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A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


When corporate entities seduce the not-for-profit sector

Posted: 08 Aug 2011

Shameful behaviour in Britain that shows the collusion between privatised power and those tasked to care for the most vulnerable (via Open Democracy):

Back in March, almost a year after the government had promised to end what Nick Clegg called the “shameful practice” of locking up asylum seeking families in conditions known to harm their mental health, Barnardo’s stunned children’s advocates by revealing that it had agreed to work with the UK Border Agency and security giant G4S at the new immigration detention centre for families with children at Pease Pottage near Gatwick that’s opening later this Summer.

Frances Webber, vice chair of the Institute of Race Relations, accused Barnardo’s — Britain’s biggest children’s charity — of providing “a cloak of legitimacy to the continued detention of children”. Former children’s commissioner for England and internationally renowned paediatrican Sir Al Aynsley-Green wrote in OurKingdom that this “worrying development” sparked the question: “are the big children’s organisations effective advocates for children, or are they friends of government?

Stung by such criticism Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie last month made comments widely reported as atough-talking “ultimatum” to UKBA, saying the charity would pull out of the working partnership if children and families were not treated properly. But can we trust Barnardo’s to stand up to the government?

We, being students and members of SOAS Detainee Support who visit immigration detainees and offer them support, have campaigned hard against child detention. In May last year we picketed G4S’s annual meeting, argued with the company’s chief executive Nick Buckles (who, by the way, is paid almost £5000 every day), and landed a picture in the Daily Telegraph’s city pages. In June last year, we ran the Release Carnival, bringing together campaigners and child refugees to march on Downing Street.

Breaking news; Obama ain’t closing Guantanamo anytime soon

Posted: 08 Aug 2011


Good on Amnesty for running this campaign. And some people are upset?

Israel’s elephant in the room during massive protests; occupation

Posted: 07 Aug 2011


Israeli Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman’s blatant racism

Posted: 07 Aug 2011


Don’t tell me the Zionist lobby hasn’t bought the entire US Congress

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

There is no other country on Earth that requires such constant tending and obedience:

Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday.

The Democratic delegation will be followed by two Republican ones, bringing a total of 55 Republicans.

Most of the representatives are freshmen congressmen, with 47 – or fully half of the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010 – making the trip.

For many of them, this will be their first trip to Israel.

The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) will head the Democratic delegation, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will lead one of the Republican groups.

Hoyer, in a statement, said he looked forward to “returning to Israel to continue learning firsthand about the evolving security situation in the Middle East, the deep challenges facing Israel, and the role the US can play in the region during this time of uncertainty.

I’m pleased members of Congress have this opportunity to study American interests in the Middle East and gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.”

The delegation will visit both Israel and the West Bank, and is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Among those on the delegation arriving Monday are Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Ohio’s Betty Sutton, and Pennsylvania’s Mark Critz.

In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings. Like the congressmen, they will also go to Ramallah, for a meeting with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Among the countries represented on the trip are Albania, Barbados, Belize, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Macedonia, St. Lucia and Uganda.

Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.

When politicians and journalists dance incestuously

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

My following book review appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Sun Herald newspaper:

Lindsay Tanner
(Scribe, $32.95)

“Australia and its people deserve much better than the carefully scripted play-acting that now dominates our nation’s politics.” So begins former ALP minister Lindsay Tanner’s timely examination of the toxic relationship between corporatised media and its political cousins. Politics is about the art of the possible, as long as it’s short, entertaining and doesn’t offend any major interests; Tanner laments these undeniable modern facts.

Of course, Tanner is hardly a disinterested observer and he (perhaps too lightly) critiques himself and the Labor Party for their various sins of omission, avoidance of tough decisions and obsessing over the 24/7 news cycle.

Tanner targets the Murdoch press, Fairfax empire and ABC for often ignoring policy details and instead running with humorous commentary. Such frivolous writings (like seemingly endless panel shows on TV) are relatively cheap to produce, take little effort apart from witty insights and contribute to the carnival feeling of modern politics. It’s no wonder so few members of the public express respect for the mainstream media or politicians; elite incestuousness results in an unhealthy cosiness between political advisers and press gallery reporters.

“Exclusives” are often simply sanctioned leaks to push the day’s agenda. Tanner is right to despair at this kind of debasement of democracy.

And yet so few politicians take on the corporate press, afraid of the penalty. When Greens leader Bob Brown, during a press conference on May 19, challenged the Murdoch papers on their vigorous campaign against the proposed carbon tax, News Limited journalists reacted with comical defensiveness. Tanner would surely congratulate Brown for having the temerity to push back against an agenda that solely favours business interests at the expense of average voters (not that it’s framed that way).

Tanner worries that “civil sensibility” is dying with the rise of “infotainment” but it’s a potentially dangerous argument. Before the internet age, the mainstream media solely decided which voices were heard and which perspectives shunned. In the new media age, ideas and thoughts can be transmitted often without the filter of the mainstream and gatekeepers worry they can no longer entirely control the message. Tanner seems ambivalent about this development but real civil society proponents would welcome it.

The former politician is on firmer ground when he critiques and condemns the horse-race nature of modern politics. Who’s up and who’s down in the polls is a constant headline of front-page stories and lead news on ABC radio. It’s arguable whether such information really contributes anything significant to public debate except meaningless questions by journalists to a prime minister and opposition leader about their feelings over the latest numbers. Tanner wonders if many in the media are “simply lazy and cynical”, led by the agenda of a corporate boss. With Australia having the most tightly controlled print media environment in the Western world, he clearly has a point.

“After decades of amateurism, politics is rapidly catching up with the advertising industry,” Tanner writes. “The manipulation of our psychological characteristics that has been central to advertising for decades is now coming to the fore in politics.” Naturally, politics has always been about selling a message, person or legal bribe, and at least in the 21st century most people can both see past the spin and don’t accept what they’re told by journalists or politicians. That is surely a blessing in disguise.

This book isn’t full of possible solutions to the sideshow problem. Tanner wonders if compulsory voting should be abolished (he’s a reluctant supporter) and about the removal of journalists from Canberra’s press gallery (he believes the media’s myopia would change little) and increased government funding for quality media (he argues this could bring more diverse perspectives to the fore).

Overall, Tanner’s thesis is dire. He has little faith in his former parliamentary colleagues being interested or willing to break out of a system that rewards sound bites over substance. He sees little appetite in the corporate press for reform; it is, after all, press conferences where journalists routinely ask politicians for their views on any issue of the day, whether it’s relevant for a prime minister to comment or not. But a quote is sought and usually given.

If Tanner’s intention behind this book is to highlight the growing disparity between rhetoric and reality in the Australian political landscape and the contempt shown by media elites towards the general public, he has mostly succeeded.

Anything to distract from crimes in Palestine; Australia to make BDS illegal?

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

This story is almost comical but shows the desperation of the establishment in Australia to silence any serious, legitimate and legal civil disobedience against Israel crimes. Ignore the shameful spin; this has nothing to do with targeting Jewish businessesbecause they’re Jewish; when the “peace process” fails, Israel must pay a price for occupying the Palestinians for decades:

Anti-Israel activists face investigation for alleged secondary boycotts under landmark attempts by the Baillieu government to curb the global campaign to target companies and businesses linked to the Jewish nation.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate anti-Israeli campaigners who have joined the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group to determine if they should be prosecuted for threatening stores with Israeli ownership or connections.

The ACCC has been asked to consider injunctive relief and damages after 19 people were arrested following an ugly clash between police and protesters outside the Max Brenner store in Melbourne’s CBD on July 1.

The protesters allegedly blocked potential customers from entering the store as part of an “orchestrated campaign” to impose what the government believes is a secondary boycott on the chocolate and coffee store.
A similar action is being planned against a Max Brenner store in Brisbane on August 27.

Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government.

Mr O’Brien singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Victoria Police used anti-riot tactics to make the arrests and to open up the area outside the Melbourne store amid shouts of “shame”, “free, free Palestine” and “this is a police state”. Several amateur videos of the altercation have been posted online.

Mr O’Brien told The Australian it was unacceptable to single out any businesses but that it was especially concerning given the 20th-century history behind attacks on Jewish businesses.

“I am concerned that the persons and organisations who caused these disturbances may have engaged in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage to Max Brenner’s business,” he said.

“I am hopeful that I will receive a swift response from the ACCC in relation to the matters that I have raised.”

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