggest that the absence of the printer’s name on those posters did not determine Ms Byrne’s fate. The integrity of our voting system depends on clear laws around transparency and accountability, but we ought not lose sight of the need for discretion and a balanced application of those rules.

Murdoch’s rag cheapens the meaning of real anti-Semitism by continuing to accuse backers of BDS of Jew hatred. It may sound appealing in the paranoid mind of neo-conservatives who really wish there were more wars launched against Muslims in the Arab world, but BDS is growing globally, for the very reason the paper largely ignores; occupation.

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Memo to shock doctrine freaks; create a crisis and privatise

Privatisation is the opium of the masses (well, a few men in suits who love the smell of burning unions in the morning).

Democracy Now! reports on moves to privatise the American postal service under the guise of improving efficiency but is this yet another move by corporate crack fiends to allegedly reduce costs and slash worker’s rights?

Postal workers and their supporters are holding events across the country to press their demand for repealing the benefit-funding mandate and push back against calls for their workplace to be privatized. For months, Americans have heard dire warnings about the impending collapse of the United States Postal Service due to fiscal insolvency and a drop in the use of mail service. In early September, the U.S. Postmaster General told Congress that the USPS is close to default and unveiled a series of radical proposals to cut costs by firing up to 120,000 workers, closing several thousand facilities, scaling back deliveries, and reducing benefits for retirees. But many postal workers say the much-touted crisis facing the U.S. Postal Service is not what it seems. They argue the greatest volume of mail handled in the 236-year history of the postal service was 2006. They also point to a 2006 law that forced the USPS to become the only agency required to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span, and say the law’s requirements account for 100 percent of the service’s $20 billion in losses over the previous four years, without which the service would have turned a profit. Last week, Republicans introduced legislation to overhaul the USPS in response to a bill proposed by Democrats that would refund a reported $6.9 billion in over-payments to the USPS retirement plan, offer early retirement and voluntary separation incentives, adjust retiree benefits prepayment requirements, and preserve employee protections set out in collective bargaining agreements.

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Another day and yet more misery caused by Serco

This week two media reports that highlight the mental anguish caused by the Australian government contracting Serco to “manage” its refugee crisis.

This story on Radio National Breakfast deals with the remote centre in Leonora, with woefully under-trained or untrained Serco staff having to deal with traumatised asylum seekers.

On ABC AM, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner slams the equally remote Curtin detention centre for its lack of appropriate facilities and support for detainees.

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Police brutality at #OccupyWallStreet

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Does a free society tolerate, even encourage, a robust exchange of ideas?

Mark Steyn on Free Speech at the IPA from Institute of Public Affairs on Vimeo.

Rupert Murdoch’s Andrew Bolt a free speech champion? I fear so. See here, here and here.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Bolt made so many mistakes in his piece against Aboriginal Australians, seemingly designed to denigrate them.

Should Western societies be willing to tolerate, if not endorse, racial bigotry, so long as violence isn’t advocated? Should we be able to offend people, of whatever persuasion?

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Disparate people are speaking globally and elites clueless to respond

Interesting report in the New York Times that highlights the growing global disenchantment with capitalism. A thinking Left would step in with alternative plans, so where are we in strength? But it always starts in the streets and here we are:

Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spainand Greece take over public squares across their countries.

Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”

Economics have been one driving force, with growing income inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.

But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change.

Young Israeli organizers repeatedly turned out gigantic crowds insisting that their political leaders, regardless of party, had been so thoroughly captured by security concerns, ultra-Orthodox groups and other special interests that they could no longer respond to the country’s middle class.

In the world’s largest democracy, Anna Hazare, an activist, starved himself publicly for 12 days until the Indian Parliament capitulated to some of his central demands on a proposed anticorruption measure to hold public officials accountable. “We elect the people’s representatives so they can solve our problems,” said Sarita Singh, 25, among the thousands who gathered each day at Ramlila Maidan, where monsoon rains turned the grounds to mud but protesters waved Indian flags and sang patriotic songs.

“But that is not actually happening. Corruption is ruling our country.”

Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.

In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.

The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.

“You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing,” said Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”

Yonatan Levi, 26, called the tent cities that sprang up in Israel “a beautiful anarchy.” There were leaderless discussion circles like Internet chat rooms, governed, he said, by “emoticon” hand gestures like crossed forearms to signal disagreement with the latest speaker, hands held up and wiggling in the air for agreement — the same hand signs used in public assemblies in Spain. There were free lessons and food, based on the Internet conviction that everything should be available without charge.

Someone had to step in, Mr. Levi said, because “the political system has abandoned its citizens.”

The rising disillusionment comes 20 years after what was celebrated as democratic capitalism’s final victory over communism and dictatorship.

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Never wholly trust foreign media not to be seduced by easy narratives

The Sydney premiere of this new documentary on East Timor, Breaking the News, will take place next week at the Antenna Film Festival:

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When the state wants to read my tweets if I slam official view

Of course, such plans are framed as a simple desire to be able to respond to questions or problems. And that may be sometimes true. But we should always be skeptical of major bodies looking to expand an ability to spy on average citizens:

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) has invited companies specializing in sentiment analysis the chance to bid on a contract, which will allow the regional bank to monitor what people are saying about the Fed online. The solutions designed by hopeful vendors will need to track reactions and opinions expressed by the public in real time.

More here from the always interesting “Tyler Durden“:

…The Fed has just entered the counterespionage era and will be monitoring everything written about it anywhere in the world. After all, why ask others to snitch for you and anger everyone as Obama found out the hard way, when you can pay others to create the supreme FIATtack WatchTM using money you yourself can print in unlimited amounts. And once the Internet is completely “transparent”, the Fed will next focus on telephone conversations, and finally will simply bug each and every otherwise “private” location in the world. Because very soon saying that “printing money is treason” will be treason, and such terrorist thoughts must be pre-crimed before they even occur.

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