Tuesday, May 23, 2006


A few implications in the kerfuffle over the Iran "Jewish Star" story.

It began with an Amir Taheri column in Canada's National Post reporting that religious minorities in Iran would, under a new law making its way through the Majlis, be required to wear distinctive clothing marking them as non-Muslims. The original story seems to have been removed, but it was saved in many places, as here. The story made the wire services the same day, and generated instant controversy. The controversy is understandable, since we're talking about

...a law passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) on Monday.

The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress. It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).

The interesting thing was the inevitable debunking story that followed in the National Post the same day.

Experts say report of badges for Jews in Iran is untrue

Several experts are casting doubt on reports that Iran had passed a law requiring the country’s Jews and other religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying them as non-Muslims.

The Iranian embassy in Otttawa also denied the Iranian government had passed such a law.

“These kinds of slanderous accusations are part of a smear campaign against Iran by vested interests, which needs to be denounced at every step.”

Sam Kermanian, of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, said in an interview from Los Angeles that he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran — including the lone Jewish member of the Iranian parliament — and they denied any such measure was in place.

Meir Javdanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, said yesterday that he was unable to find any evidence that such a law had been passed.

“None of my sources in Iran have heard of this,” he said. “I don’t know where this comes from.”

There is nothing in the article that justifies, among other things, the categorical and tendentious headline. It quotes various exiles and Iranian diplomats saying that no such law is force yet. It does not contradict the Taheri report.

Taheri, for his part, stands by the story.

The law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians. A committee has been appointed to work out the modalities of implementation.

Many ideas are being discussed with regard to implementation, including special markers, known as zonnars, for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, the only faiths other than Islam that are recognized as such. The zonnar was in use throughout the Muslim world until the early 20th century and marked out the dhimmis, or protected religious minorities. ( In Iran it was formally abolished in 1908).

I have been informed of the ideas under discussion thanks to my sources in Tehran, including three members of the Majlis who had tried to block the bill since it was first drafted in 2004.

I do not know which of these ideas or any will be eventually adopted. We will know once the committee appointed to discuss them presents its report, perhaps in September.

Interestingly, the Islamic Republic authorities refuse to issue an official statement categorically rejecting the concept of dhimmitude and the need for marking out religious minorities.

I am definitely not inclined to give the Iranian regime the benefit of the doubt as the many debunkers of the story seem to be. But I did make one observation about the media and its love of the term "experts."

Every time a headline uses the word "experts," it's essentially a demand that the reader arrive at the one correct belief. But the experts said so! There's no disputing it! This is so even if, as in the above story, the "experts" aren't all that expert. It should make people wonder the next time we get one of those ridiculous boilerplate headlines like "Experts say Saddam was a gentle, misunderstood lamb" or "Experts conclude global warming will kill 8,657,322. by next week." The Beatle song applies here:

Expert texpert choking smokers,
Don't you think the joker laughs at you?

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Love the story in today's New York Post featuring praise from film-industry types for the tax credits that attract movie and TV location shoots in New York City.

"This is absolutely one of the best things any government has ever done for its economy," declared producer Harvey Weinstein..."Without this incentive . . . this movie would be shooting in Toronto."

Of course tax cuts for anyone but himself are clearly a bad thing to our friend Harvey. Why else would he be such a fervent supporter of Democrats and their "tax cuts for the rich" demagoguery?

Harvey Weinstein...gave $2,000 last year to John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate. He made most of his political contributions during the 2001-2002 election cycle, the last in which unlimited soft money contributions to the national political parties were allowed. Weinstein gave $85,000 in soft money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee during the cycle.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The anti-Porter Goss articles that have appeared this weekend, like this one in today's Washington Post, seem to have in common an emphasis on the apparently horrible human cost of Goss's tenure at the CIA:

Excuse me if I'm unmoved. This is the agency whose total failure on 9/11 was the worst single act of negligence in American history. As far as I am concerned, every single person in the entire agency should have lost their jobs on September 12, 2001. For anyone there to get self-righteous about anything--as in the disgraceful Rumsfeld heckling incident the other day, is appalling beyond belief. To resurrect one of the Left's favorite lines: Have they no shame? Have they no common decency?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


So it seems that Venezuela has been buying petroleum from Russia just to meet its contractual obligations, and this leads inevitably to speculation. The dumb kind.

Ah, Peak Oil, i.e. The Rapture for lefties.

...we can, all too easily, envision a dying civilization, the landscape littered with the rusting hulks of SUVs.” (David Goodstein, Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil)

Some predict returning to the semi-rural days of the early 1900s. Other suggest we could return to pre-industrial and even early-agricultural days. Still others suggest a return to Paleolithic times, where necessary skills include making your own obsidian knives and starting fires with a flintstone. Link.

Our present systems will slide from dysfunctional to untenable.... But it will be wild, especially at first. We will have to accept again what our not-so-distant ancestors never forgot: Pain is inevitable and, ultimately, security is not a human possibility....There is no point minimizing the suffering and danger in store for most of us. Michael Ventura, Austin Chronicle.

Oil wars seem inevitable....The wars of the Twenty First Century could be the first sign of a return to a historical way of life, a regression in civilisation. ("The Wolf at the Door: A Beginner's Guide to Peak Oil")

But there is a silver lining, the same way there is in the Christian millenialism that the Peak Oil cult parodies: The end of the age of oil will mean an end to predatory capitalism and a return to simple hippie barter economies. It's a lefty dream come true, simultaneously forcing people to end global warming and meat eating and bringing about a glorious world that sounds more than anything like the parking lot at a Phish concert:

With grains a priority for food and fuel, and transport prohibitively expensive, the price of beef will be too high to sustain the cattle and leather industries, plastic will be too dear for footwear, and cobblers (shoemakers) will have their hands full keeping old footwear serviceable and making the old into the new – and they'll have ready apprentices. The same goes for local dressmakers, seamstresses, and tailors – in a nondisposable society, without the money for new fashions every season, these and many other practical pursuits will thrive. So will tinkers and mechanics – anyone with the skill to keep appliances going long past their shelf life, and anyone who knows how to build handy items from scrap. Services will be traded as often as purchased. Local actors, dancers, musicians, and storytellers may again become crucial to communities that can no longer depend on force-fed media. (Ventura)

But of course, this entire fever-dream scenario assumes that, as with others, Venezuelan oil wells really are running dry. It ignores the consequences of the Chavez regime's eager nationalization and socialization of its oil industry; the consequences--to anyone willing to admit what socialism means to an economy--are predictable:

Stratfor.com estimates that since Chavez became president, starting in 1998, "PDVSA has lost about 1.5 million bpd of its net crude oil production." The main reasons have been the replacement of capable engineers and workers who disagreed with Chavez's revolutionary views, with inexperienced, and in many cases incapable replacements, and the lack of attention to infrastructure maintenance and improvement. The result of the bad management and neglect, has been the steady erosion and near incapacitation of a major oil-producing region of Venezuela, the Western portion of the country, where as many as 10,000 wells have been estimated to have been rendered mostly useless. Venezuela is nominally the world's fifth largest oil producer.

The lefty media cannot bring itself to question socialism in action, so surely something else must be to blame, in the same way that "nuclear power," not Communism, is to be blamed for Chernobyl. And of course the "peak oil" theory itself is, in essence, a reproach to the USA for its profligate, gas-guzzling ways, for using more than "its share."

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