A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

As Chomsky arrives in Sydney, here’s why his voice is so crucial

Posted: 31 Oct 2011


This year’s winner of the Sydney Peace Prize is soon to dazzle Australian audiences with thoughts so rarely expressed in the mainstream media. Take this:


Rupert worries that Stalin is reborn in NYC

Posted: 31 Oct 2011

While some in the Western media are accurately assessing the validity of the global Occupy movement, Murdoch’s New York Post takes the low road to typical sleaze (though with unintentional comedy):

Some 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters saw red yesterday — giving an enthusiastic welcome to a genuine communist.

Alex Callinicos, a professor of European Studies at Kings College in London, announced to his rapt audience, “I am a Marxist.’’

Asked if the upcoming revolution can be non-violent, he parroted the party line of the demonstrators, who call themselves the 99 percent of Americans lined up against the “1 percent’’ with power and money.

He said violence could be avoided only if the “1 percent accept the decisions of the 99 percent,’’ which he predicted would never happen.

Glenn Greenwald on political and business elites existing above the law

Posted: 31 Oct 2011


Maybe Anonymous can defeat Mexican drug thugs

Posted: 31 Oct 2011

Truly a story for the modern age, with web gurus pitted against drug lords:

An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate’s associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates’ businesses.

The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality.

“You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him,” says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.

“We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession,” says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.

“It won’t be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located,” says the man, who underlines the group’s international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.

He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country’s biggest fist in the drug war.

“We demand his release,” says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. “If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5.”

The Commonwealth needs relevance bypass

Posted: 30 Oct 2011

John Kampfner is spot on in the Guardian last weekend:

The death knell of the Commonwealth has been sounded for as long as there have been summits. By accident rather than design, this anachronistic gathering of 54 states may actually say more about the state of global priorities than the participants realise. And the direction of travel is grim.

At their meeting in Perth over the weekend, the leaders rejected many of the recommendations of a report by a team of the great and good, the eminent persons group (EPG), designed to move the Commonwealth’s democratic laggards towards basic norms.

In search of a lowest-common-denominator consensus, the summit accepted some less controversial ideas, such as a charter. The idea of a human rights commissioner, however, proved too much. “There have been a few blips like in any part of the world but I don’t think it demanded a commissioner,” noted Suruj Rambachan, the foreign minister of Trinidad. Under pressure from South Africa and other states, the summit even refused to publish the EPG’s report.

The former prime minister of Malaysia, who chaired the EPG, said the summit would be remembered as a failure. Malcolm Rifkind, the former UK foreign secretary, described the unwillingness to publish the report as a disgrace. This is hardly surprising, as the Commonwealth comprises a veritable who’s who of governments with dubious human rights records – from Nigeria, Cameroon and Rwanda to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore.

The prospect of progress at the next gathering in two years’ time – hosted in, of all places, Sri Lanka – is even more remote. The Colombo government denounces any attempt to call it to account for human rights abuses. In front of their Commonwealth colleagues the Sri Lankans dismissed a UN-commissioned report on massacres against the Tamils as “a travesty of justice and preposterous”. The Canadians, meanwhile, are threatening to boycott the 2013 heads of government meeting in protest.

The Commonwealth’s weakness is specific to its history and its constitution. Any whiff of British lecturing is given short shrift; at the same time, all major decisions have to be taken by consensus, allowing recalcitrant countries to stop changes in their tracks. The only sanction, and one used rarely, is expulsion.

But the problem is far bigger than the institution. It is one that has been exercising policymakers for years. What is the relationship between human rights and economic development? To what degree do they represent western or universal values? In my book, Freedom for Sale, I argued that the trade-off between liberty and prosperity had become more alluring than ever. Regimes that can satisfy what I call the “private freedoms” – such as travelling and making money – can quite easily ensure that citizens leave the public space to them. Singapore is the model in microcosm; China is rolling it out on a far bigger scale, with Russia and others not far behind. Economic growth is the motor; consumerism is the anaesthetic for the brain.

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