+ Arguably the most crucial international news story of the last two weeks has been the explosion of tensions in the Middle East; I would've used the term "growing," but Israeli-Palestinian relations have been hopelessly stagnant for decades. Our pal Daniel (aka The Kentucky Democrat) has been very vocal about the Israeli cause, a noble declaration of solidarity for his faith and his people. I have no problem with Zionism as long as it's not extremism, but I acknowledge that the pseudo-state of Palastine has rights as well. Both factions must figure out a way to ignore the radical warmongers that seem bent on eradicating the opposition by all means necessary, and learn how to coexist in a shared holy land. Tensions have spread all the across the world, as major cities with sizable Jewish populations (especially Paris and Chicago) have seen a spike in vandalism and other assorted anti-Semetic hate crimes.
I will avoid any further impartiality and admit that the solution begins and ends with Hamas; they were elected into power with the most meager of majorities three years ago, and they must soften their stance on Israel or risk being toppled by outside forces. On the other hand, there is a vocal minority of Israelis that just plain ol' hate their Muslim neighbors and will gladly swap molotov cocktails until the end of time. Sadly, it's gradually becoming hard to tell if either side really wants peace anymore.
+ Yesterday, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2009, inducting all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson and press-shy power hitter Jim Rice. Henderson was inducted in his first year of eligbility, and his credentials are hard to question; the best leadoff hitter of the last half-century (if not all time), Rickey was also a warrior on the basepaths, feasting on any second or third baseman that tried to stop him. Henderson's classmate Rice, however was far from a unanimous pick; the most feared #3 hitter of the late '70s and early '80s, Jim hit one bomb after another over The Green Monster but just wasn't as dominant or had as much longevity as contemporaries like Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt. Where Henderson is a living legend, Rice was merely an above-average star, a strong, silent (albeit surly) type who somehow endeared himself to Red Sox Nation. Their only mutual thread is they were both left fielders on at least two American League champions.
With Rice's induction, not to mention the entry of Bruce Sutter in 2006, Rich "Goose" Gossage in 2008, and Joe Gordon on the Veterans' Committee last month, one must wonder if the Baseball Hall of Fame is lowering their standards. The short answer is yes and no. The next two shoe-ins for induction are Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, but they're not eligible until the 2013 ballot; the next three years will be a clearinghouse for other not-quite-all-time greats, the Lee Smiths and Andre Dawsons and Edgar Martinezs of the world. Heck, maybe Bert Blyleven and his beautiful curveball can overcome a 287-250 career record and that "I Heart Farts" t-shirt to earn a call to the hall. Nonetheless, the 2010 BBWAA ballot will be a complete crapshoot, yet ripe for drama.
+ Finally, it... won't... stop... snowing. At least in Chicago, anyway. Cold as balls, too.