Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28: laugh or cry?

NewsToday, page 1, has the story (or a story) on the UN vote against Crimea on the issue of its vote for separation from Ukraine. Well, it has a story. It's from The Associated Press, and the reporter makes notattempt to hide his bias. The vote was, he says, a sweeping condemnation of Russia. In fact, the vote wasn't about Russia.  It was about the action of the Crimean government. (In fact, according to that vote that a subordinate state has no right to vote for separation, the American Revolution was illegal. And, I don't know whether he noticed it, but the rules for Quebec separation that Harper approved are also contrary to the UN charter).

And Russia is isolated in the world - well, not quite. The vote was 100 to condemn Crimea, with only 11 against, a sweeping victory in the view of the associated press.

But 68 abstained. And 24 did not take part in the vote at all.

That's a hundred to 98, not really a sweeping figure. Nor does it consider the sizes of the countries.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a list of them to check their sizes. (Why didn't Associated Press make the vote clearer by showing the population size represented by each voting category?) But a hundred to 98 does not sound to me as though Russia is isolated - especially since the vote wasn't on Russia in the first place.

More ominous, some nays and many of the abstentions were from Latin American countries. They are heartily fed up with well over a century of American interference in their countries, assassinations, staged rebellions, imposed dictators, and the brutal terms forced on them by free trade agreements. (As  I write this, Venezuela is being pushed into a revolution by American agents.)

Ah, some will say, none of this matters. The end is the same.

Well, no it isn't. And if the whole truth doesn't matter, then why doesn't this story tell it.? Why does it avoid it?

We have not begun to see the end of the problems of Ukraine. Just wait till it gets hit with its budget so it can pay off billionaire bankers.  Just wait until they learn that most of the money now being promised to them will not go to them, but to pay off bankers.
There is also the usual big piece on Harper as the great statesman.The only interesting statement in this "story" is that Canada has to build up its export capacity for gas to Europe. But it's a long term project.

Translation - Canada intends to keep pumping and peddling gas until the Atlantic Ocean rises high enough to make Toronto the maritimes. There is no mention of alternative sources of energy, and obviously no  interest in them.

Well, that's a comfort. It means the world may not last long enough for events in the Crimea to matter a damn.

Page B5 has a story about UNB where there seems to be great friction between faculty and administration. That's not unusual. In fact, it's been true of every university I've ever seen. Administrators become very comfortable in their roles as superior beings.

It's being made worse, perhaps terminally worse, by the constant interference of the corporate world, and the enormous influence it  has on both provincial governments and on administrators (of whom it can be said of the latter that they drool with a lust to obey.)

Finally, it's made a complete mess by the fact that universities have given no serious thought to what they are for since the year 1200 or so. And neither governments nor university administrators nor professors have come to any understanding of what teaching is about.

For administrators, it's about whatever is trendy. For too many  professors, it's about feeding their egos.  For corporations, it's about making themselves richer. And for governments, it's about doing whatever corporate bosses tell them to do.

Right now, all  the above are winning - to the impoverishment of education.

The editorial writer continues what could become a lifetime obsession with the events centre. Today's editorial is almost the same as all the editorials he has done on the subject. There is no evidence he sees any priority for this city except an events centre. Are their any human needs that are greater? Apparently not. In fact, there are no humans, only concert-goers.

Yeah, don't worry about the world economy, and where all those fans are going to come from.

It reminds me of my childhood in Montreal which was then a fervently religious city. Just in my area, there were several churches being built which had foundations and basements - but that was it when the depression struck, and there was no money.

So parishioners roofed the basements, and used those for church services. They were, after all, and as our editorial writer would approve, very large churches with room for lots of seats. And for twenty years that lasted.

Then money came back. But not the churches. They were all declining in membership. Those grand buildings once planned were no longer of any practical use. One, I remember, became a movie theatre, another a grocery store.

Some years later, the city embarked on another great venture which would make us all rich, Olympic Stadium, the iconic building on which the eyes of the world would focus. It's iconic feature, it's roof, became a horribly expensive and unfixable disaster before it was ten years old. Interior parts of the structure were collapsing before it was paid for.  Now, it sits empty. And around it are no stores or businesses.

There never were, not from the start.

The only other important news on the editorial and op ed pages is that March is Adopt a Guinea Pig month.
I was, yesterday, exchanging posts with an old friend from my earlier broadcasting days. He went on to quite a distinguished career as a broadcaster,then to the teaching of journalism at university. He's a man who took the responsibilities and skills of people in the news media very seriously. So I shared my dismay at the general quality of news media in North American with him, and asked whether he had the same feeling.  Here's his reply.

Trust me - I went to university in Fredericton and worked in New Brunswick a few years - I know exactly how bad the Irving papers were/are! But my great fear is that your points are increasingly relevant to most so-called "media outlets." It's a disgrace and I'm seriously considering establishing an online presence for "context and stories that must be told" by journalists who can remember what the bloody profession is supposed to be about.


  1. Hey, its been awhile. Nice article, your views are pretty close to mine but a little more extreme. AP is usually much worse than Reuters, thats probably why Irving uses them more often. However, you can't blame media because the UN doesn't provide the data on which countries voted which way.

    Also, the resolution certainly was about Russia, I'll footnote the link at the bottom, but its pretty lengthy, and quite specifically is aimed at Russia, mentioning both the invalidity of the referendum, as well as numerous other motions, including:

    "Calls upon all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine,
    including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful

    If thats not aimed at Russia, I don't know what is!

    Just to nitpick, either you or your source got it wrong, it was 58 votes, not 68 votes.

    And finally, you are incorrect in equating this with Canada. As has been stated, any attempts at dissolution in the Ukraine is up to ALL Ukrainians, not just Crimeans. In Canada, the federal government has legitimized the process by which Quebec can secede. The Ukraine has no such legislation. Its true that that is idiotic, and Canada pretty much made the legislation when it was FORCED to, no doubt Quebec, like Crimeans, may have had very different ideas, much like in Czechoslovakia where the actual legislation allowing secession was pretty much drafted after it became obvious that secession was inevitable. But it still makes the two scenarios quite different. In Canada WE have had our say on quebec secession through our elected government (I know 'we' actually didn't, but in represented democracies, thats all you get).

    Even Jon Stewart on the Daily Show often has bits on Russia and has to defer constantly stating "we're allowed to do it, but Russia's not". The big difference seems to be that Russia is a lot better at 'integrating' places non violently!

    UN resolutions are available here:

    THIS resolution is available here:

  2. Thanks. And many of your points are quite correct.

    The trouble is that the resolution as an issue of power to separate related directly to Crimea - but then it was puffed out with all kinds of reference to Russia.

    I was able to get a few more bits of information.

    China abstained. That, alone, suggests to me the term Russia isolated seems a wild exaggeration.

    I also learned that Israel didn't participate in the vote at all. That seems strange for a country heavily dependent on the US. But it makes sense when you remember it was been condemned by the UN many times for violations of the territories of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. And in every case, it has been saved by the US veto.

    Russia has quite a record of violent 'integrating'. It hasn't used it lately because it no longer has the power to do so. But there has been a violent integration in Ukraine.

    The present government of Ukraine was created by a high degree of violence in the streets (which somebody organized and paid for), and its leading members are unelected people supported by the street violence.

    It's hard to speculate where this is going. At first, I thought Obama was just covering his rear end over involvement he almost certainly did have. But the western tone makes me fear that something bigger is coming.

  3. I meant violence relatively. In the US when they want 'regime change', they pretty much go whole hog on Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Chile, Panama, etc. On that scale THIS violence, and most of Russia's violence, really pales in relation (that doesn't make it GOOD). Russia tends to get more violent once the integration is complete.

    One other thing you missed that helps explain the abstentions is that the Reuters article was all about Russia 'threatening' various states. These came from 'anonymous sources', but one source pointed out that the big players, including the US, will often pretty much blackmail other countries, one example given was an african country which had its aid budget cut by millions after it didn't vote the way the US wanted.

    In a vote like this its quite possible there could be threats from BOTH sides. However, I do agree that the point about 'isolation' points to a bigger picture in that when reporters 'in the west' talk about isolation, they typically mean isolation 'FROM the west'. There usually is very little interest in talking about how other countries voted in the general assemblies, and of course a bigger issue in western media studies is how little 'the west' talks about UN resolutions AT ALL. Typically the only time they do so is resolutions like this where the issue is high profile 'for the west'.

    I don't think the population of the countries in the vote makes that big a difference though. While I don't agree with Russia, I also think Harper is being a hypocrite and while his vote on this may coincide with most Canadians, certainly thats not the case with votes on the environment. So those casting votes at the UN certainly don't represent their populations in most cases, but only their leaders.

    But I'm not sure it follows that latin american countries views on the US factors into it. There are quite a number of resolutions IN this resolution, so you'd have to go through each one and see if there is something of note. Often Canada will abstain or reject a resolution on the basis of ONE point within the resolution, as it did on the vote awhile back which included 'cultural genocide' as part of the definition of genocide (for obvious reasons).

    I suspect with the globalization of trade most countries simply don't want to peeve off large countries who have a lot of money and power. A general assembly vote means nothing really anyway except as a media sound byte, so its hardly worth the risk, and 'abstaining' or not voting is an easy out.

  4. Agreed. In the case of China, abstaining opens the door for it to be a mediator. With Russia no longer much of a threat to China, the latter can afford to be generous in its support. It would also keep the American wolf further from the door.