Why ZH Fight Club matters: The scarcity of real discussion and debate in today’s society and what we can do about it.

“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.”
 

-Christopher Hitchens
Letters to a Young Contrarian

This is the second article regarding the upcoming ZeroHedge Symposium and Live Fight Club in Marfa, TX, June 16-18.  

Updates and speakers can be found in the first article, here:

The time has come for The First ZeroHedge Symposium and Live Fight Club

I think it is important to begin with the following excerpt from another article, Nobody is Ready, Willing, or Able to Ask and/or Answer Questions of Substance


In observing politicians, the media, and American citizens, one thing is clear to me about the presidential, congressional, and local campaigns.  Nobody is ready, willing, or able to ask and/or answer questions of substance.

Quite some time ago, my family and I ran across one of our elected representatives, our United States Congressman, campaigning at the town square.  We observed more than 100 of our fellow Texans shaking hands with him, and offering their support, which he was grateful to accept.  Not one person asked a question about his party’s platform, or his voting record.  The congressman did not make a single statement of substance about any issue.  Sure.  There were a few comments and jokes exchanged about the personalities of other candidates, but nothing at all about policy.

Finally, our family approached him, introduced ourselves, told him where we live (in his district) and exchanged warm greetings.  I asked, “Considering that you voted for both TARP bills in 2008, the most recent of many tax-payer bailouts of bank shareholders, and considering that you reported owning more than $100,000 of JPMorgan Chase Common Stock and Employee Stock in 2007, Congressman Brady, what is your position on the Federal Reserve Banks being responsible for regulating and supervising the very same banks that own them, such as JPMorgan Chase?

Immediately, a twenty-something woman stepped around from behind our elected representative, and in between him and us.  Our congressman stepped backwards several steps.  She said to us, without even a hint of the Texas twang used by Brady, “The congressman believes strongly in protecting our nation’s financial system for the benefit of every American.”

I said, “Well, like the vast majority of Americans, I did not, and do not, own any bank stocks or receive any bank dividends, especially New York banks.  I am, however, paid my salary in the US dollars that continue to lose value, and I use them to purchase the ever more expensive necessities of life.  Back to my question, please.  Doesn’t self-regulation and bailouts put the fox in charge of guarding the tax payer’s hen house?  And hasn’t our congressman shown himself to be one of the foxes?”

Congressman Brady was smiling, waving, and making his escape to a waiting vehicle.  One of our children shouted, “Dad!  He’s getting away!”

I laughed and nodded.

The un-elected twenty-something woman simultaneously smiled and glared at me.  She said, “America has the strongest banking system in the world, and the most stringent regulation.  Your congressman has worked hard to ensure that.  Thank you.”  Then she also left the town square.

I love the United States of America.  But as a parent, I have learned that two very important parts of love is not accepting wrong behavior and holding our loved ones accountable.  If we do not, then we are enabling wrong behavior, and that is not loving.

Many years ago, in high school journalism class, I was taught that journalists held politicians accountable.  In fact, the media used to be known as The Fourth Estate.  However, today, I see no evidence of this.  I only see the media as tools of propagandists and sellers of advertising and advertisers’ products and services.  Nobody in the mass media appears ready, willing, or able to ask our politicians any questions of substance.  When they do, rarely, and the politician is not responsive, usually, journalists are totally incapable of holding the politician accountable for an answer.

 

I believe that if Americans want to protect and defend what liberty we still have, it is now clearly up to us, We The People!  We cannot rely on The Fourth Estate.    

We must disintermediate The Fourth Estate. 

We must hold our government accountable.  We must be active, not passive.  Fortunately, the internet might just be the tool that enables us to do this.  But the establishment’s mainstream media and television propagandists are not going down without a fight.  Just look around.   So, like I say in my Revolutionary Call to Arms , we have to train for the fight.  We The People have to gain knowledge to overcome fear, False Evidence Appearing Real, and we have to train for the fight that we know in our hearts has arrived.  Only then can we find the courage and ability to begin to even practice disintermediating The Fourth Estate.  This is what I see many of us doing, here, now, in the ZeroHedge comments section.  Even when we are not convincing others, or being convinced, then we are at least increasing our own knowledge (and often others) and honing our own intellect and debate skills. 

There is much work to be done.  Just take 5 minutes to learn exactly how the American educational establishment is teaching us to debate with each other:

This is how the establishment prefers We The People think and behave. 

 

“I think in our desire to create a better America, we have to have civilized debate in this country, and not just yelling.”

 

– Craig Ferguson

 

So, why should we get together in person, in Marfa, when we can all debate with each other on the internet?  There are many reasons, but I will give two.  First, it is an exercise in courage to come out from behind the keyboard, look other humans in the eye, and hold an intelligent discussion when our opinions are not in alignment.  We need to get more comfortable with being courageous.

Second, most of us on ZeroHedge are human beings, and have a deep and ancient need for community and the mutual love and respect that humans tend to naturally have with other members of our community.  Sadly, community is missing from many of our lives, today, and I believe this sometimes has a very negative effect on the way we interact here, on Zerohedge, which may be easily remedied simply by us getting together in the high desert for a few days of listening, talking, eating, drinking, dancing, star gazing, and possibly even sleeping together (although my bed is already booked).

In communications with some of you that are coming to Marfa, and several of the speakers, we seem to have come up with two general aspects that will make this very different from other events.  First, if you want to remain anonymous, then we aren’t going to stop you.  Anyone will be welcome to simply walk in to all events, free of charge.  There will be nobody at the doors to check identification and there will be no registration or badges.  Second, all speakers are going to be ready, willing, and able to take a lot of questions from the audience at the end of each presentation, and everyone that asks a question will get the opportunity to ask at least one follow-up question.  Debate will be encouraged. 

If you have spent enough time reading ZeroHedge and engaged in the comment section discussions, then you probably have come to agree with Hitchens’ quote posted at the top of this article, “Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.” 

Here is to argument, courage, and community!

I sincerely hope to see you in Marfa.

h_h

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“Pro-Russian” Steinmeier Elected German President; Putin Delighted

Germany’s former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected as the country’s next president on Sunday. Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who had served as foreign minister until last month, won 931 of the 1,239 valid votes by lawmakers of Germany’s 16 federal states, becoming the 12th person to hold the largely ceremonial post in Germany’s post-war era.

He will succeed current president Joachim Gauck, a 77-year-old former pastor and pro-democracy activist from east Germany, when he steps down on March 18.


Germany’s new president Frank-Walter Steinmeier

His election was largely predetermined last November, when as reported at the time, Angela Merkel suffered her latest a political setback “by accepting that foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a candidate from the rival Social Democrat party, should be the country’s next president. Steinmeier was likely to be voted into the largely honorary post with reluctant backing from the chancellor’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance, which has failed to find a suitable candidate”

Merkel’s reported antagonism to the candidate, however, was not on display after Bundestag president Norbert Lammert announced the results, at which point all representatives held a standing ovation except for a few dozen members of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Reuters reports. The anti-immigrant AfD, which has no lawmakers in the lower house but holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, is forecast to be the third-largest party after a general election on Sept. 24.

“I have faith in him to lead our country in these difficult times,” Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term, said after the vote.

The presidency of Steinmeier, while ceremonial, may spark a pro-Kremlin turn in Germany. Dubbed as “pro-Russian” during his foreign ministerial days, Steinmeier last year drew criticism when he said NATO’s decision to stage military maneuvers in eastern Europe amounted to “saber-rattling”. His Social Democrats prefer a softer stance towards Russia than Merkel’s conservatives.

As we reported last June, Steinmeier criticized NATO for having a bellicose policy towards Russia, describing it as “warmongering”, according to an interview with Bild. He added that “what we should avoid today is inflaming the situation by warmongering and stomping boots.” As such, in a time when NATO is worried about losing US support under a Trump administration, it has just suffered another blow even as it continues its expansion and encirclement of Russia.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that a delighted Russian President Vladimir Putin promptly congratulated Germany’s new president-elect, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on his victory, and invited him to visit Russia at his earliest possible convenience.

“Vladimir Putin has confirmed his interest in continuing a constructive dialogue on international and bilateral issues, and invites Steinmeier to visit Russia at a convenient time for him,” an official press release from the Kremlin read.

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Brazil police return to work after strike triggers panic

Author: 
Rasheed Abou-Alsamh | Special to Arab News
Mon, 2017-02-13
ID: 
1486927192057776200

BRASILIA: “Everything was closed, and we all stayed at home, afraid to go out into the streets,” said a resident of Vilha Velha, Espirito Santo, to Arab News in an interview.
Around 600 military police returned to work in Espirito Santo on Saturday afternoon, as talks continue to try to end the strike of these police officers that is now more than a week old.
The police have been holed up in their barracks, with their wives and other relatives blocking the entrances. Per the Brazilian Constitution, military police are forbidden to strike.
In Brazil, the police forces are spilt between the military police that patrol the streets and arrest criminals in the act, and the civil police who investigate crimes.
“All the shops have been closed for days, and when a supermarket opens for a few hours there is a rush of people going there to buy food,” recounted Gloria Menezes Gripp. She said even the bakeries in her neighborhood were afraid to open after one near her house was robbed in broad daylight.
Schools, universities, shops and even the emergency rooms of major hospitals have all been closed down during the strike. Buses stopped running for several days, as their drivers were afraid of being held-up.
But this has not stopped many stores from being broken into and looted during the day. Television reporters have shown looters riding off on motorcycles with big TVs and other goods stolen from shops.
Some of the looters have been recognized and after their real identities and photos were spread via WhatsApp, some of them were seen returning stolen goods to police stations.
“I was bitten by a neighbor’s dog, and I could not get medical treatment as all the emergency rooms were closed,” Gripp said, showing her bite mark. She managed to get a flight out of Vitoria to Brasilia on Friday morning.
The federal government has deployed more than 2,000 troops in Espirito Santo to patrol the streets, but most residents of the large cities say they do not see them on the streets.
“I haven’t seen a single soldier in my area, as I think they stay in the more dangerous areas,” said Gripp. There have been 137 murders in the state since the strike started on Feb. 4.
The military police are demanding a salary adjustment of 43 percent, claiming that they have not even received pay corrections for inflation in the past three years. Their wives holding up signs at protests claim that they are the worst paid military police in the country, but statistics prove otherwise.
Epoca newsweekly this week published figures showing that Espirito Santo ranks 14th out of 21 states in terms of military police pay, with the average salary being R$3,085 ($990).
Espirito Santo is a small coastal state with only 3.8 million inhabitants. Its main sources of revenue come from offshore oil wells, coffee plantations and tourism. Espirito Santo Gov. Paulo Hartung is serving his third term and is a fiscal conservative, holding public spending so as not to plunge the state into debt, unlike neighboring Rio de Janeiro, which is in a fiscal mess.
He is taking a hard-line in the negotiations with the military police, and has threatened to sack more than 700 of the striking policemen. There are around 11,000 military police in the state.

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Pakistan retaliates after US denies politician visa

Author: 
AP, AFP
Mon, 2017-02-13
ID: 
1486927192127776800

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: The chairman of Pakistan’s Senate says the body will not welcome any US delegation, member of Congress or dignitary in Islamabad.
The move comes after the US failed to issue a visa to the Senate’s deputy chairman, a member of the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam political party.
Chairman Raza Rabbani says in a statement that no Pakistani Senate delegation will visit the US until an explanation for the delay in issuing a visa to Maulana Ghafoor Haideri is given by US authorities.
A US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday they could not comment on visa cases due to privacy laws.
Haideri was to travel Sunday to New York to attend a meeting at the UN.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is known for his pro-Taliban and anti-US stances.

Explosion kills two children
Two children were killed and another critically wounded in a grenade explosion in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, officials said.
The children of a shepherd family were playing in a mountainous village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when they found the hand grenade and accidentally set it off, local government official Zariful Maani told AFP.
The two brothers aged 9 and 10 died, while their 7-year-old female cousin is in a critical condition, Maani said.
Another local government official, Aizaz Ahmad, confirmed the details.
The village is close to the Swat Valley, where the army sent 30,000 troops in 2009 to battle Taliban fighters led locally by cleric Maulana Fazlullah.
He had taken control of the valley and waged a campaign of violence, including beheadings and attacks on girls’ schools.
Pakistani officials say that Fazlullah fled to neighboring Afghanistan during the offensive.
In 2013 Fazlullah became chief of the wider Pakistan Taliban group.

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Suu Kyi urges Myanmar armed ethnic groups to sign cease-fire

Author: 
The Associated Press
Mon, 2017-02-13
ID: 
1486927192027775900

PANGLONG, Myanmar: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on all armed ethnic groups to sign a cease-fire agreement during a speech Sunday in the same place where her father, an independence hero, signed a peace deal 70 years ago.
Speaking during annual Union Day celebrations, Suu Kyi said ethnic groups can still join the movement for peace.
“I want to ask those ethnic groups who haven’t signed the nationwide cease-fire to trust yourself and sign it and please participate in our 21st Century Panglong Conference,” Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party promised that peace would be the top priority when she came to power a year ago. But she has come under fire for ignoring the plight of the oppressed Rohingya Muslims and failing to stop atrocities against other ethnic minorities.
Skirmishes, particularly in the northern zones where Kachin insurgents are fighting the army, have displaced more than 100,000 civilians since 2011 alone.
With military offensives on the rise, ethnic groups have recently expressed that their hopes for Suu Kyi leading the peace process are fading.
Union Day marks the original Panglong agreement, brokered by Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San. He, along with ethnic Shan, Kachin and Chin leaders, signed the deal to grant ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain.
But Aung San was assassinated five months after the agreement was reached and the deal fell apart. Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military governments of failing to honor the 1947 pact.

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Swiss approve new citizenship rules in defeat for anti-Muslim camp

Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-02-13
ID: 
1486926561637666400

GENEVA: Swiss voters on Sunday approved a measure to make it easier for third-generation immigrants to become citizens, in a defeat for rightwing nationalists who had raised fears about giving passports to more Muslims.
The RTS public broadcaster and national news agency ATS said the “Yes” camp had fulfilled both criteria needed for a win by securing a majority of total votes and a majority of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
The government as well as most lawmakers and political parties supported the proposal.
According to a study, less than 25,000 people in the country of about 8 million currently qualify as third-generation immigrants, meaning they have at least one grandparent who was born here or acquired Swiss residency.
Nearly 60 percent of that group are Italians, followed by those with origins in the Balkans and Turkish nationals.
Debate on the proposal had nothing to do with religion at the outset, said Sophie Guignard of the Institute of Political Science at the University of Bern.
It was the SVP, an anti-Islam party, that focused on the risks of more Muslims becoming citizens and the possible “loss of Swiss values,” Guignard told AFP.
Polls closed at midday and most in the wealthy Alpine nation had already voted by mail.
Eight cantons including major population centers like Geneva, Zurich and Basel voted to approve the measure.
A change to citizenship laws requires a constitutional amendment, meaning the “Yes” side needs to win both a majority of votes and a majority of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
Sunday’s referendum is one of four each year for voting on subjects affecting federal as well as local laws and institutions.
The “No” camp faced heavy criticism over a widely-distributed poster urging voters to reject “uncontrolled citizenship.”
It was commissioned by the Committee Against Facilitated Citizenship, which has several SVP members including in leadership positions.
The co-chair of that committee and an SVP lawmaker, Jean-Luc Addor, urged people to vote against the measure on grounds that one day most third-generation immigrants will not be of European origin.
Political initiatives that either directly or implicitly target Muslims may be on the rise in the West, notably including US President Donald Trump’s travel ban against seven mainly Muslim countries, which was undone in court this week.
But in Switzerland such moves are nothing new.

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Hamburg airport briefly shut after corrosive discharge

Author: 
AFP, REUTERS
Mon, 2017-02-13
ID: 
1486926561627666100

BERLIN: German authorities on Sunday briefly closed the airport in the northern city of Hamburg after a discharge of a corrosive substance caused eye irritation and breathing difficulties among 50 people in a security check area, a police spokeswoman said.
Firefighters and ambulances were rushed to the scene after the incident, which occurred in an area where passenger luggage is scanned by security staff.
Firefighters are trying to determine the source of the discharge and the nature of the corrosive substance.
Lightly-dressed passengers were rushed outside the terminal but were allowed back in shortly after, the police spokeswoman said.
A spokeswoman for the airport said flights had resumed as of 1.45 p.m. (1245 GMT).
According to live flight tracking website flightradar24.com some flights were diverted to other airports after the incident.
Those who were evacuated from Hamburg airport had to wait outside the terminals in sub-zero temperatures.
Maik Lewerenz of the federal police office at the airport said “a bad smell has spread in the security area, where passengers and their carry-on luggage are checked.
“A number of people complained about eye and respiratory irritation,” he said.
Hamburg airport is Germany’s fifth largest, with just over 1 million passengers a month.

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Trump To Nominate Former Bear Stearns Chief Economist For International Treasury Role

Having filled up his administration to the brim with former Goldman staffers, to the point where even President Trump realizes there may be too many “Goldman Guys” on his team, Bloomberg reports that in an attempt to branch out, Donald Trump plans to nominate David Malpass, 60, the former Bear Stearns economist, as U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

For those trading FX, his role will be critical: “His first job will be to help guide policy as the world wonders whether the new administration will make a habit of talking up or down other countries’ currencies.”

Malpass will report to the Treasury secretary on the U.S.’s international economic relationships, most importantly with China. Ties between the world’s two largest economies have become more tenuous since Trump’s election. The Republican and his advisers have not only talked about China and Japan artificially manipulating their currencies — after walking back a pledge to label the former as a manipulator in the early days of the administration — but have also moved foreign exchange markets by jawboning the U.S. and Canadian dollars, Mexico peso, and the euro.

In other words, with much confusion within the Trump admin over whether the US Dollar should be stronger or weaker, Malpass will – hopefully – provide some much needed clarity. He will also be the point person, i.e., fall guy, should Trump’s dollar policy backfire.

His nomination will likely be heated as most other Trump candidates: Malpass, due to his high profile Bear Stearns roots prior to its collapse in 2008, may face heat from Democrats already bitter over the number of Wall Street alums joining the Trump administration.

Confirmations in the Senate are gummed up, with Democrats debating for 30 hours or boycotting committee votes on some cabinet picks. Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin is expected to be confirmed in a vote on Monday.

The good news for Trump is that if confirmed by the Senate, Malpass would bring “extensive government experience to an economic team that has little background in public service. He served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Treasury and State departments during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”

Malpass’ ascent will be notable to Fed watchers because he has stated in the past that he views the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases as “very harmful” to the economy by channeling credit to corporations and the government instead of to new, more dynamic small businesses. That said, as Bear Stearns’ chief economist, Malpass in 2007 wrote a Wall Street Journal column advising markets not to panic over a $2 trillion loss in equity markets, calling it a “correction” that may eventually drive economic growth. The following year, that credit crunch turned into a global crisis, taking Bear Stearns down with it.

After Bear Stearns’ demise Malpass founded Encima Global, an economic research company, and has been a frequent commentator in print and on television. He served on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council.

Bloomberg adds that Malpass would replace Nathan Sheets, who served as undersecretary of international affairs in the final stages of the Obama administration. Lael Brainard, now a Fed governor, also held that role under Obama from 2010 to 2013. As explained yesterday, Brainard is one of the Fed governors closely tied to the Clinton regime, and some see her as the next head to roll at the Fed following Daniel Tarullo’s unexpected departure on Friday.

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