Ian Plimer: anti-Green environmentalist

On 22 July, 2014, the Institute of Public Affairs held a book-launch in Melbourne, Australia. The book in question was Not For Greens. The speaker was the author, Professor Ian Plimer.

The book’s cover shows a picture of a stainless steel spoon. Is this because the book’s subtitle is He Who Sups with the Devil Should Have a Long Spoon? Or is it because he illustrates some of his points by describing the manufacture of a stainless steel spoon? The answer to both these questions is apparently yes.

It’s very nearly a bald opening and, as I sympathise with any speaker who finds it impossible to begin a speech without at least paying the audience the courtesy of thanking them for being there, I’ll forgive him. The bald opening has two essential purposes: drama and the suppression of nerves. To launch straight in without any preamble is strong and dramatic; and bald-openings are counter-intuitively good for nerves for the same reason as plunging into cold water is easier than creeping in slowly. Plimer is quite blunt enough not to need any added drama and he also gives little impression of needing help with nerves. Nerves will be there, but completely under control – or, to quote Laurence Olivier’s metaphor, the butterflies are made to fly in formation. Plimer is a very good speaker, laying out his arguments clearly, driving his message with authority, and shooting it all from the hip. Could I help to make him any better? Possibly, marginally, but why should he care?

It’s a clever opening inasmuch as he delivers a ferocious back-hander to the hypocrisy of the Green establishment, while simultaneously acknowledging with glee how much they hate him. And they do: you need to do only a little research to find oceans of bile being fire-hosed in his direction.

The speech, and the book it launches, seek systematically to debunk the entire climate-change creed.

Is he right? Is he wrong? I cannot say with the authority of a scientist, but all my experience, in those life skills I have, tells me he needs to be heard.

Given that Fascism, Socialism, Communism, all authoritarian “isms” thrive upon crises persuading the populace that they need saving and therefore need more of the State, and given that I detest authoritarianism in all its guises, I am instinctively wary when crises could be synthetic. And when the high-priesthood of any supposed crisis goes to huge lengths to silence dissent then I, passionate for free speech, am immediately suspicious. Contrariness to the climate “orthodoxy” is severely persecuted, and when dissent is persecuted consent is suspect.

That caused me to examine closely the oft-quoted “97% consensus”, and I found it to be the product of shameless data manipulation. The science community if anything seems to veer towards a consensus that AGW is negligible and certainly not dangerous, particularly among those like Ian Plimer who are retired and therefore do not need to toe any political line for their research funding, mortgage or pension. I actually don’t care about any consensus: I care only that the scientific conversation continues without political pressure in either direction because the environment matters, and if things are going wrong proper investigation needs to happen without political bias getting in the way. But back to Professor Plimer.

At 11:10 he begins an interesting section. I have long been deeply uneasy about wind turbines. They produce absurdly small and inefficient amounts of energy and could not exist without taxpayer contribution, so there are those in energy poverty who nevertheless subsidise the very rich turbine owners. Their output is so sporadic that they have to have fossil fuel backup. They kill birds and bats.  I understand that these statements are not disputed, yet green and wildlife NGOs protest that this is a small price to pay for saving the planet. Professor Plimer nevertheless appears to have done the necessary calculations to show that a wind turbine emits more CO2 in being built and installed than it will save in its lifetime. I look forward to someone publishing detailed calculations to dispute Plimer’s assertion, failing which these wretched things look like an even bigger scam than I suspected.

At 18:05 he points out that his book has been denied publicity. It’s almost as if someone is determined to prove the truth of what Voltaire said…

It is dangerous to be right in matters where established authorities are wrong.

Camille Puglia needs KISS

Why has it taken me this long properly to discover Camille Paglia? Is it merely because I am this side of the pond? Yes I had heard of her, but till I happened upon this speech I had not gone out of my way to probe beyond a vague awareness of her name. Now I have, and am castigating myself for many years wasted. She’s been around for all but about four months of my life and she’s my type of person, defined as one with whom I may certainly not always agree but will enjoy arguing.

Here she is talking at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2012.

She speaks till 43:30. The rest is questions.

She’s promoting her book on visual art. She’s promoting the hell out of it. It is less than a month after publication. The book aims and claims to be groundbreaking. Where better for her to be promoting it than a Humanities Festival?

She tells us about the concept: she tells us about the content: she tells us about the tortured decision-making concerning its format. You may, like me, get so caught up in her self-ignoring, chaotic, stream of bullshit-free consciousness that you resolve to get a copy.

Bravo Camille: way to go: excellent selling job! One teensy detail…

What is it called?

Gentle reader, I have found it for you. It is called Glittering Images.

I have had trainees like her: natural communicators, unhampered by any of the inhibitions that hobble others. They have plenty to say, are eager to say it, have a punchy turn of phrase, a beautifully free style of delivery. They have everything going for them, except …


Keep It Simple, Stupid.

She says it herself at 0:55. “Simplicity is hard.”

If I worked with her, that is where I would focus.

The Spectator gives us a grown-up EU debate.

In April 2016 the Spectator hosted a debate at the London Palladium on the question of whether the British people should or should not vote in a referendum on 23 June to leave the European Union.

What a relief! Two years ago I said on this blog that I looked forward to a referendum, not least because of the campaign. I wanted to hear proper arguments. This looked like perhaps the best chance we’d have of that: a structured series of addresses from a balanced selection of speakers, followed by a well-chaired exchange of challenges, and lastly questions from an informed audience. Knowing that you will be held ruthlessly to account for any idle nonsense that you might peddle concentrates a speaker’s mind wonderfully; so I looked forward to watching this and, perhaps having my eurosceptic instincts challenged.

The debate was chaired by Andrew Neill, with the Remain team consisting of two Labour Members of Parliament and one from the Liberal Democrats: Chuka Umunna, Nick Clegg and Liz Kendall while the Brexit team were two Members of the European Parliament, one Conservative and one UKIP, and one Labour MP:  Daniel Hannan, Kate Hoey and Nigel Farage. All hundred minutes are worth watching but I shall comment only on the opening addresses, which is to say the first thirty seven and a half minutes of the following video.

I’ll cover the speakers in the order that they speak.  First let me say that Andrew Neill’s introduction is competent, though it does highlight the truth of what I tell my trainees concerning humour. Stand-up comedy is immeasurably more difficult than it looks, so you try it at your peril.

4:06 – Liz Kendall starts by reading a legend to be found on a Labour Party membership card. Fair start, but she continues to read her whole speech. Her theme centres on the importance of international cooperation. No doubt one of her opponents will gently point out that no one in this argument disapproves of international cooperation. Otherwise, apart from the usual argumentum ad verecundiam where she quotes all the international bigwigs that say they want us to stay, she is banging the influence drum and, because she is reading her speech, whatever she says is diminished. Some will never learn.

9:24 – Nigel Farage elects not to remain behind his lectern, but to claim downstage centre. Why not? – while he is speaking, it’s his show. The trouble is that downstage centre is not lit so till the lighting catches up we see him only in silhouette. If he is aware of that it doesn’t seem to bother him, and he has obviously worked out (or contrived) that the sound system is man enough to cope with him away from his lectern microphone. He shoots his five minutes from the hip, which makes what he says immediately more compelling, and closes with a long and stirring anaphora.

15:20 – Nick Clegg speaks well. He makes his case very eloquently and without hampering himself with paper. I see little point in my contesting anything he says, because his opponents on stage are there for that.

20:10 – Kate Hoey is reading her speech, which takes the edge off her message. As a Labour Member of Parliament, she puts a different slant on the argument from that of her colleagues: she is unashamedly for the people.  She is the first in this debate to bring up the matter of TTIP, the alleged ‘Free Trade Agreement’ negotiated in secret between the administrations of USA and EU. As an MP no doubt she knows more about its plans than most of us, but some of the leaks seeping out on the subject are alarming. I wonder whether it will feature more strongly later in this referendum campaign.

26:40 – Chuka Umunna says, “Now look!” It’s almost a catch phrase. Miserably I hear my last chance for a new and exciting argument in favour of remaining in the EU gurgling down the plughole. A column of straw men arguments marches across the stage: a child of twelve could mow them down. This is really pathetic! There is just one speaker left: I have heard innumerable speeches from him on the subject, so I think I have a good idea what is in store. I honestly wish he could have been offered a stronger target to attack.

31:20 – Daniel Hannan proves me wrong. I did not know what was in store. Yes I have heard him offer all these arguments and have read them also in his book, Why Vote Leave, but he is speaking with greater panache and freedom than I have seen before. It suits him. He still punctuates his speaking by calling his audience “my friends” which jars a little, but he is in outstanding form here. No, he is better than that: he is downright awesome. It is not just my view: listen to the reception that greets his peroration. Other speakers finished to applause: he finished to deafening cheers.

I have made no secret that I fully intend to vote for us to leave, but I really did hope that we would get better arguments from the Remain side. While they trot out their preposterous lines about…

  • Little Englanders, drawbridges and so on, when we want to rejoin the rest of the world
  • cutting ourselves off, ditto
  • not cooperating with the rest of the world, ditto in Spades
  • not being able to trade, when as already the EU’s biggest customer we are ideally placed to cherry pick our trading status with the EU let alone the rest of the world,

…they’ll earn nothing but scorn. And when they claim to cite  other countries that think we should stay they are confusing pronouncements from politicians with views of the people: several polls show a very different story. Already the people of several EU countries are lining up to press for their own referendum, because they sense that the EU’s days are numbered. I rather feel that this referendum is partly about whether we go down with it or whether we get out now, the better to help the poor victims that do go down with it.

In a vote at the end of this debate the Leave side won.

Jeff Deist: optimistic.

In Costa Mesa, California, 8 November 2014, the Mises Institute held a Mises Circle. These are one-day seminars of information concerning the Institute and its messages.

A few weeks ago we examined a speech made at this gathering by the Institute’s founder and Chairman, Lew Rockwell.  Today we are looking at a speech by the Institute’s President Jeff Deist.

Almost immediately we learn key things about Deist’s public speaking ability, namely that he has not properly learned how to do it. His microphone technique is essentially non-existent, and he is reading a script. The Mises Institute website tells me he regularly delivers keynote speeches – ye Gods!

He is too close to the microphone, so he pops and distorts horribly – particularly at the beginning. It takes two minutes (max) to teach someone to work a microphone infinitely better than this, and another fifteen to make them really skilled. It can take as little as two hours to free a speaker forever from any dependency on script or notes, and when thus liberated the fluency and potency of their delivery leaps up dramatically. I know there are misguided public speaking teachers who insist that a script is essential, and I have argued with some online. I no longer bother: they’re just wrong.

As the host for the day, with all the attendant welcoming and housekeeping ingredients that involves, Deist takes three and a half minutes to begin laying out his own stall. That’s not his fault: it’s the nature of the beast, but for our purposes it has the advantage of being three and a half minutes when we who are not attending the seminar don’t have to listen but can analyse his delivery. We can watch how he gets steadily freer, more fluent, more compelling and more persuasive during the gaps between looking down at his paper. It’s like watching horses run a steeplechase, with each look at his script being a jump which, far from helping him, actually slows him down and diminishes his power. It is such a pity.

His message is intriguing, particularly for me believing passionately in people and the sovereignty of the individual. I think that it automatically follows therefore that I believe in democracy, but he challenges that. I like my assumptions being challenged. His creed seems on the face of it to be a reductio ad absurdum of what I would regard as a rational standpoint. The Austrian school of economics appeals, as does freedom and small government, but no government…? I must go to the Mises bookstore page and get myself challenged by an anarchist.

Meanwhile my immediate challenge is this speech. Fascinating though I find the content, the speech itself is frankly dreary.  I know that I could transform it beyond measure in just a couple of hours with him; and in the process turn him into a real speaker for life.