Thursday, December 18, 2008


SAUDI ARABIA, from next year, is planning to incrementally, and completely, phase out domestic wheat production over the next several years due to fears over water supplies, introducing plans to halt wheat production by 2016 because of concerns about the desert kingdom's scarce water resources, according to a US government agency.

According to the Financial Times Saudi Arabia will begin reducing production annually by 12.5 per cent from next year and will use imports to bridge the domestic consumption gap. As the Saudis gouges the West with its oil exports, some might wonder why is this a matter for concern? But perhaps we should not allow ourselves even a tiny bit of smugness.

For one, world food prices are already skyrocketing. The price of wheat alone has doubled in the last year, partly due to vehicles now competing with people for 'fuel'; partly due to developing nations like China becoming wealthier and demanding both more food, and more energy intensive foodstuffs, like meat and dairy that use significantly more land, water and fossil fuel resources; partly due to climate change reducing yields through droughts and floods; partly due to the continuing trend of soil erosion and desertification; and partly due to reduced yields from the use of genetically modified crops.

As the Financial Times article states, by 1991 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had become a net exporter of wheat. Turn those exports around, and make the Kingdom's almost 25 million people begin to completely rely on imports at a time where stresses on global food supplies are mounting, and the terms 'vulnerability' and 'political instability' begin to move to the fore.

Eric Brooks draws parallels between the peaking of global food production and the peaking of oil, and further outlines the worrying state of grain production around the world:

But here's the most worrisome parallel of all: Flattening productivity increases, limited land area, insatiable meat demand, population growth, ethanol, biodiesel and climate change—these factors are turning once major grain exporters such as Australia, the EU and China into minor exporters or even large grain importers. As one country after another's oil production peaked, there remained fewer and fewer net oil exporters they could rely on to fulfil their needs.

Now, just as most of the world imports much of its oil from a handful of OPEC nations, most countries source an increasing proportion of their grain from the United States, Canada and Latin America. As happened in the oil patch decades ago, most of the world now depends on just five or six countries in North America and South America—the Persian Gulf of feed grain supplies.

At the same time, we see the list of countries that can be relied on to supply the rest of the world with feed grains steadily shrinking. Thanks to drought and biodiesel, China still imports rapeseed from Canada but no longer from the EU or Australia. The EU, once a grain exporter, now suffers serious feed grain deficits. On a recent tour of Europe to assess the severity of the situation, Ken Hobbie, USGC's president and CEO noted that, "The EU recently lifted all import tariffs and duties temporarily as a result of the ongoing grain shortages."

Chris Corry, USGC's senior director of international operations added that, "They have a real big problem over here with grain supplies. We are hearing that Europe will need 17 to 18 million metric tons of feed grains next year. That is how bad things are." For Asian countries, the EU's transformation into a net grain importer removes another major exporter from their supply chain equations.

As Europe vanishes off the feed grain export list, South America's corn exports are also fading. The USDA's December 13, 2007 Feed Outlook reports that, "Argentina's government has been keeping export registrations for corn closed, thereby limiting corn exports and keeping a lid on prices in Argentina." Apparently, even large grain exporters fear the consequences of today's global grain shortage.

At around the same time, the Korea Herald reported that "American corn achieved an 84 percent market share in South Korea." Byong Royal Min, the USGC director in Korea, said it was "a lack of corn supplies from South America that propelled the United States to this market leading position." Whether America can continue raising its ethanol production and remain a major corn exporter is itself in doubt.

Clearly, as the number of reliable feed grain exporters dwindles, large importers fear they are too dependent on a handful of large, powerful suppliers. Indeed, Chinese reluctance to import corn from the US dominated western hemisphere mirrors American anxiety about relying on Middle Eastern oil.

For a nation like Saudi Arabia to just give up growing its own grain (they do like Pita bread, after all), things are clearly getting desperate on the water front. Even without climate change, water stresses have been mounting worldwide (see also). Add climate change to the mix, and we can expect to see a growing number of nations making similar drastic decisions.
Without a major change of direction, such growing national interdependencies will increase international tensions.

Some might assume that as the need for a reprioritization of basic food needs become more pronounced, the world will adjust its production systems to suit (think 'the invisible hand of the market')— i.e. that people will begin to reduce the strain by moving away from meat based diets, for example. But, I would venture to say that the more likely scenario is that those who can afford to continue with the lifestyle they now have, will do so, and those that cannot afford to outbid wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, the U.S., China, etc., will simply go without.

We're seeing this already with food, oil, and climate change issues. People on the bottom rungs of the ladder are falling off while the wealthy continue lifestyles of excess.

Essentially, money talks. The Saudi situation is a case in point. It is already believed that Saudi Arabia is consuming large amounts of water through water injection—they pump water into failing oil wells to force the oil out. Instead of growing food with the water, it may be getting used to postpone peak oil. Oil may well be more valuable to the nation than food, at least for the moment...

There are those who perceive solutions to these issues, and it is the hope of many that these solutions will finally begin to get the long-overdue attention they deserve. For example, Permaculture techniques have been shown to create food where before there was only desert. We know that converting agriculture to organic systems can considerably increase yields, even in dry regions. Re-vegetating formerly depleted soils, and re-greening regions has the knock-on effect of enabling land to filter and hold vast amounts of water. Conversely, contemporary agricultural practices use considerably more water—as the lack of soil structure inherent with industrialized systems causes water to rapidly leech away or run off.

The monoculture systems that globalised food production requires are less productive than bio-diverse systems—systems that not only enable local populations to provide for their own needs, but also do away with the fossil fuel inputs currently used for both food production and global transport (and lets not forget that chemical-based agricultural imputs contaminate the little water we have).

Peak oil, peak soil, peak water, population growth and climate change all add up to mounting pressure on our most basic needs—food and water. If we don't wake up soon, we may well see more nations being added to the list of countries unable to provide for their own needs. Perhaps the only (short term) winners in this scenario will be the trans-nationals and transport organisations that get to make a buck on every sale and transfer.

It's grim news for everybody. The global economy is just about coping with the sub-prime crisis, the fall of the dollar and oil at $102 a barrel. But the inflationary surge in the costs of food, which now dwarfs the rise in oil prices, could prove to be the final straw.

World grain reserves are at their lowest levels since records were first kept back in 1960, and the U.S. stockpile had not been this low since 1948.

This problem has been coming for some time, driven by three separate factors. The first is overall population increase. The second is that emergent economies like China and India are climbing up the prosperity chain and demanding more meat protein, which takes eight times as much land to produce as vegetable protein. The third is that short-sighted government subsidies for biofuels is eroding the amount of crops available for eating.

Read morel here and here.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008


The following remarks were penned by Ben Shapiro:

Enough with the pseudonyms. Western civilization isn't at war with terrorism any more than it is at war with grenades. Western civilization is at war with militant Islam, which dominates Muslim communities all over the world. Militant Islam isn't a tiny minority of otherwise goodhearted Muslims. It's a dominant strain of evil that runs rampant in a population of well over 1 billion.

Enough with the psychoanalysis. They don't hate us because of Israel. They don't hate us because of Kashmir. They don't hate us because we have troops in Saudi Arabia or because we deposed Saddam Hussein. They don't hate us because of Britney Spears. They hate us because we are infidels, and because we don't plan on surrendering or providing them material aid in their war of aggressive expansion.

Actually Ben, they hate us for each and every one of these things. They hate us because they hate life and instead love a lie.

Enough with the niceties. We don't lose our souls when we treat our enemies as enemies. We don't undermine our principles when we post more police officers in vulnerable areas, or when we send Marines to kill bad guys, or when we torture terrorists for information. And we don't redeem ourselves when we close Guantanamo Bay or try terrorists in civilian courts or censor anti-Islam comics. When it comes to war, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Enough with the words. Talking with Iran without wielding the threat of force, either economic or military, won't help. Appealing to the United Nations, run by thugs and dictators ranging from Putin to Chavez to Ahmadinejad, is an exercise in pathetic futility. Evil countries don't suddenly decide to abandon their evil goals— they are forced to do so by pressure and circumstance.

Enough with the faux allies. We don't gain anything by pretending that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are true allies. They aren't. At best, they are playing both sides of the table. We ought to be drilling now in order to break OPEC. Building windmills isn't going to cut it. We should also be backing India to the hilt in its current conflict with Pakistan—unless Pakistan can destroy its terrorist element, India should be given full leeway to do what it needs to do. Russia and China, meanwhile, are facilitating anti-Western terrorism. Treating them as friends in this global war is simply begging for a backstabbing.

Enough with the myths. Not everyone on earth is crying out for freedom. There are plenty of people who are happy in their misery, believing that their suffering is part and parcel of a correct religious system. Those people direct their anger outward, targeting unbelievers. We cannot simply knock off dictators and expect indoctrinated populations to rise to the liberal democratic challenge. The election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is more a rule than an exception in the Islamic world.

Enough with the lies. Stop telling us that Islam is a religion of peace. If it is, prove it through action. Stop telling us that President-elect Barack Obama will fix our broken relationship with the Muslim world. They hate Obama just as much as they hated President George W. Bush, although they think Obama is more of a patsy than Bush was. Stop telling us that we shouldn't worry about the Islamic infiltration of our economy. If the Saudis own a large chunk of our banking institutions and control the oil market, they can certainly leverage their influence in dangerous ways.

Enough. After the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the plane downed in Pennsylvania, the endless suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks in Israel, the Bali bombings, the synagogue bombing in Tunisia, the LAX shootings, the Kenyan hotel bombing, the Casablanca attacks, the Turkey synagogue attacks, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, and the repeated attacks in India culminating in the Mumbai massacres—among literally thousands of others—it's about time that the West got the point: we're in a war. Our enemies are determined. They will not quit just because we offer them Big Macs, Christina Aguilera CDs, or even the freedom to vote. They will not quit just because we ensure that they have Korans in their Guantanamo cells, or because we offer to ban "The Satanic Verses" (as India did). They will only quit when they are dead. It is our job to make them so, and to eliminate every obstacle to their destruction.

So enough. No more empty talk. No more idle promises. No more happy ignorance, half measures, or appeasement-minded platitudes. The time for hard-nosed, uncompromising action hasn't merely come—it's been overdue by seven years. The voice of our brothers' blood cries out from the ground.

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Australia, slow to anger under a continued assault for preferential treatment by Islamic immigrants, now faces an unabashed call for apartheid for Muslims, a situation long considered the norm for the codified aggression and triumphalism of raw Mohammedism, but continually ignored by Western authorities.

Of course, using taqiyya and good old-fashioned horse sense to justify its positions, the Islamic group weaves and bobs in every direction to make its point of thwarting the Australian multiculturalist establishment saddled with its own misguided agenda.

But just ask the Europeans and the Scandanavians. Cut to the chase, just ask the Hindus of India how the Muslim enclaves develope and fester. Building a Muslim-only no-go enclave is ALWAYS the path the Koran and hadith-inspired invaders take to establish a strategic foothold from which to foster sharia within its community, effectively creating a no go zone for kafir authorities.

Read it all:

THE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY plans to build a Muslim-only housing development and recreation center as part of a $10 million complex in Rivervale. Islamic Council of WA spokesman Rahim Ghauri said the group had an architect-designed concept plan for a six-storey housing development, an underground carpark and a hall for weddings, conferences and religious and recreational activities.

Mr. Ghauri rejected claims the housing would further isolate sectors of the Muslim community from mainstream society, claiming the venue would be used to teach Islamic youth how to become good Australian citizens. And the council’s religious adviser, Abdul Jalil Ahmad, said it was useful for different religious or ethnic groups to have separate residential enclaves so their customs and exotic cooking smells did not offend neighbours.

“It’s ideal for any ethnic group because you can deal with each other in an easier way,” Mr. Ahmad said. “In South Africa, because of apartheid, all different communities were set up and it worked well. It kept people separate. We can be together in terms of our contribution to the wider community.”

Mr. Jalil, who once tried to set up a sharia court in WA to settle disputes in the Muslim community through an incorporated body, plans to live in the 20-unit complex on the community’s 1280sqm Malvern Street block.

Mr Rahim said it would provide affordable housing for Muslims and be first-stop accommodation for Islamic students and newcomers to help integrate them into society. The group wants donations from “generous Muslims” locally and all over the world for the complex and so far had $100,000. He declined to reveal who was approached but said all donations would be declared to the Government.

The council hoped to buy neighbouring vacant land from Landcorp to extend the development, possibly with offices, another carpark and sporting facilities. Mr. Rahim said WA’s Muslim community was one of the only religious groups which did not have its own recreation centre. It would offer to rent the hall to non-Muslims. He said the inclusion of units was necessary to pass local planning laws but the council would include the Muslim-only housing block even if it was forced to move to another area.

Ethnic Communities Council president Ramdas Sankaran supported the development of a Muslim recreation hall but said a separate housing complex for any religious or ethnic group was a “deplorable” idea because it undermined social cohesion and promoted segregation.

He said there was an argument for separate aged-care facilities based on race or religion, but building a general housing complex for families set a dangerous precedent which he believed would not have support in the Muslim or broader communities. “Self exclusion is just as bad as being excluded by other parties in Australia. It’s not in the interests of any group,” Mr. Sankaran said.

Belmont mayor Glenys Godfrey had informal talks with the group but a council spokesman said it could not comment until it saw the plans.

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Friday, December 12, 2008


The Japanese government has taken a small but important step toward introducing Islamic finance here amid the global financial crisis triggered by unsustainable subprime loans in the United States. Earlier this month, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) amended financial regulations to let bank subsidiaries handle Islamic finance operations.

The Islamic finance market has become increasingly attractive for Japanese, having already grown to about $1 trillion with a potential to reach an estimated $4 trillion. Obviously, "oil money" has been undermined by the global financial crisis. Yet the latest push forward by the FSA strongly suggests that Japan has a growing interest in Islamic finance as a competitive way to attract huge amounts of petro-funds.

Last year, the Japanese government revealed its Asia Gateway Initiative, which includes the promotion of Islamic finance as a method to develop the Asian bond market. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also touched upon Islamic finance in last year's White Paper on Trade. Other countries, like Britain and Singapore, are way ahead of Japan in the field, having made moves to use Islamic finance to enhance their own financial markets.

Bringing in oil money...

Yoshihiro Watanabe, managing director of the Institute for International Monetary Affairs, said the significance of Islamic finance is "to bring in oil money to Japan and stimulate the Japanese economy."

Etsuaki Yoshida, deputy division chief at the Policy and Strategy Department for Financial Operations at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), is known as one of the few specialists in Japan.

"Although this is my personal view, the current (global) situation actually heightens the relative significance of getting involved (in Islamic finance)," he said.

Although only a few books on Islamic finance have been published in Japan, Yoshida has already written two of them.

Experts acknowledge that Islamic finance is also important for starting projects in the Middle East and can serve to enhance the Asian bond market.

Despite the various barriers remaining in Japan, the private sector has been participating in a number of overseas projects through Islamic financing methods. This year, a Mizuho Corporate Bank subsidiary in the Netherlands became a lead manager of a syndicated loan for a Saudi Arabian project to mine and refine phosphate ore. Part of the loan was made through Islamic financing.

Read it all.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


DISCRIMINATION against dominant white males will soon be encouraged in a bid to boost the status of women, the disabled and cultural and religious minorities. This report comes from Australia, home of the kangaroo and tragically misguided liberal.

Such positive discrimination—treating people differently in order to obtain equality for marginalised groups—is set to be legalised under planned changes to the Equal Opportunity Act foreshadowed last week by state Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

The laws are also expected to protect the rights of people with criminal records to get a job, as long as their past misdeeds are irrelevant to work being sought. Equal Opportunity Commission CEO Dr. Helen Szoke said males had "been the big success story in business and goods and services".

"Clearly, they will have their position changed because they will be competing in a different way with these people who have been traditionally marginalised," she said. "Let's open it up so everyone can have a fair go."

But one must question how can "fair go" mean certain underprivileged males will now be shunned for opportunities based on the fact other males have been successful.

Victoria's peak business body expressed concern yesterday about the need for the proposed laws, and questioned if they would undermine the right of companies to make legitimate business decisions.

At present, individuals or bodies wanting to single out any race or gender for special treatment must gain an exemption from VCAT. Companies and public bodies accused of discrimination can only be held to account after a complaint has been made.

But the proposed changes go much further, allowing the commission to inquire into discrimination, seize documents and search and enter premises after attempts to bring about change have failed. Businesses and individuals would be required to change their ways even if a complaint had not been received.

Action could be taken where an unlawful act was "likely to occur", not just in cases where discrimination has taken place. The commission would also have real teeth to enforce its rulings via VCAT and, as a last resort, in the courts. The changes, shown in a Department of Justice report by former public advocate Julian Gardner, would also:

EDUCATE people so they know their rights.

GIVE more protection to people with disabilities, requiring companies and public entities to reasonably accommodate their needs.

GRANT the homeless and people who act as volunteers better protection from discrimination.

Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace general manager David Gregory said business supported the objectives of equal opportunity legislation. "But I am concerned and curious about whether these changes mean the commission can second-guess the legitimate business decisions of individual businesses," he said.

The first raft of changes to the Equal Opportunity Act were introduced into Parliament last week.

While I realize that the so-called objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, with its cult status of the "Great Man" is somewhat flawed, this latest action by the Australian parliament is patently stupid. This persistent apotheosis of mediocrity in the West is no replacement for true achievement, although we each can point to individual and systemic examples of bias and preferential treatment in daily unfettered life. But suffice it to say, we do not believe that piling on even more systemic bias will cure what ails us.

We must return to the life of the individual. Groupthink serves no one but the powerbrokers.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008


SEPTEMBER 26 marked the 20th anniversary of Viking Penguin's publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. While generally well-received by the critics, its treatment of Islamic themes in a series of narrative subplots was quickly deemed blasphemous and Viking Penguin's refusal to heed demands for its withdrawal led to an international furor, culminating in an Iranian fatwa sentencing Rushdie to death. His crime? Responsibility for a book which was "compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the prophet and the Koran" and "dared to insult the Islamic sanctities."

That Rushdie was forced to spend 10 years in hiding (and still lives under threat of execution) on the grounds that The Satanic Verses, a work of fiction, represented a "total distortion of the historical facts" about Islam is deeply ironic, given that a genuine critico-historical assault on "Islamic sanctities" had been under way for more than a decade with no repercussions.

Spearheaded by scholars at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), it focused largely on the Koran, which these so-called new historians of Islam subjected to modern historical and philological analysis. Their findings flatly contradict the Islamic account of its origins.

According to this account, the Koran represents the uncorrupted word of God, "constant, immaculate, unalterable and inimitable." It was transmitted to man through Muhammad, a prosperous Meccan merchant who received it via the angel Gabriel as a series of verse revelations between 610 and his death in 632. Uneducated and illiterate, Muhammad committed these revelations to memory before reciting them to his followers, who memorized them verbatim in turn. The killing of hundreds of these "memorizers" in the battle of Yamama in 633 alerted his successor as Muslim leader, the first caliph, Abu Bakr, to the danger that the revelations could be lost. He therefore gathered all available sources into a loose compilation called the suhuf which was then used by the third caliph, Uthman, to produce in the mid-650s a standardized text of the Koran. Copies were sent to Islamic communities with orders that all other versions be destroyed. Muslims believe this Uthmanic recension is the Koran as we have it today.

But according to the New Historians, there is no evidence that the Koran was compiled by Muhammad or canonized under Uthman; in fact, there is no proof it existed in any form before the end of the seventh century, and the first signs of a standardized codex date from the early 800s, 150 years after Uthman's death. In his 1977 survey Qur'anic Studies, the late professor of Semitic studies at SOAS, John Wansbrough, applied to the Koran "the instruments and techniques of biblical criticism" developed in the 19th century by German biblical scholars such as Friedrich Schleiermacher and Julius Wellhausen - i.e., treating it as a literary construct and comparing it to contemporary devotional works.

Read it all.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Thanks to Marwan's Daughter for this excellent analysis of women who by birth or by compulsatory religion live diminished lives under the throes of Islam.

IN SOME QUARTERS IN AMERICA, some men believe that a woman must hold a full-time wage-earning job, as well as a second unpaid full-time job caring for the house, husband, and children. Anything else is seen as parasitical. The husband's parasiting off the woman's grinding second job goes unmentioned, of course.

These types of men interpret the Muslim view that a nikah-attached female is responsible solely for sexual availability to her husband as "protection." They view it as desirable, as the woman "does not have to work."

This resentful fantasy of females lazing in front of the television completely ignores Muslim reality: the women (in some Islamic countries, the majority of women) beaten freely and Koranically by their male owners; the female children molested and raped in nikah; the older and unwanted women divorced and left to starve because the Koran mandates no support; the women who lose their children; the uncovered and disobedient women who are harassed, attacked, mutilated by acid and knives, and murdered with the full collaboration of their parents, families, and entire communities—with the smiling approval of imams and government officials.

The dehumanizing Koranic injunctions that women are lesser beings, whose dress, words, movements, behavior, and participation in the public sphere must be restricted to be "holy" completely elude Western men who think this way. They can't even perceive the hideous injustice of a "heaven" where men whore with female robots for eternity, while their wives . . . wait, one supposes. They see only women whose sole responsibility is "putting out," and this makes them both resentful and envious—as a Muslim male is entitled to four females, not just their one. Yet they do not see this as simple prostitution—they see it as "protection."

The fear and blood and misery, the narrowed world, the bars on the windows and in the mind, are completely irrelevant. "She doesn't have to work." That is the beginning, and the end, of the "protection" analysis.

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