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Monday Message Board

January 9th, 2012

It’s time for the first Monday Message Board of 2012. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

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  1. Troy Prideaux
    January 11th, 2012 at 22:15 | #1

    Does anyone else get the impression the Republican Primaries are getting more ABC coverage than our previous Federal Election buildup did? Ok, I’m probably exaggerating things a bit, but geez…

  2. Dan
    January 11th, 2012 at 22:25 | #2

    That’s because they’re more interesting, like a train wreck. (Our last federal election was about as interesting as watching grass wither.)

  3. Ikonoclast
    January 12th, 2012 at 06:55 | #3

    I guess it’s just a factor of having been on this planet for nearly sixty years but I notice now how banal, facile, stupid and mendacious almost all politicians are.

    As for TV news coverage in this country, I would characterise it as follows;

    – Major commercial networks – Fire engine chasing.
    – SBS – MENA, MENA, MENA, MENA, MENA, MENA, rest of world and MENA. There’s not much MENA in that! (Apologies to Monty Python)
    – ABC – It’s hard to characterise the mish-mash of drivel on the ABC news but it seems to centre around personality politics.

  4. Dan
    January 12th, 2012 at 07:24 | #4

    Sshh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your MENA. I love it.

  5. Wooster
    January 12th, 2012 at 07:30 | #5

    Funnily enough, I actually ceased, for the most part, in watching TV news and reading papers at the time of the last election. It seemed that I’d reached a tipping point as to the amount of pollie-speak I could imbibe. I now catch the headlines online and only follow up on telly if the story is of particular interest to me. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have watched Tony Abbott in action since then and I’ve only seen Gillard marginally more…all of which is quite refreshing, considering I was a bit of news addict who would watch parliament question time for enjoyment.
    Wonders never cease.

  6. John Quiggin
    January 12th, 2012 at 09:47 | #6

    I don’t even know what MENA is, and can’t summon the energy to Google it (v warm here).

  7. Wooster
    January 12th, 2012 at 09:55 | #7

    Here you go, John.

    (I didn’t know the term either)

  8. January 12th, 2012 at 12:13 | #8

    The ABC is rubbish, sadly. SBS is OK, (MENA – quite).

    I’ve started occasionally watching the commercials – 7 and 9 are surprisingly ‘unbad’ compared to ABC.

    Just now, both 9 and 7 mid-morning news reported the latest assassination of an Iranian scientist and made it clear that Israel is almost certainly responsible (Israel’s military chief warns of more ‘unnatural events’ in 2012 in Iran).

    State sponsored terrorism is alright when some people do it and bad if anyone else does, apparently.

    To be fair, ABC is making the same point (ie: similar to the previous assassinations and ‘pointing the finger’ at Israel).

  9. Troy Prideaux
    January 12th, 2012 at 12:43 | #9

    “I’ve started occasionally watching the commercials – 7 and 9 are surprisingly ‘unbad’ compared to ABC.”

    The final straw for me to totally give up on the commercials was the reporting of the cyclone that hit Burma a few years ago. Some reputable providers were reporting (as the event was happening) that the death toll could exceed 100,000, but our commercials snuck it in the summary segment just before the sports [deep sigh].
    Hats off Megan for having the temperament to handle Mark Riley.

  10. Ikonoclast
    January 12th, 2012 at 12:54 | #10

    @John Quiggin

    MENA = Middle East and North Africa.

  11. Troy Prideaux
    January 12th, 2012 at 13:01 | #11

    “That’s because they’re more interesting, like a train wreck. (Our last federal election was about as interesting as watching grass wither.)”
    Fair’nuff but how a single primary result can be the *top story* here doesn’t seem right.

  12. adelady
    January 12th, 2012 at 15:28 | #12

    Sorry Megan, 7 is often OKish, but I really cannot abide 9. Maybe it’s the different local presenters? I find the national services uniformly bad.

    As for the ABC. Oh dear. The journos there delude themselves that they’re trying to follow in the footsteps of some of the great interviewers. The eternal chasing of a Gotcha! moment is beyond tedious. There really aren’t that many striking news stories around.

    It has ruined political news forever. Pollies are now so well-trained in staying ‘on message’ and leaving little to no room for any Gotchas that they say nothing at all. And we’re subjected to the same old nothing stories dozens of times a day it seems. (I listen to radio as well as watching a bit of teev.) At least MENA provides a bit of a change.

  13. January 12th, 2012 at 20:18 | #13

    I probably should have emphasised the “less bad” aspect!

    Much more a lament about how bad the ABC has become than intended to be any kind of praise for the commercials!

    I don’t watch very often at all (not enough to have even noticed Mark Riley), but I’ve dropped ABC TV entirely because it is worse. That’s just sad. Thanks neo-cons. The Murdoch infiltration killed it for me, just couldn’t handle it any more but Mark Scott etc.. are doing just as much damage – my view is that it’s all a big joke they’re in on together.

    Today’s example was the arrest of 9 ‘Lock The Gate’ type anti-CSG people at a blockade at Beaudesert. Scoured ALL news for a mention and apart from a 9 online mention and a very brief ABC local radio mid-morning, it never happened – wiped – didn’t exist on TV news as far as I could tell.

    PS: If you get the chance during the daytime, SBS runs TV news shows from all over the world (turkish, german, dutch, portugese, russian, china, italian, philipines etc..). I can’t understand a word they’re saying but it informs me far more about what’s really going on than anything here in English!

  14. Jill Rush
    January 12th, 2012 at 20:58 | #14

    India has been polio free for 12 months. However I haven’t seen one mention of this in the MSM – although to be free there isn’t much news on during the tennis. Just the same the no polio news is fantastic for a country as vast and which was as affected as India was. Worth a mention I would have thought. I guess it isn’t even MENA.

  15. Dan
    January 12th, 2012 at 21:08 | #15

    I don’t own a TV or watch it and don’t miss it a bit. Grauniad and Counterpunch go well, and I’ve just been put onto http://www.propublica.org/.

  16. MikeH
    January 12th, 2012 at 21:13 | #16

    Any views on Ron Paul’s crankonomics.

    I find Paul quite frightening for the long term. I can understand that some of his support comes from young people (and young in the military) opposed to America’s wars and the “war on terror’s” erosion of civil liberties, but there is no doubt that a lot of his support comes from the “gilded youth”. His policies are anti-poor, anti-worker, anti-migrant and anti-environment.

    The web site of his Australian supporters leaves no room for ambiguity.

    The idea that the racist newsletters were an accident is absurd. Racism is going to be a inevitable consequence of targetting welfare recipients. There is essentially only two radical critiques of capitalism – one is based on class and the other on race.

    White supremacists and neo-Nazis support Paul and over the years Paul has some intimate contact with these groups.

    The totally clueless Australian news media cover him as if he is a kindly old eccentric.

  17. Wooster
    January 12th, 2012 at 21:51 | #17


    We do have a TV but, as I mentioned, I hardly watch it these days. Regarding the news, I don’t really feel any less informed. However, my new regime meant that I was exempt from repeatedly viewing the coverage surrounding the bin Laden killing. I didn’t receive a daily dose of the carnage in Libya and ditto for Syria.
    MSM plays the same tragedy over and over…I often wonder if the human psyche was designed to passively absorb so much tragedy and unrest every day. In fact, I’m inclined to conclude that it’s probably harmful and depression inducing to Westerners at large.

  18. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2012 at 23:16 | #18

    To get the latest goss on polio and its near eradication, you need to go to a non-mainstream news source like New Scientist magazine, eg pg 11, Jan 7th 2012, “Battle to eradicate polio reaches endgame”. It goes into some detail on the difficulties of final eradication, in part because the attenuated virus used in (the cheaper of the) vaccines are themselves a source of infection, albeit on a much smaller scale than the original natural rate of infection prior to wide-spread vaccination.

    It is ironic, but I find that these days in such a media-rich world I am news-starved: after so many political agendas disguised as news stories, I cannot reliably trust a word I read in the major daily newspapers; my concentration and focus fail me when attempting to watch commercial TV channels, mainly because of the infuriatingly frequent and aurally intrusive adbreaks; libraries have cut back on major general science magazines; and the web, well have I got a bridge for sale for you, if you trust the web (blog host and present company excepted, of course). Not much is left, beyond the ingredients list on my generic toothpaste tube—bleh, think I’l stick to salt water and chewing a stick, after reading that.

  19. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2012 at 23:31 | #19

    With regards to this “gotcha” journalism, and agenda-based questioning, and writing news stories up as though they are rip-roaring yarns, rather than something which should be factually based: I recently read of an old writer saying how good it was that journalism schools had finally caught on to the idea of story-based journalism as opposed to news-event based journalism. The motivation this writer had for such a claim is that every journalist is competing for the consumer’s eyes and attention, so each part of the article has to grab the would-be reader and hook them early on, encouraging them to continue reading. Reducto ad absurdum.

    This story-based reporting has also infiltrated the general science magazines, slowly squeezing out the more information-based non-fiction writing. That more informative style of old may have been a bit dusty to read, at times, but it also educated. The less formal style of writing that is pervasive today isn’t the thing I have issue with—I generally prefer it; no, it is the making a story out of the news/information, the embellishing with ad-lib dramatic momentum, to the point where there is nowhere left for the facts to go but out. All sizzle and no sausage, that’s the problem.

  20. January 13th, 2012 at 01:29 | #20

    Possibly the most important, non-partisan, discussion into ‘media’ in the western world in our times is happening right now:


    And when they take a break, we look at ABC 24 and get a mash-up of yesterday’s news and something about pandas.


  21. Wooster
    January 13th, 2012 at 08:59 | #21

    @Jill Rush

    Just noted that India being free of polio for a year is up on the ABC news site this morning.

    Good news for a change!

  22. Chris Warren
    January 13th, 2012 at 09:29 | #22

    So why do we need uranium power to reduce CO2 when universities can power large buildings with solar produced hydrogen.

    The first-of-a-kind is about to be constructed at Griffith U, in 2012. The publicity blurb says:

    “The Sir Samuel Griffith Building is the first of its kind in Australia to be powered by PV-Fuel Cell Energy System with integrated Hydrogen Storage. Grid connected power will only be used as standby. The building will generate power from Photovoltaic Panels which will power the building with surplus energy directed to an Electrolyser to produce Hydrogen which can later be converted in a fuel cell to electric power. MDA Consulting Engineers have a critical role in this process in determining the Green Star objectives and ESD principles to drive the sustainable initiatives for the project and ensure the lowest carbon footprint possible.”

    Clearly any nation with most of its landmass between 40 degrees and the Equator, could have zero-carbon emissions energy, in about 20 years. With United Nations assistance, more suitable countries (within the tropics) may even gain an export industry. This would be particularly useful for small island states in the Pacific and Africa.

  23. Troy Prideaux
    January 13th, 2012 at 10:38 | #23

    I’m interested to know what efficiencies they claim from the electrolysing process. I was under the impression that nobody has yet nailed that process to provide something close to “good” efficiencies. Given that PV aren’t terribly efficient (not that that really matters), if you couple that in parallel with another inefficient process, then efficiencies start to hurt.

  24. gef05
    January 13th, 2012 at 14:51 | #24

    @Troy Prideaux
    Mate – Don’t forget that the election is in November. I’m finally upping sticks after ten years on the east coast and heading back to Oz – timing couldn’t be better to escape this nonsense.

  25. Chris Warren
    January 13th, 2012 at 14:59 | #25

    @Troy Prideaux

    Ecologically sound technology may well look less efficient based on other criteria, but this is OK.

    Escaping from fossil technology is the key.

    There may be something of interest here: http://www.hydrogen.asn.au/

  26. Chris Warren
    January 13th, 2012 at 15:00 | #26

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    @Troy Prideaux

    Ecologically sound technology may well look less efficient based on other criteria, but this is OK.

    Escaping from fossil technology is the key.

    There may be something of interest here: hydrogen.asn.au

  27. Troy Prideaux
    January 13th, 2012 at 15:22 | #27

    @Chris Warren
    “There may be something of interest here: hydrogen.asn.au”

    No, the closest indication I could find of the state at which they’re at is in the UOW link at the bottom which provides us with the statement “The research teams are currently performing studies to obtain efficiency data and are working towards engineering a prototype device” which is a concern given that obtaining efficiency data is a *simple* process of measurement.

    Other than this concern, I agree with your general point, but as I said, if the entire process of solar collection to hydrogen conversion is say 2-3% efficient, then you’ll always have economic tradeoffs to consider and compete with.

  28. Donald Oats
    January 13th, 2012 at 23:40 | #28

    After my recent gripe about the lack of MSM treatment of the polio story, I note that The Australian did have just such a story in today’s edition, ie Friday 13th. Quite a detailed story, too.

  29. MartinK
    January 14th, 2012 at 10:36 | #29

    @Chris Warren #22
    ‘So why do we need uranium power to reduce CO2 when universities can power large buildings with solar produced hydrogen.’
    There is a big difference between “can do X” and “are going to set up a test of X to see how well it works” (for experimental purposes only, once only). The same of course applies to all the claims for safe nuclear, clean carbon and carbon sequestration, etc.

    @Troy #27. From your quote, they haven’t built the thing so it is a little hard to measure anything. They are probably talking about calculating an expected efficiency, possibly using some experintal mock ups of parts of the final system. Also sounds like they are being intentionally vague in their press releases (which I wouldn’t hold against them), and there is very little there at all yet.

  30. Troy Prideaux
    January 14th, 2012 at 12:40 | #30

    Yes Martin, when researchers make vague but *ground breaking* efficiency claims without backing them up with actual numbers, there’s more than just a scent of the “professional optimists seeking more funding grants” stench to it.
    Of course, that’s not to say I truly hope they’re on to something!

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