Peter Thiel: rich in substance

I came across this speech by Peter Thiel at the National Review Institute Summit. It is difficult to establish exactly when it was delivered, as the video was posted on YouTube on 14 March this year, whereas the National Review Institute website dates their summit on 16 & 17 March. One thing we can surmise from the introduction by Rich Lowry is that it took place very shortly after the Presidential Inauguration, and I reckon we are looking here at late January; though puzzlingly Thiel refers to Obama as ‘the current president’, and significantly never mentions him by name at all.

I was interested to witness a speech by Thiel, not just because he is a billionaire but because he is unusual in being a rare republican billionaire. I found other speeches, but chose to cover this one.

Rich Lowry’s introduction lasts six minutes, and he shoots it from the hip which pleases me. I am also pleased that he isn’t fawning completely over his introducee. He leaves us in no doubt that he is less than happy about the (then) very new Trump presidency, and Thiel had very publicly supported the Trump campaign. But then, they are both of the Right which is more tolerant than the Left.

Thiel also shoots from the hip. Perhaps his principal message is that for the past decade, or thereabouts, there has been a startling change in electronic human interaction; but in more substantive areas like energy, travel, manufacturing, the USA has lost what had appeared to be an irresistible momentum. He seems to put this down chiefly to everything being regulated to a standstill.

He is quite obviously highly intelligent and very well read, but the speech suffers here and there from being not clearly structured and therefore a little incoherent. He knows what he is trying to get across, but sometimes for us the thread is difficult to follow. He is a chess player of international standing, and if I try rather clumsily to use a chess metaphor it’s as if he is trying to describe a particular game to those of us unable to hold that many moves in our heads.

Some would say that this would have been solved by his having a script, and to a degree they’d be right, but the price would be a dreadful loss of spontaneity. Here is another of his speeches that is obviously read off a teleprompter; and it makes makes my point by being smooth, fluent and consequently rather tedious.

The choice is not either/or.  You can have both spontaneity and clarity. You just need to know how.

At 29:22 he closes his speech elegantly with a slightly distorted quote from Dylan Thomas; and then we move into Q&A, not with questions from the floor but an interview with Rich Lowry who introduced him.

Here, as so often happens with speakers like this, Thiel comes into his own. The questions provide him with the structure he needed earlier, and the result is clarity.

Thiel is a man who needs to be heard, because there’s so much substance there, but he also needs to be better understood.

 

 

 

 

Barry Poulson isn’t fluffy

In my previous post, which was on Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, I made reference to the current USA administration – of which Mrs Clinton has been a key part – having presided over that country’s being indebted to the tune of “$20-odd trillion”. I am not in a position to know the true figures, but here’s a man who is.

Dr Barry Poulson delivered a talk to the Heartland Institute. It was entitled How Can Fiscal Rules Fix the American Government? 

How indeed? He begins at 04:19. There are severe sound-problems prior to his beginning: persevere.

I do nearly all my work with business speaking. It has particular demands on the speaker, like precision and conciseness. It is also perceived (often wrongly) to be rather hard-edged; and for this reason I enjoy helping people package tough issues in a way that makes them seem relatively fluffy.

Here we have a speaker from an academic environment. His first impression is an avuncular one. Almost immediately we are made to feel that he has all the time in the world, and reckons we have too. He even wanders off to get a drink of water, and is gone for ages; later he becomes inaudible for a time when he takes root on the wrong side of the screen. This man, we tell ourselves, doesn’t need fluffy packaging: he’s already fluffy. Beware! From what I’ve seen of academia it can be every bit as cut-throat as the business world, so ignore sheep’s clothing. The only licence that academics could have over business-people might be freedom from immediate and terminal accountability. Get it wrong and usually you can go back to the drawing board.

Poulson is dealing with an issue (national debt) that everyone has been getting scandalously wrong, and he quickly makes the point that neither of the presidential candidates is talking about it, presumably because there are no votes in it according to the pollsters (remember pollsters? – they’re the people that keep getting it wrong). This is where the $20 trillion number comes up. It exceeds GDP. On this matter Poulson isn’t fluffy: Capitol Hill is. The Executive seems to regard Venezuela as a rôle model.

His message is that without fundamental changes of fiscal direction the USA is toast. That may be unthinkable, but it is feasible and doesn’t have fluff.

There is a way out, and he spends half an hour telling us what it is. Here’s a clue: it’s a little more grown up than taxing the ‘super-rich’, which is why politicians might prefer to see their country gurgling down the drain than put it to the people. Politicians seem to be convinced that people are stupid. That’s why they call themselves ‘leaders’ and expect to be followed by sheep. They are not leaders, they are representatives. They have been delegated to attend to matters, like the nation’s finances, and to do so with competence or be booted out.

The US Constitution begins with its three most important words,

We    The    People.

The United Kingdom does not have a written constitution, but on 23 June We The People were presented with a rare chance to exercise a vote that made a difference. They rose to the opportunity, exercised grown-up judgement, made it clear they were the masters, and what their command was. Their command was the one that would keep them in charge. This was in the teeth of flawed [that’s a euphemism] arguments and judgements being fed to them by ‘leaders and experts’ of all descriptions, including the current US President. They showed they were not sheep to be led, but delegators of responsibility. The sheep among them have been bleating piteously ever since.

Politicians really do need to wake up to the probability that We The People are at least as bright as they, and do something really revolutionary like telling the unfluffy truth. Then possibly they might find that their candour wins them votes, and the USA might just be saved.

Rudy Giuliani excoriates POTUS

On February 13 the Iranian American Community of Arizona held a symposium in Phoenix  on Countering Islamic Fundamentalism. One of the speakers was Rudy Giuliani, and he became mighty passionate.

This post follows one in which George Galloway, in the British parliament on 29 January, spoke very passionately about the war in Iraq; so we find ourselves with a double bill of passionate politicians. Anyone would think I’d planned it.

Giuliani is introduced by the symposium’s moderator, Linda Chavez. Before we move on, I want to point out how effective it is for Ms Chavez to personalize this introduction. Their political careers cause them to have been acquainted for many years, and she uses reminiscence to make the introduction much more interesting than it might have been.

OK, hold on to your hat. You are in for a storm. He doesn’t burst out of the starting stalls. That would be cheap, a waste of energy, and Giuliani shows himself to be far too skillful a speaker to make that mistake. He starts with quiet intensity, building from a slow burn all the way up to thunder. Surely it is not just chance that the first powerful auxesis hits its summit  at 4:06 with his crying out the words, “Is there no passion?”

There’s passion all right, and he is exhibiting it.

He plays this audience like a skilled angler. He reels them in, building up to mighty shouts, calming down to let them get their breath back, building up again, introducing long pauses for them to reflect, etc.  Also note how he never uses the top volume ‘at’ his audience. Sometimes it’s the big rhetorical question like “Is there no passion?” addressed – as it were – to  the sky: sometimes he is shouting (so to speak) at the US President. It’s a very good technique, because he is not seen to be ranting at his audience, but with them on their behalf – being their spokesperson. And they are loving it – check out the applause. This guy is good!

Having started with what he sees as the President’s weakness towards Islamism, and having then moved into the President’s weakness towards the untrustworthiness of Iran’s theocratic regime it’s time for a third prong to his attack. At 15:30 he moves into a different arena.

Most of this audience will know a lot about Camp Liberty in Iraq. In case my reader doesn’t, but wants to understand this section of the speech better, here is a link to an article published in the British Sunday Telegraph. In the article you will see that Giuliani does not come new to this story, but marched in a protest about it in Paris in June 2013. The story does not make pretty reading, nor does it represent the proudest moment for the USA or the UN – or Britain, come to that. Small wonder some of us come close to despair over our representatives.

Loud or soft, this speech is constantly intense and, of course, shot from the hip. Giuliani (I’m changing metaphors here) plays it like a symphony. Agree with him or not, he’s some speaker!

At 21:10 he asks, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” He is speaking about the M.E.K. but if I had scripted the question for him, I could not have arranged a better cue for the blog posting that will follow this in a few days. it is going to be difficult to write because it concerns a video that is arguably one of the most important on YouTube at the moment.  I hope I can do it justice.