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.

Australia’s treatment of indigenous population akin to apartheid

My weekly Guardian column is published today:

Aboriginal levels of incarceration in Australian prisons have never been higher. In fact, country-wide rates of imprisonment are worse per capita for the black population than during apartheid South Africa. These numbers are also largely ignored. This silence, which stretches across the country only to reach the highest levels of the political and media elites, is arguably Australia’s greatest outrage, and a stain on our projected global image as an egalitarian state with justice for all.

Over 40% of all adult Western Australian prisoners are Aboriginal, and deaths behind bars remain too common. During a visit to Western Australia this week, I heard first-hand the reality of these failed policies, and the ways in which politicians in both the Labor and Liberal parties wilfully ignore measured recommendations to treat Aboriginal men and women as equals.

The recent apology in Perth’s parliament house for Aboriginal man John Pat, whose death in 1983 was one of the reasons behind the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, was a welcome but far too late acknowledgment that the state and its authorities have an incurable racism problem.

This is not an issue about the past, like the Stolen Generations or the White Australia policy, but a living and breathing example of codified bigotry. Those stories go uncovered, with editors thinking the public don’t care or are sick of hearing about Aboriginal disadvantage. The vast bulk of the coverage in our press features stereotyping that reinforces images of Indigenous dysfunction. I’m not questioning the vast problems that exist – including substance abuse and domestic violence – but the lazy ways in which reporters cover it. I’ve seen rampant alcoholism amongst young Aboriginal men in Derby, a few hours from Broome, and it’s not these faces and stories we hear about when political leaders and their media courtiers praise the “fair go” mentality in Australia. It’s true if you have power or access. Most do not.

So we look away. We don’t want to know.

Our racist history isn’t to be worn like a badge of white guilt, though Aboriginal people deserve far more than our soothing words. I’m thinking of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s formal apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, which while important, provided no compensation for past losses and occurred at the same time his government was deepening the Northern Territory Intervention – treating Indigenous people as different, worthy of discrimination and racism.

Years on from this policy, there’s no evidence to show any progresstowards greater education or health care outcomes. And yet prime minister Tony Abbott’s government, after Labor’s boosting of the Intervention policy, is set to expand it. This is bi-partisan extreme ideology dressed up as compassion.

Labor MP Ben Wyatt told the West Australian parliament on 25 September this year, during his apology to John Pat, that, “as far as justice for the Aboriginal community goes, nothing has changed [since the Royal Commission in 1993] because we have still got horrific incarceration rates”. Mavis Pat, John Pat’s mother, told ABC News that, “me and my people have tolerated so much since 1788, and I’m still going through what my old people went through. Even today we still get the same treatment now and again by specific police, some are good and some are bad, and we’re going to have to accept that.”

This lack of justice isn’t an accident; policing zeroes in on Aboriginal men and women for largely minor infractions. It’s a daily occurrence, and it is targeted. As just one example of constant harassment by authorities of Indigenous people, Marc Newhouse, the Perth-based chair of Deaths in Custody Watch Committee in Western Australia, told me that West Australian police routinely target Aboriginal funerals to impound cars, citing legal breaches, instead of regularly engaging with elders to address any perceived or real problems. This is how Aboriginality is criminalised when white citizens aren’t equally chased.

The facts speak for themselves. In May, The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) released a study that found a doubling of Aboriginal Australians in jail and a rise in deaths in custody in the last five years. The vast bulk of the Royal Commission recommendations have been ignored. About 30,000 people are behind bars and Aboriginal prisoners form a quarter of the prison population yet only around 3% of the general population.

Newhouse tells me that “prison should be a last resort but is too often the first port of call” for the court and government, adding that “we need to address the root causes, social, political and cultural, but instead racism is ubiquitous across the state.”

Newhouse, who grew up under apartheid South Africa and worked with former black prisoners to gain voting rights after transition to democracy in 1994, sees worrying parallels between his former homeland and Australia. “We are pathologising the problem”, he says, “and media-favourite Indigenous leaders such as Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton are going after welfare dependency and not the bigger picture, the structural issues.” He highlights the push for ever-greater privatisation of prisons by corporations such as Serco, and the deafening silence on the side of politicians.

I was surprised to find that even former newspaper editor of The West newspaper and presenter on Perth’s 6PR radio, Paul Murray, agrees with me that free marketeers such as Serco may be a threat to democracy. These corporations shouldn’t under-estimate public anger when they fail to deliver what taxpayers are expecting (as evidenced by Serco inadequacies in Western Australia).

The mass privatisation agenda in Western Australia, led by Liberal Premier Colin Barnett, is the strongest in the country and provides a model for the Abbott government’s upcoming fire-sale of public assets. The record in the West, including with Indigenous prisoners, shows that privately-owned assets are routinely delivering hefty profits to share-holders and not the best care for inmates because the bottom line depends on delivering the least amount of support.

With grim irony, Western Australia is suffering from prison over-crowding, leading to violence and other social ills, and yet the offered solutions by governments and business lobby groups is more outsourcing. This is worse than a faulty band-aid; it’s akin to treating a wounded person with a battle axe because the bleeding is so serious.

Making a profit from ever-greater Indigenous incarceration is the ugly side of vulture capitalism. But there are alternatives, such as citizen juries and a shift towards “smart on crime” instead of “tough on crime” initiatives. Newhouse says that justice re-investment is one model that should be examined – his organisation is leading a Build Communities Not Prisons campaign.

Meanwhile, in a bid to save $500,000, the West Australian state wants to restrict permission for prisoners to attend funerals. This deeply affects Aboriginal people who often have to travel large distances to mourn their dead. Another day, and another headline that will be soon forgotten. It doesn’t have to be this way. Until it changes, Australia has no right to call itself a civilised democracy.

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