A wild week in the UK

Things just seem to be far too exciting in Olde England these days.  First Tony Blair resigns, leaving the country in the hands of Gordon Brown, and earlier today the London Metropolitain Police had to defuse a car bomb in Haymarket.  And people thought the rain and fog was all you had to worry about…

The attempted bombing in Haymarket has curious timing, to say the least.  Mere days after Blair leaves office, someone manages to plant a car bomb, loaded with gasoline, gas cylinders, and nails, in Haymarket.  Fortunately for all, it was discovered and disarmed before it was detonated.  According to reports, it was an alert ambulence crew, repsonding to a different call, that noticed the car.  Their attentiveness to their surroundings saved lives, lives that could have been lost in the potential explosion.

The timing as I said is curious at a minimum.  More likely it was intentionally timed to coincide with Gordon Brown’s ascent to Downing Street.  Much like the Madrid bombings in Spain, it is quite clear that the intent here is to alter British policy, specifically in the Middle East and more specifically Iraq and Afghanistan.  Two days on the job, and Mr. Brown is facing a crisis that could impact British politics for years to come.

It would seem that Tony Blair chose either the ideal time, or the worst time to step down.  I have no doubts that the job wore Tony down, and he was probably dreading Question Time every week.  So, for his own mental health, this was probably a good time to step down.  On the other hand, the Haymarket bomb attempt will leave many Britons wishing for Tony’s calm demeanor at the helm of state, many Tories even.  But we’ll have to wait and see what Mr. Brown doesin reaction to this to make a better judgement.

You see, I just don’t find Gordon Brown to be all that.  He’s “old Lbour,” the leftist socialist wing of the party that Blair displaced in his rise to power with “New Labour.”  He also isn;t very charismatic, nor does he have that broad appeal that Blair had.  He could be the end of Labour’s 10 year run in office if the Tories can find someone, anyone, with more charisma than a canceled air mail stamp.  This is not say Brown isn’t trying to keep open the bridges that Tony built.

Case in point, Gordon Brown appointed Shaun Woodward to the post of Northern Ireland Secretary.  Woodward is a former Tory who jumped over to Labour.  This is as much about political pay back to Woodward as it is to mollify the Tory back benchers.  As a poster on one of the email lists put it: “He’s the only Labour MP with a butler.”  He’s a bit of an unknown when it comes to the Irish situation, at least to me.  Woodward was just another Labour back bencher, even though he was once part of the Tory shadow government before he jumped ship.

Other than that, Gordon Brown is still linked far too closely to the likes of Ken Livingston to carry Labour in a general election.  That is unless he holds to the course Blair set, and doesn’t try to go “radical” on the British public.  It could be an interesting general election if the Tories get their act in shape, even to a bare minimum.


Hot Button Issues

I only saw part of the Democratic candidates “debate” on PBS tonight.  Any sort of forum like this, this early in the campaign season is just so much hot air.  More so in this show, as it was humorous to see all the candidates playing to the audience at Howard Univeristy.  Sure, they covered all the topics in the current news cycle, and “reacted” to some developments earlier in the day.

Let’s get the hot topic of the moment out of the way.  Today the US Supreme Court ruled that race cannot be the sole factor in school determining school assigments.  This directly impacted districts in Seattle and Lexington, which had been using race as the primary factor.  In far too many instances in both districts, this often meant students were bussed up to three hours each way from their homes to school.  Yes, this was the extreme, but it was happening, and the districts turned a deaf ear to the parents.

While policies such as this once served a purpose, it is now being used for political purposes rather than correcting any inequalities.  Further more, it has allowed the districts to create “ideal schools” which can be shown to the media and special interest groups and make for good press.  All this while other schools get less funding, have deteriorating facilities, and become “gulags” of sorts for trouble and troubled students, with no consideration of geography.

The claim of “promoting diversity” is just so much bunk.  Diversity is wonderful and great and all.  But it should not ever be the be all end all of an education system.  If that becomes the mantra of the district, then the actual education of all the students is not only in jeopardy, but creates a sort of caste system with in the district.  It is unfair, arbitrary, and does not serve the needs of the students, let alone the community at large.

 Then there’s the no cloture vote in the Senate on the Immigration bill.  I hear a lot of back and forth on this from Liberals and Conservatives, with some on each side crossing over.  This has not been so much a partisan issue, but more one of regionalism, as each state has unique issues as regards illegal immigration.

No, this was not a perfect bill.  Given the way our Congress works, there will rarely, if ever be a perfect bill that gets signed into law.  Even so, this bill had a lot going for it, and should have received an up or down vote.  Yet, some people are so hard up on some of the specifics, that the over all effect of the bill has been lost in the debates over the details.  The old adage of “Can’t see the forest for the trees” applies here.

One of the key carping points has been what to do with the some 12 million illegal immigrants already here.  The cries of “no amnesty” are just so much rhetoric.  The fact is, we are not going to deport 12 million plus people from this country.  Not going to happen.  It would be a serious waste of money, manpower, and the courts.  Not to mention it would take years upon years to actually do it. 

A few notes here just to get some things clear.  First off, there seems to be a public perception that all the illegals in this country are from Latin America, mainly Mexico.  This is not true.  Certainly the majority are from south of the border, but not nearly all.  There are plenty of others from China, SE Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and from Europe.  If we only target one group, it will correctly be seen as biased.  So, it is not just an issue for Latinos, but one that effects all groups.  Secondly, think beyond the short term here.  Sure, we could deport all 12 million.  But what would the consequences be?  Think about the impact on the US economy, the tax dollars that would be spent on doing so, the bureaucracy needed to administer such a program, the time tied up in the courts processing them, and now think about our relations with other nations.  It won’t just be Mexico and China that will be upset with us, but many otherwise friendly European nations, as well as the rest of Africa and the Middle East.  One last point here.  If we did deport all the illegals, it would be one of the largest forced removals of people since Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China.

Now, this is not say that amnesty for these illegals is the answer either.  They are in violation of the law, and thus need to be punished in some fashion.  This needs to be tempered by a bit of pragmatism, so that we don’t just end up bouncing between extremes on the issue.  The concept of fines, as opposed to jail time, providing the person in question has no criminal record, is IMO, the right route. 

Now, I would propose a flat rate fine scale, say $1000 per year here illegally.  So, we’d have a process where by an illegal immigrant would register with the proper authorities.  They would be allowed to remain in the country pending the outcome of a background check, and then would be fined accordingly.  Once the fine is paid, they would be granted a special category status, which would give them a short period of time, say 3-5 years, in which to achieve the normal green card status.  Not perfect, but it does reflect the realities of the situation on the ground.

The other component often railed about (both for and against) has been about border security.  This is perhaps the one aspect where more debate is going to only generate more useless legislation and unworkable programs.  We can talk all we want about fences, and McNamarra type lines along the borders, but this won’t solve a thing.  People will find ways around any of these things.  They’ll dig under a fence, or cut through it, or build something to get over it.  Electronic sensors can be defeated (just ask the VC).  The simple fact of the matter is that the only way to secure the borders is to literally put more men on the job.

Currently our Border Patrol agents are over worked an understaffed.  We don’t have enough manpower to properly patrol the borders in a way that would deter illegal crossings.  And it’s not just our southern border where this is an issue, but to the north (Canada), as well as sea routes.  We should increase the number of Border Patrol agenst by at least 50,000 personel, and increase recruiting for the Coast Guard, and increase the budgets for both to provide the equipment they will need.

A busy Sports Day

Well, it seems that the sports world here in the US of A has had a rather busy, and some what eventful day.  We got history in MLB, The NHL Hall of Fame inductees, and that ever so exciting (Not!), NBA draft.  So let’s get to it all…

First on tap we’ll look at the NHL HoF inductees.  A solid group got elected this go around.  Tops on the list would have to be Mark Messier, the Center/Forward for the Edmonton Oilers and NY Rangers.  Love him or hate him, he was one of the best forwards in the NHL in the 80’s and 90’s.  It’s also nice to see Al MacInnis get his due in this election.  One of the top defensemen for years, he languished in Calgary, and rarely, if ever, complained.  One of the great ambassadors of the game.  Scott Stevens and Jim Gregory (former GM) are also solid choices.  When I first saw Ron Francis’ name on the list, I at first questioned the choice.  But looking at his numbers, and what he accomplished as a player, I over came my initial thoughts of him being a solid, but not HoF player.

Then there was the NBA draft.  I just don’t get why people find these drafts exciting to watch.  Yes, I remain curious about who my teams draft, except in Baseball, as it takes 3-4 years before any of those players will show up, but I don’t need to sit in front of the TV or PC to get who goes where in real time.  I am more than satisfied to catch up on all of it after all is said and done. 

For the past several years, I’ve found it hard to watch any NBA games, even those of my beloved Celtics.  And it’s not just because they’ve been so awful lately.  The whole game since Jordan has been terrible to watch.  Even those teams who play the game “right” are hard to watch.  Even so, I keep up on who the C’s have, and who they deal and acquire.  I like the move Danny Ainge made today, trading for Ray Allen from Seattle.  I haven’t checked who they got in the 2nd round (except Seattle’s pick), so the jury’s still out on the direction of the team, but the prospects for next season are improving.

Now, today in MLB, it was a historical moment for two players, individually and singlely.  First was Frank Thomas hitting his 500th HR against the Twins in the Metrodome, where he hit his first HR.  Then, in a five hit performance, Craig Biggio reached the 3,000 hit plateau.  With both reaching these milestones on the same day, it was the first time in MLB history that it has happened.  Both Thomas and Biggio should be planning their trips to Cooperstown 5 years after they retire. 

I especially like Biggio’s achievements, as he did it all for one team, and has been a class act for so many years, more so as he did it all for the Astros.  Kudos should be given to Craig for the class he showed by having his long time teammate, Jeff Bagwell not only at the park, but joining him on the field for one last time when he reached the mark.  It was a testament not only to the friendship between the two, but to what the two of them did on the field together.  Welcome to immortality Frank and Craig.

New Comics Saturday (6-23)

Oh, I might as well admit it.  I’m just not going to get this up on Friday.  Between the time it takes to go over to Electric City Comics, get home, eat, actually read all my issues, and get some net time, it’s going to be Saturday one way or another.  So, to be perfectly honest here, I’ll change the name to Saturday to better reflect reality.

Big lot this time around, between my regular pull list and Marvel’s World War Hulk starting, I picked up about 30 issues this go.  A hefty lot, even by my standards.  So let’s get right to it..

Countdown #46, 45: DC’s new weekly series carries on.  The Jimmy Olsen story line heats up, while Donna Troy and Jason Todd are targeted for death.  Not to mention the domestic squabbles among the Monitors.  Dan Jurgens’ History of the Multiverse back ups also continue.

The Brave and The Bold #4: Supergirl and Lobo team up to get to Rann where Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) has gone.  The side trips they are forced to take fill some gaps as to why this whole mess started, and who are the keys to solving it. 

Green Lantern Corps #13: The Mogo problem is finally revealed.  Kilowog on a rampage (not a good thing this time)!  A doctor makes a house call.  Guy Gardner gets his due (sort of).  All this is leading up to the Sinestro Corps debut.

Green Arrow #75: End of the line for this title (for now).  And what a cliff hanger.  The moment GA fans have been waiting almost 30 years for has finally arrived.  And now we wait for the Black Canary miniseries to enlighten us!

Justice League of America #10: Conclusion of the Lightning Saga.  I must say I’m with Hal and Bats on this one.  It wasn’t who I expected (and hoped) it would be.  But it does make some vague sort of sense.

The Flash #13: This must tie in with JLA #10.  It has to.  It just has to!  Otherwise, they’ve thrown me a curve ball that any MLB pitcher would love to have.

Shadowpact #14: The PR war between Heaven and Hell gets physical as Zauriel and Blue Demon have a bit of a bar brawl.  Oh, and Doctor Gotham is still playing nasty tricks.

Checkmate #15: More conspiracies than you can shake a stick at.  Who has Nightwing and the Black Queen been taken by, and to where?  Who is behind it.  Wanna know?  Go get the Worlds Greatest Detective to help!

Trials of Shazam #7: Billy Batson’s quest to regain the powers of Shazam continue.  A knock down fight with Sabina for the strength of Hercules.  How bad is bad?  When a devil wonders if a pawn is too evil.

The Spirit #7: I thoroughly enjoy Darwyn Cook’s take on the Wil Eisner character.  Combined with Chris Sprouse and Karl Story’s art, this is a wonderful “throw back” to the comics of the 40’s and 50’s with a solid modern twist. 

Justice #12: The conclusion of the Ross/Krueger maxiseries.  A bit moralistic at the end, but that can easily be forgiven here.  Between the script and the art, this was a most enjoyable series, depsite the erratic release schedule.

Army >at< Love #4: Couldn’t use the @ as it wanted to make it a link.  Still, this is an interesting adult oriented series from Vertigo. It’s way over the top on just about everything, yet has a solid base story line in terms of the individual characters.  Some what thought provoking in some of it premises.  Worth a look if you don’t mind the obvious sexual references.

Tales From The Crypt #1: Bought this one on impulse.  At first I thought it was a reprint of the old EC comics, which inspired the HBO series and the various movies.  Nope, it’s a new series from Papercutz.  The indicia reads Volume 2 #1, and has all new stories.  The art to me is off for this sort of thing, with the first story looking more like it belonged in a magazine as a strip.  But the scripts were pure Crypt.  Hopefully, they’ll get some better artists to work on this, as it could fill a niche that has been neglected for too long now.

Conan and the Midnight God #4: The Cimmerian’s Stygian Campaign continues.  And just keeps getting worse not only for Conan, but for Palantides as well.

Conan #41: A new story arc begins, with Conan captured, the Gunderman dead, and Jiara betraying them.  Royal conspiracies, corrupt priests and magistrates galore! Oh, and a strange ape-priest as well.

Fallen Son- Spider-Man: Part four of this series.  Spidey takes a moment to reflect, makes a painful mistake, and gets consolation from Wolverine.  >record skips< Consolation from Wolverine?

Avengers Classic #1: Taking a cue from Classic X-Men, this series will reprint old Avengers stories (begining with issue #1!), with additional back ups from various writers and artists.  The back up story from Stan Lee in this issue is definitely worth a read for long time Marvelites.

Mystick Arcana- Magik: A side story of Illyana Rasputin taking place some years ago, with a follow on story about Ian McNee.  Not sure where this is going, or what the purpose is, but it is an entertaining read.  Next up is Sister Grimm.

Blade #10: I really wish someone would get Hannibal King right.  This is perhaps the one major complaint I have with the series.  Poor Hannibal has been so misrepresented since the Dr. Strange Montesi Formula story arc.  Even so, Blade continues his quest, such as it is, with a guest appearance by Spider-Man.

Sub-Marinier #1: This is either going to be a great series, or it’s going to totally suck.  The set up is very intriguing, and I have to wonder, which is a good thing.  I just hope they can pull it off.

Moon Knight #11: Just what does Tony Stark want with Marc Spector?  This issue is somewhat confusing, as it’s not told in a linear time line fashion.  It’s apparent that it jumps around a bit, which confuses things, as stuff is out of order, and it’s difficult to get straight.  Not the best issue so far, but has some good cliff hangers.

The New Avengers #31: The fight to save Maya Lopez gets bloody.  One heck of a double cliff hanger too.  Guess you can’t believe everything you see (or read).

Captain America #27: Continuing to tell the tales of Cap’s associates.  Bucky goes off the grid, and The Falcon and Sharon Carter have to make sure nothing else goes wrong.  Guest starring the Black Widow (that girl does get around doesn’t she?).

World War Hulk #1: And so it begins.  The Hulk touches down in Manhattan, and pummels Iron Man.  This is after he beats the crap out of Black Bolt on the Moon.  Looks like the old Tonester is going to get what he’s got coming to him.

Ghost Rider #12: The Devil goes to Buffalo.  The question is why?  And GR winds up face to face with a certain green skinned monstrosity.

Iron Man #19: Ties into WWH #1. Tony’s got more problems than a thoroughly enraged Hulk to bother him.  SHIELD just ain’t 100% behind him.

The Mighty Avengers-Most Wanted Files: Worth while only if you aren’t fully familiar with all the characters.  Lots of background stories (words only mind you), and is suposed to be a suplement for the Offical Marvel U Handbooks.  Pretty much a waste of money if aren’t new to the characters.

DMZ #20: Friendly Fire part three.  Matty continues his own investigation into the Day 204 Masscare.  And like any good story, he doesn’t know where it will lead, or what the full consequences will be, and that worries him.

I also picked up the 52 TBP Volume 1 as well.  I have the entire run of 52, but I like to have a trade to read on occasion.  Some interesting extras for fans in here, with sketches, original layouts, a cover gallery, and some commentary from the creators.  Vol. 1 collects issues 1-13.

Well, that’s it for this time.  Just two more weeks for the next installment.

Media Bias, what me worry?

A friend sent me the link to this article on MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19113485/  It details political activities and donations by reporters for a variety of media outlets.  Bill Dedman of MSNBC doesn’t take anyone to task for these actions per se, but it does illustrate why America has such a distrust of all new outlets.

Several things in this article struck me.  Some of the attitudes expressed by those questioned for the piece truly amazed me.  Take for example Ann Goldstein’s comment (she’s the copy editor for the New Yorker Magazine): “I’ve never thought of myself as working for a news organization.”  Say what?  You claim to inform the public, yet don’t consider yourself part of a news organization?  I find that a rather amusing, if utterly lame, attempt to deflect the charge.  In fact, in my opinion, it is an outright admission of bias in the publication, one purporting to be “informative.” 

There is also the bit from the MTV “news” reporter.  Now, I will agree that MTV “news” is anything but.  Gideon Yago, the MTV correspondent, summed it up nicely: “I would never qualify what we do as journalism.”  That is certainly so.  MTV has never been shy about showing its political colors and affiliations.  They may cry to the heavens that they honor “equal time and fairness,” but it’s just so much hogwash.

What I find troublesome is that while everyone claims to be “fair and accurate” in their reporting, they almost immediately qualify it with a “no regrets” type statement.  Added to this, many of these people are editors, who control what gets on to the air or in print, or are field reporters covering very sensitive, or highly debated issues.  They are in a position to not only frame debate (and “facts”), but to influence that debate.  As we are a society that is so busy, beyond work, that we rarely have time to do any real research into an issue on our own, that we rely on being spoon fed information from the outlet of your choice. 

Of course this is nothing new, and not exclusively an American thing.  Even icons of the journalistic world have been guilty of this.  Some have even gone so far as to advocate activistic journalism.  Walter Cronkite anyone?  He has publicly stated that if a reporter, or anchor, or what not, sees something he/she feels is against the best interest of the nation, then they have a “duty” to use the bully pulpit of the anchor chair (or reporters pen), to change that policy.

This crosses an important ethical line IMO.  When a journalist goes from reporting the news, to influencing it, or worse making it, then they have crossed over from being reporters to being players.  This makes the “unbiased” claim nonsensical, and even fraudulent.  They have ceased being journalists, and become advocates or activists.

Now, not all those who can’t help themselves are giving money to candidates and political parties or PACs.  Some just do it through their jobs.  Candy Crowley’s coverage of the Kerry campaign in 2004 anyone?  She might as well have been a paid PR consultant to the campaign for all her cheer leading on CNN.  Now, it may have been professional ambition that did it.  If Kerry had won, she would have become CNN’s WHite House corespondent, a plum job with lots of face time.  Instead Dubya won, and John King got the slot.  Oh well…

I am encouraged by the repsonses of the various news outlets, in many cases totally banning any sort of political donations or activism.  I am disappointed that most of these rules are recnt, in the past 4-5 years.  Even so, it shows that the top echelons of the news establishment are taking these things, and the potential of what’s going on, seriously. 

Read the article people.  Read it, and think about it.  Then the next time you watch the news, read a paper or magazine, or listen to the radio, or read something on the Net (especially this blog!), think about the premise of unbiased reporting.

Something new everyday

I can be very, very lazy when it comes to keeping things like a blog or website up to date and current.  I suppose I can get a pass on the blog, as that usually requires some sort of inspiration, outrage, or what not to get a good post going.  Web sites are a bit more labor intensive, and thus, I can’t always be bothered with doing “regular” updates.  But today is a bit of an oddity, I’m making a new post rather sooner than usual.

 So what’s special about this one?  Nothing much really, just a bit of unexpected email is all.  I spent most of today busy, and no where near my computer.  That whole real life thing intruding upon the necessities of the on line world.  Yeah, life can be such a…something…at times.

Anyway, I finally log on, and there are a couple of emails of note (for this purpose).  One is from an on line friend, the other a comment on my last post awaiting moderation.  A bit of an odd coincidence really, given that one was about polls on the current Congress, the other a request to link to another blog.  The coincidence part?  The blog request is from a Jewish Conservative. 

So let’s deal with Congressional approval polls.  The latest shows the current Congress gets a whopping 29% approval of the voters.  Wow.  Seeing as the previous Congress bottomed out at 21%, at that was in last December, what’s that say about those currently taking seats (or not as the case may be) in the House and Senate? 

Face it, the American people got sold a bill of goods by all those “antiwar” Democrats.  I could have told people that back in November.  Oh wait, I did (in person that is).  There was never going to be an “end to the war” from the Democrats.  Never.  Get over it.  It would have meant political suicide for the Democrats to have done the one thing they could do to end the war, cut off all funding.  That is the Constitutional power of Congress, and if the Democrats were truly serious about ending our involvement in Iraq, they should have at least tried to cut off the funding. 

Of course, they knew that they  didn’t have the votes going in, so that was never going to be a serious option.  Nuts like Kucinich could talk it up all they wanted, and the Democratic Party was happy, as it gave them the right press coverage.  All while they continued to play not an honest debate on policy, but maneuver for position in the 2008 White House campaign. 

You see, the Democrats need the war to continue, and to go in a downward spiral untill November 2008.  It’s the only way they feel they can win the White House.  So, we end up getting all sorts of micromanagement legislation which hamstrings our abilities to prosecute the enemy in the field, sends a confusing message to everyone (enemy, Allies, voters, service personel), and just keeps the status quo going strong, all while attemting to seem to be wanting “change.”  It’s a “dog and pony show” as one legislator put it.  More like a carnival scheme to me.

Now, as for the other email, I had not expected to get a link request.  Or more to the point, not from someone I didn’t know.  Naturally, I was a bit worried, as I had no clue who else besides friends and family were actually reading my rants and ramblings.  So I checked out the link. 

The Tygrrrr Express is an interesting read.  I don’t agree with everything he says, then again the only person I agree with all the time is myself.  Yet I found enough there to be worth reading, if only to stimulate honest debate.  As an example, I’m not a supporter of a Jewish only state in Israel.  I find it the equivalent of other exclusionary states like Iran, only “tolerable” to the West.  I support a Palestinian state, and Palestinian aspirations for a national identity.  On the other hand, I found some of his insights on “Blue State Migration” to be spot on. 

Now, some will wonder just how two people of conservative bent can be so far apart on some issues.  No movement or political party today is so monolithic that every member is in lock step with all the others.  Today’s political parties host a wide range of opinions on an equally large range of subjects.  Once people realize that, we’ll be heading in the direction of a more civil political debate in this country.

A some what busy weekend

Well, some interesting evenst over this weekend (so far).  Barry Bonds finally homered at Fenway (Ho-hum), Rob Nifong got disbarred, and one of Iran’s top Ayatollahs died.  So where to start?

Let’s go the easy route, and begin with Barry Bonds.  After his almost embarassing AB against Hideki Okajima yesterday, where he watched five pitches go by without a swing striking out looking, he managed a 2-3 day today.  His second AB is where he hit a Tim Wakefield pitch into the bull pens in right field.  Not an impressive shot at all, but it did go out.  So that makes 748 now for Barry.  Enough of that.

The Duke Lacrosse Rape Case finally came to the end yesterday, when Rob Nifong, the Durham County DA was disbarred for his actions in that case.  On Friday, Nifong had announced that he would resign his position no matter what the disciplinary committee decided.  Then on Saturday, with the families of the three accused players watching, Nifong’s attorney told the committee that his client had come to the decision that his actions deserved disbarment as punishment.  I will applaud Nifong for this, though it took him far too long to reach this decision.  Rather than having tried to pander to certain segments of the voting public, and tarnishing the lives of three young men forever, he should have said at that time that the evidence didn’t support the case, and in fact was exculpatory, and then moved on.  Instead, he tried to feed his political ambitions (which must have gone beyond the DA’s office), and pander to mob opinion.  This tragedy, is not only of a personal nature, but one of political, social, and of justice.  And people wonder why our legal system is so mucked up.  As long as we keep electing nimrods like Nifong to public office, and continue to use the courts to advance political agendas, we will continue to have instance like this.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, one of Iran’s top Shi’ite clerics died over the weekend.  No, not one of the big names, but one of the “minor” members of the Supreme Council.  The Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel-Lankarani, 76, was an early and fervent supporter of Ruhollah Khomeini, the architech of the Iranian Islamic state.  This is why Iran is not quite the threat it’s made out to be.  These guys, the true hard line Islamacists, the ones who dictate to the government, are old, and frail.  They aren’t long for this world, and there isn’t anyone to take their place.  So, as time marches on, the power of the Grand Council will continue to wane, as it has been for several years now.  The people of Iran are fed up with the Islamacists, and want a better life and a better nation.  Give it time, they will have thier version of the “Velvet Revolution” soon enough.

 It looks like the Hammas-Fatah fight has gone into over time now, with Mahmoud Abbas swearing in a new emergency government in the West Bank.  Hammas has near total control of the Gaza Strip, which effectively splits the Palestinian State into two, in more than just in terms of geography.  This may in the long term, be a good thing.  Assuredly, in the near term, it will be bloody, and messy, and nasty.  Even so, it may spell the demise of Hammas as a viable political organization.  They may get a temporary spike in membership and support, but as Fatah gains the “moral high gorund” in this conflict, they will gain more international support than they’ve enjoyed in the past.  No, Abbas \ should come out of this as the “true” leader of Palestine, as long as he continues to make solid decisions.  The danger is that he could be forced to make an alliance with another militant group to fight Hammas, which will in turn force the Israelis to take a harder line with Abbas and his supporters.  It’s still too early to see how all this will play out.  But here’s to hoping.