A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


What the Left must understand about the #Occupy movement

04 Nov 2011

It’s not enough to simply talk about inequality and play within a system designed and rigged by the usual political players. The real Left must get far more imaginative. This is a good piece in Le Monde Diplomatique that demands more:

The Occupy Wall Street protests in the US are also directed against the Street’s representatives in the Democratic Party and the White House. The protesters probably don’t know that Socialists in France still consider Barack Obama exemplary, since, unlike President Sarkozy, he had the foresight to take action against banks. Is there a misunderstanding? Those who are unwilling or unable to attack the pillars of the neoliberal order (financialisation, globalisation of movements of capital and goods) are tempted to personalise the disaster, to attribute the crisis in capitalism to poor planning or mismanagement by their political opponents. In France it’s Sarkozy, in Italy Berlusconi, in Germany Merkel, who are to blame. And elsewhere?

Elsewhere, and not only in the US, political leaders long considered as models by the moderate left also face angry crowds. In Greece, the president of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, is pursuing a policy of extreme austerity: privatisations, cuts in the civil service, and delivering economic and social sovereignty to a ultra-neoliberal “troika” (1). The conduct of the Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian governments reminds us that the term “left” is now so debased that it is no longer associated with any specific political content.

The current French Socialist Party spokesman explains the impossible situation of European social democracy very clearly: in his new book Tourner la page, Benoît Hamon writes: “In the European Union, the European Socialist Party is historically associated, through the compromise linking it with Christian democracy, with the strategy of liberalising the internal market and the implications for social rights and public services. Socialist governments negotiated the austerity measures that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund wanted. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, opposition to the austerity measures is naturally directed against the IMF and the European Commission, but also against the socialist governments … Part of the European left no longer denies that it is necessary, like the European right, to sacrifice the welfare state in order to balance the budget and please the markets. … We have blocked the march of progress in several parts of the world. I cannot resign myself to this” (2).

The republic of the centre has institutions and media behind it, but it is tottering. The race is on between tough neoliberal authoritarianism and a break with capitalism. These still seem a long way off. But when the people cease to believe in a political game in which the dice are loaded, when they see that governments are stripped of their sovereignty, when they demand that banks be brought into line, when they mobilise without knowing where their anger will lead then the left is still very much alive.

This is our future; Mercenaries Are Us

04 Nov 2011

We are being warned in report after report and yet governments and corporations see private security as the ideal way to enforce and protect assets. And now the reality:

A UN expert group warned of an alarming resurgence in the use of mercenaries and a major expansion in military and security companies operating without regulation or accountability.

The five-member working group on the use of mercenaries said in a report to the UN General Assembly that mercenary forces in Libya and Ivory Coast reportedly were involved in committing serious human rights violations – as were some contractors for military and security companies working in Iraq and elsewhere.

Faiza Patel, who heads the working group, told a news conference on Tuesday that states should cooperate to eliminate the use of mercenaries and regulate the activities of military and security companies.

“Recent events in Africa clearly demonstrate that problems posed by mercenaries are still a live issue,” she said, adding that these hired foreign fighters are being used in new and novel ways.

Patel said there is considerable evidence that former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo used some 4,500 Liberian mercenaries to avoid leaving office after losing a 2010 election.

In Libya, she said, there were widespread reports that foreign fighters allegedly recruited from neighbouring African countries and Eastern Europe by Muammar Gaddafi’s government were used to crack down on demonstrations earlier this year.

“Mercenaries continue to be recruited and active in several parts of the world,” the report said. “Mercenary activities often constitute threats to national and even regional peace and security. They also have a serious impact on the right of peoples to self-determination and the enjoyment of human rights.”

Take this as an example of why we should be very concerned of unaccountable forces (often with immunity) running around post-conflict societies:

Oil companies in Iraq still need to factor in a security cost overhead as part of doing business in the country in order to protect their people and assets. John McCaffery, Managing Director of British private security firm Erinys, gives his guide to choosing the right provider.

The securing of personnel and assets is a complex amalgam of procedural, technical and physical methods that establishes layered security “architecture” with multiple zones.

If one considers the client and a project as the core of an onion then layers of skin that surround the core would represent the security “zones” that protect the client.

In relation to the cost of security, there is an old saying: “if you have a five dollar head, then wear a five dollar helmet” – in other words, if you value what you have you are willing to pay to protect it.

Israeli democracy rudely interrupted by torturing Arabs

04 Nov 2011

Away from all the bluster of a non-existent “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians, this is what matters; a brutal Zionist state:

Medical professionals in Israel are being accused of failing to document and report injuries caused by the ill-treatment and torture of detainees by security personnel in violation of their ethical code.

A report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), claims that medical staff are also failing to report suspicion of torture and ill-treatment, returning detainees to their interrogators and passing medical information to interrogators.

The report, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim, to be published later this month, is based on 100 cases of Palestinian detainees brought to PCAT since 2007. It says: “This report reveals significant evidence arousing the suspicion that many doctors ignore the complaints of their patients; that they allow Israeli Security Agency interrogators to use torture; approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total immunity for the torturers.”

Alleged ill-treatment of detainees, some of whose cases are detailed in the 61-page report, includes beatings, being held for long periods in stress positions, hands being tightly tied with plastic cuffs, sleep deprivation and threats. Israel denies torturing or ill-treating prisoners.

Doctors are failing to keep proper medical records of injuries caused during interrogations. The report cites “countless cases wherein individuals testified to injuries inflicted upon them during detention or in interrogation, and yet the medical record from the hospital or the prison service makes no mention of it.”

Without such evidence, the report says, it is very difficult to obtain legal redress for ill-treatment. “Effective documentation of the injury can be a decisive factor in initiating an investigation, in bringing the perpetrators to trial and in ensuring that justice is carried out.”

A medical report should include a description and photograph of the injury, the victim’s account of events and a record of treatment, the report says.

Among the cases it cites is “BA”, arrested in November 2010. In an affidavit he alleged he was beaten, held in stress positions and deprived of sleep. He said he told doctors of his ill-treatment and said he was suffering from severe arm, leg and back pain. His medical record shows that he was seen by doctors but the only comment noted is that the patient had no complaints and was in good overall condition.

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