Archive for July, 2014

These are sad and tense days in eastern Ukraine. A most-likely-wayward missile has struck a Malaysian Airlines commercial plane, killing 295 passengers and crew. A few quick thoughts on the matter:
1) It was almost certainly a case of mistaken identity. Both sides of the Ukrainian conflict are blaming each other. In such cases, it’s worth noting who opposes outside help in sorting things out. In this case, the Russian-backed separatists appeared to be late in accepting outside investigators. Also, the plane was flying southeast. Who was most likely to feel threatened by a plane flying southeast? Someone in the southeast. Who was in the southeast? The separatists.
2) While acknowledging that the possibility of a Ukrainian military perpetrator hasn’t yet been ruled out, the real question to me at this point is whether the missile was fired by a separatist or by a Russian soldier aiding the separatists. The first case would be embarrassing, the second case could lead to more troubling diplomatic issues.
3) The Netherlands lost more than a hundred citizens in the missile strike and crash. Afterwards, the separatists wouldn’t let the bodies go for days and there were reports of some bodies being mistreated. The Dutch are learning a hard lesson – just because you don’t go looking for trouble doesn’t mean trouble isn’t looking for you. If you are a small country – even a rich one – your options are pretty limited when your people are mistreated. They will rely on the power, such as it is, of the European Union, to press their case.
4) Virtually nobody in the West wants a shooting war over Ukraine. Ukraine is for the Ukrainians to sort out, but the constant Russian interference, and its tragic result last week (that was a Russian missile launcher) call out for harder economic sanctions. It’s sad, really, about the Russians. This isn’t the Cold War. The West isn’t looking for Russian failure. But the Russian leader – and to some degree he is reflecting the hopes of the Russian people – seems bent on some restoration of past greatness and appears increasingly to see the West as an adversary. Until that changes, we’re likely to have more of these diplomatic and economic conflicts with Russia – and hopefully, nothing worse.
– 1TF


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Two of the world’s great sporting traditions continue today, the World Cup and the Tour de France.  Both of have seen great shock and disappointment in the past 24 hours.  Yesterday, Brazil, without services of their young offensive ace, Neymar, and more importantly, their captain and defensive leader, Tiago, was thrashed by an organized and relentless German squad 7-1.  Today, the Tour lost its defending champion, Chris Froome of Great Britain to a wrist injury in the rain splattered Stage 5 race.

Germany will be a formidable opponent for whomever emerges as the winner this afternoon.  I expect the Netherlands to prevail in a tight game today.  Even the masterful Lionel Messi will have trouble placing as much pressure on Holland’s defense as the three-headed monster of van Persie, Schneider and Robben will place on Argentina’s.  The Brazilians meanwhile will have to rebound quickly for the 3rd place game.  If the Netherlands were to defeat Argentina, then Brazil and Argentina will have a serious battle for pride on Saturday; the Verde-Amarela will want to avoid being embarrassed twice at home.

As for the Tour, even without its defending champion (and hopefully without the drug problems that have plagued its past decade), it is a magnificent race to watch.  Not only the rivalries and intrigues that crop up during the three weeks of competition, but the beautiful old French towns and countryside as seen in the helicopter shots make it a fun escape for sports fans – or even non-sports fans if they like beautiful scenery – to make, if only for a little while.  Do yourself a favor in the coming days and tune in for just a few minutes; I think if you do, you’ll find yourself coming back for more.

– 1 TF


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