peteg's blog

David Marr, Quarterly Essay #38: Power Trip, The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd

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Marr can write, there's no doubt about that. The question is whether he can analyze. Rudd is driven by anger? Well, maybe, but what does that tell us? Obsessed by detail, unable to delegate, an oppressive boss... one wonders that the government has managed to do anything at all. I was relieved when Howard went down in 2007, but my small hopes for this lot had evaporated well before I read this. Crabb's efforts have definitely reduced readers' expectations of the commentariat.

Crikey develops this argument further. I concur with the observation that Rudd is more boring than angry. This essay does not explain why Rudd decided to fill his void (if there was one) with generalist political power rather than make money ala his wife and Turnbull.

Probably all you need to read is contained in this excerpt in the SMAGE. I don't think the full version is worth twenty bucks. If you're desperate for more, you can read Judith Brett's take in Inside Story.

Incidentally I did buy Quarterly Essay #36: Australian Story: Kevin Rudd and the Lucky Country by Mungo MacCallum, and found it so feeble that it defied a write-up. Mungo claims to hold on to reality with both hands but seems to have little familiarity with evidence. This journal's glory days are long gone.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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I remember Bob Carr calling this one a turkey when it won an Oscar (or something) back in 2000. I have to agree, the cliches are tedious and there is no depth. All the flying looks totally fake, the fighting is ho-hum, except perhaps between the two women. Oh sure, it's a form of dance, in which case I'm watching the wrong movie. Capriciousness robs everyone and everything of possibility.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

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At the Chauvel with Rob at their show-and-tell with one of the writer/directors Judith Ehrlich. I think she was out here for the Sydney Film Festival. It opens more broadly this coming Thursday.

I'd been meaning to see this film since I first heard about it more than a year ago. It is well-constructed and occasionally riveting, with some great selective quoting of Nixon. They could have dropped some of the worn-out war porn though. There is a degree of self-absorption here that is also vaguely troubling, but it is difficult to communicate the nuance of political influence without sliding to extremes.

Much was made during the discussion of the recent hoopla around Wikileaks and its founder Assange, and also the similarly-recent legislation in Iceland to protect whistle blowers. There seems to be little to learn from this film about connecting to the general population in ways that might change policies; Ellsberg's big impact was to get the Watergate investigation started, which was also a fortunate accident for him as it allowed the court to dismiss the charges arising from his leaking the Pentagon Papers. As always with technicians, he failed to understand how little the people care about details and proof.

Ellsberg is very similar here to what he was in Hearts and Minds, which is perhaps unsurprising as his life has been in some kind of stasis since 1971. (Ehrlich stated this quite flatly.)

I wonder if Ellsberg's book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers is worth reading.