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In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.
  — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997, p. 50

Rescued from the google cache:

Has anyone started talking about zones of differing activity? Like the green, yellow or red zones of other large actions?

I am starting to feel concerned by all the talk I am hearing about lack of adherence to or acceptance of diversity of tactics. Frankly, the cops will do what they are going to do, we do not need to be pointing out people doing something we may not agree with.

I don’t know if this is the place for this dialogue, probably not, but I just want to put it out there that disagreement is okay but helping to get someone arrested is NOT.

If you see activity you disagree with please just move away. Please do not put our fellow agitators in harms way by pointing them out.

Original URL: http://www.occupyoakland.org/2011/10/zones-of-activity/

Updated for grammar and style, with a few minor additions and deletions.

Over the past few months, my wife and I have started watching some “reality” shows on auctions and pawn shops. Our favorite is “Auction Hunters” (wiki) with Allen Haff and “Ton” Jones, two guys with complementary knowledge of valuables who try to turn a profit on storage unit auctions. The episodes highlight their successes, though they make it clear that they have failures as well. Those don’t make for good TV.

Another good storage auction show is “Storage Wars” (wiki) which features a cast of regulars—six people total: two individuals, a married couple, and a father-son duo. At the end of each episode, each team’s profits are tallied and ranked, scoring it as a competition.

There’s also “Storage Hunters” which we don’t find as interesting as the other two, either in content or personality.

Before an auction, the owner opens the door to the unit and prospective bidders get a few seconds to look inside, without touching or crossing the threshold. It’s sad how highly valuable things are lost by storage unit customers who fail to pay the rent. But that’s part of their contract and the storage owners build these placed to make a profit, not provide free space out of the kindness of their hearts. Sometimes valuable objects are in plain sight. More enticingly, the bidders catch a glimpse of just a leg, handle, or case, giving a hint of the nature of the object under the clutter. Otherwise, boxes and bags completely hide the treasures, so bidders have to use other clues, or just outright gamble. The visible items often give clues to the type of person who rented the space, whether it’s indicators of their occupation or hobby, or simply the care with which the items are stored. Also, bidders consider the town in which the storage units are situated as a way to guess the type of things that residents might want to store—whether it’s a beach town, retirement community, or a popular spot for hunting and outdoor recreation.

Before and during the bidding, the shows highlight the psychological tussle between rival bidders. On “Auction Hunters”, Allen and Ton work out a maximum bid and a strategy to dissuade competitors from driving up the cost. On “Storage Wars” the primary buyers know each other and are constantly playing head games. Sometimes it’s about driving up the price to keep the other guy from having enough cash to bid on other units. Sometimes it’s about quickly driving up the price and winning the auction to intimidate the amateurs. But mostly it’s just trash talking. It can be very funny. When the auctioneer says, “going once, going twice”, and Dave Hester shouts a deep, long “yeeeeeeeep” at the last moment, he gets to watch the rival bidders’ faces, the anguish and frustration of having a winning bid taken away just after they get their hopes up.

Digging through units to discover valuable items adds suspense. Producers inevitably insert a commercial break right after a surprised gasp. Once the good stuff is sorted out and trucked away, the buyers try to flip them as soon as possible, to reduce the time and space devoted to a given product. Whether it’s a collector, an antique store, potential buyers are interviewed to assess the value, after which the stars of the show try to get the highest price. Again, it’s another psychological exercise, to gauge the response of a potential buyer. The whole process from auction to resale is an interesting combination of raw capitalism and gambling.

Before we saw those TV shows, my wife had already been a longtime viewer of the PBS show “Antiques Roadshow” (wiki), which provides viewers with the chance to see expert appraisals of items. There’s a bit of suspense, but none of the drama of bidding or haggling.

My wife loves going to estate sale auctions, garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. She has a good eye for hidden values and is an accomplished haggler. She’s managed to turn a profit on just about everything she bought with the intent to flip. I’ve gone to a few auctions with her. For me, it’s entertaining and interesting to watch the process, but she’s the expert. I love watching her at work.

Similar to the auction shows are the ones about pawn shops. My son thinks “Pawn Stars” is the best, because it features interesting items without so much drama. We haven’t had a chance to watch that one, but we have enjoyed the show “Hardcore Pawn” (wiki) which chronicles interesting incidents at a large Detroit pawn shop, run by the Gold family: Les and his children Seth and Ashley. It’s fun to watch the Golds and their employees haggle, though the TV show is more about relationships and the drama of patrons who seemingly don’t understand the concepts of mutual, consensual exchanges, private property, or manners. The security staff escort those who misbehave out the door, with all the expected tantrums. However, it’s my understanding that TV producers must obtain a signed release to broadcast a person’s images, so I question the authenticity of many events. Also, as with other “reality” shows, the main characters often engage in squabbles which seem a bit contrived or exaggerated.

At a weblog called “The Zeitgeisty Report” an author named Damien wrote a scathing review of “Hardcore Pawn” in which he accused the show’s producers of “blatantly” reinforcing “offensive” stereotypes. Unfortunately, Damien’s arguments reinforce the misguided notions that negotiating for a low price to maximize one’s profit is the act of a “[s]neaky, eveil [sic] Shakespearean Shylock creature” or an “[e]vil Jew [who] screws over less intelligent minority.” I wonder, if the pawnshop owners were Mexican and the customers Anglo, would Damien still see the haggling as “sneaky” and “dishonest”? Would he view the middle man as “evil”? Or is it just that the Gold family are Jewish? (I’ve never seen an episode in which their religion or ethnic background are mentioned, but I’ll assume Damien is accurate in guessing that they are Jewish because their name is Gold.) I attempted to post a comment on that article, but it’s been “awaiting moderation” for weeks. Here it is (permalink):

Some of the angry encounters are staged. I noticed a microphone transmitter clipped onto the belt in back of a “customer” who was being thrown out of the store. I’m betting that some are real, but to liven up the show, they stage reenactments or maybe even outright fiction. If you were thrown out, would you sign a release to have your image shown on TV? Put people in front of a camera and they usually act differently than they would otherwise.

And, the sibling rivalry subplot is overwrought, probably a combination of selective editing and directors encouraging expressive outbursts on the part of the actors (family members).

But if you see the pawn brokers as evil and dishonest, you may, like many of the troublemakers on the show, be unfamiliar with the concepts of private property, consensual exchanges, and profit margins in consideration of overhead. About 90% of the angry displays are because the person stupidly feels entitled to money that the brokers aren’t willing to pay, or think that they are entitled to enter another person’s private property and say rude or threatening things with no consequence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that such ignorance and stupidity take place in Detroit, which has been devastated by economic collapse which was an inevitable consequence of decades of union and government corruption, welfare “entitlements”, and the like—though for political reasons, those who know this won’t admit it, while the rest are unenlightened to the basics of free market economics.

You give the example of the gyn table being bought then resold for much more, but the fact is that the original sellers don’t have to pay for a giant store, employees, taxes, utilities, advertisement, etc. to find a buyer. They just went to the place Les built, got their money, and were on their way, happy with the result. On the other side, the “George Jefferson” interpretation is completely yours. I say if the guy is happy with the deal he got, then he benefited from the deal. It’s not up to you to decide that the table wasn’t worth $200 to him, because it’s not your $200, not your table, and not your happiness. It’s his.

As for your suggestions of racial or ethic stereotypes being pushed by the producers, I don’t agree. The show is about drama, so the vast majority of customers waiting in line aren’t acting up and are only seen as background to the narrative. Several of the crazy customers are white. The employees seem to be quite varied in race, ethnicity, personality types, etc.. Your “missing chromosome” snark is ignorant (hint: look up aneuploidy, you probably would have said “extra chromosomes” if you knew better, but then it’s jolly fun to exploit people with Down’s Syndrome by making them the punchline of a joke, I suppose).

Watch “Hardcore Pawn” and decide for yourself.

Better yet, watch “Auction Hunters” or “Storage Wars” for better content.

Correction: Rodrigo Camarena is a contributor to The Guardian who is based in Mexico City. I falsely assumed he was in Britain.

Rodrigo Camarena of The Guardian thinks that Democrats and their agents in the ATF should gain from Project “Gunwalker” (a/k/a “Fast and Furious”), instead of being held accountable for their criminal activity.

My response:

I thank you, Rodrigo Camarena and the rest of the non-Americans, for arrogantly trying to command the politicians here to put leashes on us so we’re just like you. Few things do a better job of convincing Americans to wake up and stick up for their rights than seeing Europeans getting up on their hind legs to tell us what to do.

Even more preposterous, you presume that a major scandal involving a Democrat administration, in which the bureau chief is about to resign, makes the case FOR the Democrats gaining political advantage. Generally, when government officials are caught doing illegal things, causing the deaths of innocents in a cynical ploy to skew statistics, it’s time to sack them and put them behind bars, to hold them accountable.

Gun shop owners tried to alert the ATF, but were told to let the straw buyers walk. The criminals here were the government agents. If any laws should become stricter, it should be the laws which concern the actions of government agents. Make their activities more transparent by opening records of their operations to the public. Increase prison sentences for law enforcement officials who engage in illegal activities on the job.

But leave the peaceable American civilians alone. They’re not responsible for what Kenneth Melson’s ATF did in their illegal scheme.

Nor are they responsible for the actions of a mentally disturbed man.

The fact is, the right to the most effective tools of self defense is inalienable to all human beings. No one has an obligation to allow themselves to be hurt or killed so that their neighbors might get a false sense of security.

Also, there’s one additional thing that Democrat politicians know, which you don’t seem to. It’s why most of them are too afraid for their political careers to vote for any bill which would infringe on Americans’ rights even further. During the Clinton administration, the “Assault Weapons” (aka scary LOOKING guns) ban caught gun owners unprepared. The Democrats lost control of Congress because of that and many Americans fought long and hard to keep that ban from being renewed—and were successful.

They will NEVER be unprepared for a political fight, ever again, regardless of your fantasies about exploiting the acts of a madman or the crimes of government agents.

Beyond the political contests, there are plenty of gun owners who will simply say “no” to any more legal infringements of their rights. They aren’t the frightened little poodles that inhabit your island.

Hat tip: Sipsey Street Irregulars

Yes, You Did

Nancy and Harry helped

Richard Glover in The Sydney Morning Herald expresses violent fantasies to hurt and kill the “climate-change deniers”.  This is nothing new.  Richard Curtis of Project 10:10 created the film “No Pressure” in which people, including children, are literally blown into bloody pieces for not sufficiently participating in a Big Brother style energy reduction mandate.  As usual, this is passed off as satirical humor, but the prevalence of this violent, murderous fantasy amongst eco-dogmatists should give decent people pause, particularly when one considers how collectivist dogmatists, when they have attained authoritarian power, have caused the deaths of tens of millions in famines and purges, just a few decades ago (Great Leap Forward, Ukrainian Terror Famine, Cambodian Year Zero).  Sure, it’s unlikely that the most fanatical, dangerous elements of the green movement will attain sufficient power to repeat the horrors of the recent past. But it’s not impossible and decent people must pay attention to the likes of Richard Glover and Richard Curtis and any politicians who lend credence to their fanaticism.

Keep your eye on these sickos. They are the real dangerous ones.

Note that instead of calling people skeptics, and instead of addressing the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) hypothesis directly (he indirectly supports it by fantasizing about “deniers” drowning in low-lying islands), he uses weasel words: “deniers” and “climate change”.  All responsible CAGW skeptics acknowledge that temperatures have risen since 1900 and nobody in their right mind denies that climate changes.  Indeed, during the past several centuries, the climate has changed drastically, from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age (which puts a lie to Newsweek’s alarmist revisionism, describing the climate of the last 12,000 years as being “stable”).

So, when you make an honest comparison between what CAGW alarmists claim and how skeptics of CAGW respond, the charges leveled at skeptics of “boneheaded[ness]“, stupidity, dishonesty, and being politically motivated don’t make sense.

The Inquisition convicted Galileo of heresy for denying the geocentric view. This false view that the Earth was immovable and the center of the universe was considered “settled science” at the time. Basically, most every “scientist” who opined on astronomical matters at the time went along with the erroneous theory, which was driven by religious dogma not data, because of the political power of the church. Go against the church and you risked punishment, up to and including death.

Today, Galileo is held in high esteem as the father of modern physics. But during his life, he suffered for applying rational skepticism which challenged the political order of the day.

Compare the geocentric theory with the CAGW theory, the alarmist view that gases produced by human industry are driving global warming which will cause catastrophic disasters—melting ice caps, rising sea levels, crop failures, mass starvation, extinctions. So far, the early CAGW predictions of 50 million climate refugees by 2010 (which they then tried to toss down the memory hole, pretending it never happened), and others, have not been accurate. (Going back a couple decades, we can laugh riotously at even older predictions which are preposterous in hindsight.)

And yet, despite the failures of the CAGW alarmists to accurately predict the past 15 years and their duplicitous revisionist claims that colder winters, more snow, fewer hurricanes were actually predicted (playing the “heads I win, tails you lose” game), Richard Glover doubles down by dismissing “deniers” as “boneheads” who somehow have already been shown to be wrong.  Really?  Where?

Warren Meyer has put together a presentation and a layman’s guide to highlight the errors of CAGW alarmists.  Anthony Watts puts up some great articles as well at Watts Up With That?  Many other bloggers and more traditional journalists cover these topics as well.  Unfortunately for Richard Glover’s lazy strawman, none of these people fit the caricature of the Neanderthal “denier” who reflexively denies all scientific data.  Indeed, you’ll find a lot of careful arguments using the alarmists’ own data against them.

Ironically, Richard Glover asks, “Is it possible to get the politics out of the climate-change debate?”  Certainly, but he won’t like the results. All the fat grants which give scientists incentives to produce politically favorable results will dry up.  The laws and regulations, which are created via politics, will no longer unduly punish people for living a modern lifestyle.  The free market will not be assailed by anti-capitalists (from socialists to Mussolini-style fascists) under the guise of “saving the Earth”.

Oh, and if you’re going to keep politics out of the debate, then keep entertainers like Cate Blanchett and James Cameron on the other side of the line dividing serious people from those who make pretend as a career.

But let’s just give Richard Glover and his ilk the benefit of the doubt for just a minute.  For the sake of argument, assume that the CAGW predictions of several degrees C increase in a matter of decades are accurate.  If that is the case, then his notion that “a carbon tax that seeks to subtly redirect some of our choices” will stave off such a drastic outcome is ridiculous. You might as well take ice cubes from your freezer outside to cool the atmosphere for all the good these modest austerity measures will produce.

The reality is that only massive destruction of the industrial capacity of all nations, a forced return to the pre-Industrial lifestyle of our ancestors (a la Pol Pot’s Year Zero and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward) will ever drive down emissions sufficiently to reverse the warming.  So, basically, hundreds of millions will die and the survivors will have to be satisfied with having the consumption level of a contemporary Third World resident. (Except, of course, the Al Gore types who will run around in limousines and jets.)

In contrast to the smug self image of basing one’s opinions on rational, factual science, New Age religious views and the fantasies played out in fictional stories like Fern Gully and Avatar—which ascribe imaginary spiritual, magical attributes to nature—often drive childish people to wish away the complexities of the real world, including a highly unpredictable natural world and the matter of individual rights of human beings.  And, when people aren’t being childish and ignoring uncomfortable facts, but still disregard the rights of others and try to shout down skeptics as heretical, fantasizing about violence and murder, they are following in the footsteps of totalitarians.  Even Richard Glover admits that his tattoo idea is “Nazi-creepy”, and yet the rotten sicko still wrote his article and sent it to be published.

Update: Minor grammar corrections.

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