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How to enjoy an auction, and which common mistake to avoid

Auctions are everywhere today. They are online, in person at local venues, and in person or by absentee bid at the big places, like Rock Island Auctions.

eBay and GunBroker, local farm equipment at Farmer Joe’s barn, on-site home and property auctions, regional outfits like Cordier, and the big ones like Christies, Sotheby’s, etc. Many auctions to choose from, all following some auction format, each with some minor but important differences (warranty, returns, defects, descriptions etc).

Pretty much anything you might need, or as is more common, want, is available at an auction.

Auctions offer an opportunity to get things unobtainable in any other venue, except perhaps through specialized and usually expensive dealers. For truly rare and expensive items, an auction may be the only place to bid on them, before they are whisked away to the next private collection. Auctions are fun and potentially lucrative for the buyer, almost never for the seller, and are definitely lucrative for the auctioneer, who charges both seller and buyer.

Auctions used to involve travel, getting a bidder number (no small feat way back when), and sitting through often tedious hours of boring junk while waiting for your own magic piece of paraphernalia to come up.

Auctions today are mostly different, though you can always travel to that upcounty farm liquidation sale, if you want that local flavor.

The Information Age and modern hand-held technology have entered into most auctions. Almost every auction today has an online bidding option, even the local ones, through either their own website or through ProxiBid, a real-time PayPal-like intermediary between seller and bidder. Many auctions allow bidders to place absentee bids through faxes or emails.

Never before have auction bidders had so much convenience and flexibility.

And online bidding really is unbelievably convenient. No more standing out in the cold, or waiting hours for your particular lot to come up. You find what you want online, put in your highest dollar number in their software, and go about your life, waiting patiently to see the result. If you really want it, really gotta have it, then you can probably find one with the Buy It Now option.

With auction sites like eBay, you have the choice to put in your highest bid, and wait to see if it wins, or you can also participate in that last 45 seconds of the auction, when there is a flurry of bidding by people trying to snipe one another and put in the winning bid, without disclosing that amount ahead of time.

And this is key.

The purpose to this last-second-snipe approach is, by not filing your highest bid up front, you do not disclose your final willingness to pay, your maximum bid.

That keeps other bidders guessing about their competition up until the last second. You may end up with a good deal at low risk, but it is definitely a hands-on approach.

It highlights a critical rule about auctions: The worst mistake a buyer can make in any auction is to disclose (to anyone) what his willingness to pay is; that is, his highest or maximum bid, the highest bid he is willing to make on any given item.

Once someone has that number, they can and will use it against you, even though they might justify it as helping their client, the seller.

Even though this is an obvious mistake, it is nonetheless very common, because online bidding has changed the culture of bidding at all auctions, including live ones with an actual auctioneer calling out bids.

With online auctions, filing your highest bid ahead of time is a common practice, because it is so convenient. You plop in your highest number to the auction software, and walk away. If you win, you win, if you don’t, you don’t. You put your best foot forward and if you don’t succeed, that is OK, because you did not exceed your self-imposed limit.

Although this process is not transparent, for the most part it works for buyers. Probably because the stakes are usually too low to warrant the high risk to the seller or auctioneer manipulating the bidding outcome.

Modern online auction bidding is nothing like what auctions used to be, but this newfound ease and convenience also comes with a potential cost when it comes to live auctions. That cost is bidders will absolutely face fake bids placed by the auctioneer. As a result, bidders will see the price of their object artificially boosted well beyond the actual market demand, much more than would happen at a traditional live auction, and with even less accountability.

It is easy enough for live auctioneers to plant “shill” bidders and bids in their audience. In the blended world of live-and-also-online auctions, some auctioneers video record some, but not all, of the proceedings. Sadly, these recordings are laughably useless, but they give the veneer of propriety and accountability.

Bidders at live auctions today are dropping their guard, because the absentee bidding process in online auctions is now routine. Bidders assume there is no risk in this, no matter how high priced the item, because everything else they bid on goes smoothly in the online auctions. Yes, eBay has had some problems over the years, with obvious meddling by sellers in their own auctions, but those seem to be few and far between these days. And in any event, the prices and values were relatively low.

But what happens when you have a high-value item up for bid at live auction? Let’s say, a collectible gun, or an authenticated Persian rug, or a bona fide piece of rare art. These are items worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. With these numbers, there is a real incentive for the auctioneer or seller to manipulate the bidding process, to make the price go higher. They can take that absentee bid, your maximum, which should be held like a state secret, and they can create fake bids to get you up to your limit.

The problem here is that when you, the bidder, filed an absentee bid anywhere close to real money (thousands, tens of thousands of dollars), you violated the number one rule of bidding at auction: You disclosed the maximum amount you were willing to pay, ahead of time.

And now that the auction house or auctioneer has your highest bid in front of them, they can find “shill” bidders to post fake bids against you to artificially drive up the price. For you to prove they did this, even when it is obvious, you must file a legal complaint and pay an attorney to go through the discovery process. It is as easy as an auctioneer asking a well-known old dealer chum to throw in a few bids on an item, just to “help out.”

So our take-away is this: Do not file absentee bids for high-cost items.

Either participate in the auction in person, by phone, or through a buyer who is present in the room when the auction is being held.

To that point, I recently watched a video of an auctioneer and his assistant. This video was supposed to demonstrate the honest way in which the auction was held. Lots of gesticulating and interacting by the auctioneer and assistant. They were both dramatically acting on bids as if the room was packed and the bids were flying in.

Someone who was there told me the room actually held very few buyers, and all of them were hardened dealers. Overall there were very few bids, basically only one or two per item, for the entire auction. Few of the bids came from within the room, and most were absentee bids and phone bids relayed to the auctioneer by the auction house’s own employees.

But from the showman’s antics on the video, you would think a couple hundred buyers were seated there, every one of whom was waving their number.

How many absentee bids were artificially jacked by the showman on that day? How many buyers were shilled?

Auction buyer beware; file no absentee bids for real money (everyone has their limit, but mine would be anything above $1,000).

Participate in high-stakes auctions directly, or have someone else participate for you. But do not ever disclose your maximum bid to anyone, especially to the auction house. Because no matter what, it will be used against you, regardless of the empty promises made about how “safe” your bid is with them. Auction houses are in business to make money, and they will do that any way they can, and it is always at the buyer’s expense.

A Severance Tax, now?

Talk about an addiction to spending other people’s money.

Yesterday in southeast PA, far away from the communities where this issue is most important and the citizens might not be so welcoming, Governor Tom Wolf staked out his position on creating a new 5% “severance tax” on natural gas from the Marcellus shale feature.

Right now, natural gas is selling at historic low prices, especially here in Pennsylvania.  The financial incentive to drill more or spend more money to get more gas is very low, and drill rigs have been disappearing from across the region for a year.

The Saudis began dumping oil months ago, in an effort to punish competing oil producers Iran and Russia, with the secondary effect of dropping gasoline prices so low that the natural gas industry got hit from that side, too.

So now is not only a bad time for the gas industry, it is also a time of greatly diminished returns on investment and on royalties received.  Scalping 5% off the top of that is punishing to everyone, including gas consumers, who will see their rates increase proportionally.

Here’s the biggest problem with a severance tax: Pennsylvania already has a 3% impact fee on Marcellus gas, and a Corporate Net Income Tax of 9.99% (let’s call it ten percent, OK?).  Most of the other gas and oil producing states have no such additional taxes; their severance taxes are the one and only tax their oil and gas producers pay, not the multiple high taxes and fees drillers in PA pay.

Pennsylvania government is therefore already reaping much higher revenue from the gas industry than other gas producing states.  That means that the companies doing business here are already burdened much more than elsewhere.

So adding a severance tax now, at this economically bad time, without commensurately lowering other taxes, or the existing Impact Fee, makes no sense.  Unless the people promoting this have an infantile view of how America and business work.

And that right there is the problem.  Way too many advocates for tax-and-spend policies like an additional severance tax have a Marxist view of business; essentially, to them, business exists to pour money into liberal schemes.

And speaking of spending, who believes that spending more and more and more taxpayer dollars on public schools, public teachers unions, and public teachers’ pensions, actually equates with better education?

So many studies disprove that (see the Mercatus Center), but it is a liberal mantra that taxpayers must spend ever more of their money to support public unions that support political liberals.  And both parents of students and taxpayers alike now correctly see that system for what it is – simple, legalized political graft to fund one political party.

Public schools are mostly a disaster, yet teacher’s unions and their political buddies continue to pound on the table for more and more money.  Homeowners are essentially now renting their houses from the teacher’s unions, and proposed laws like Act 76 seek to fix that unfair situation by removing the vampire fangs from homeowners and letting the larger society pay for its expenditure.

Going door-to-door for political races year after year, property tax has been the number one issue I have encountered among elderly homeowners.  So many of them can no longer afford to pay the taxes on their houses, that they must sell them and move, despite a lifetime of investing in them.  This is patently un-American and unfair.

So Tom Wolf is moving in exactly the opposite direction we need on this subject, and instead of trying to fix the tax situation, he seeks to make it worse.  To be fair, Wolf campaigned on raising taxes.  He just needs to remember that he did not get elected by voters who want higher taxes, they wanted to fire former governor Tom Corbett.

 

PSA: Please Keep Pets Inside

A pet is an animal that lives in a house.

Pets that are allowed to run freely out the front or back door, to cavort, chase, defecate, and frolic off its owner’s property and in Nature’s wide open beauty, are by definition feral.

Once out of the house or off the leash, these feral animals become capable of great destruction and usually accountable to no one.  They also can easily be eaten by other feral animals and by coyotes, foxes, owls, and hawks. Or hit by a car.

Cats and dogs can get into traps set for fox, raccoon, coyote, and other furbearers.

Some of these traps merely restrain the animal by the foot.  They do not break bones or cut skin.  But other traps, like Conibears, will crush whatever sets them off, including a cat’s body or a dog’s face.  If this possibility bothers a pet owner, then think of your animal’s safety, and do not let it run on someone else’s property; keep the pet under control at all times.

Audubon International estimates that feral cats alone wreak terrible destruction upon native songbirds, already under pressure from excessive populations of raccoons, skunks, and possums, killing hundreds of millions of colorful little birds annually.

Feral dogs bite people, chase wildlife, and poop on others’ property.

In most states, a dog seen chasing wildlife is subject to immediate termination.  In fact I lost my favorite pet, a large malamute, after he broke out of his one-acre pen and a local farmer witnessed him gleefully chasing deer.  Months later the farmer deposited the dog’s collar and name tag in the back of our pickup truck, told my dad where the carcass was buried on the edge of his field, and walked away.  I was already heartbroken, but what could we say? Our dog had broken the law.

No responsible adult allows a pet to become feral.  When it happens, it means the owner no longer really cares about the animal.

If you are a pet owner, please show that you care by keeping the pet safe inside your home. Everyone will thank you for it, especially your precious animal friend.

Chautauqua’s shame

Chautauqua Institution was once an intellectual’s dream destination: Opera company, symphony orchestra, book stores, authors and noted speakers every day for the summer. Gated and safe. Nice people.  Beautiful homes next to quaint Victorian gingerbread boxes, all adhering to a commonly held design ideal. Chautauqua Lake, at 32,000 acres a real big body of water to fish, swim, boat, and otherwise enjoy.

Chautauqua was also a unique symbol of community building, and education. The institution spawned The Chautauqua Movement, which was big from the 1890s through the 1930s, with places like Mount Gretna in Central Pennsylvania dedicated to comfy living, higher entertainment, tolerance, and learning.

Now, Chautauqua Institution is the antithesis of its founding ideals and original mission. Overthrown, captured, and jealously guarded by political extremists, its summer programming is now carefully groomed to exclude dissent and include well known jihadists.  It’s pretty much extreme political indoctrination 24/7 there.

And yes, you read that above correctly. Chautauqua Instituion is now so tolerant of intolerance, the place regularly hosts pro-Jihad, pro-Sharia Law advocates (think of the people behind Jim Foley and Steve Sotloff having their heads sawn off while on their knees), who lie lie lie to adoring audiences, who in turn shout down questioners asking the right questions for the liars during the appointed Q&A periods.

I myself have been nastily hissed at and yelled at there, for clapping in support of a speaker or statement I like, while the endless sea of extremists in the audience uproariously cheered on their favored speaker.

The place is now ruthlessly run by intolerant, close-minded control freaks, serving up anti-Americanism by the bucketful, pro-Jihad by the boatload, and dissent-crushing manipulation by the truckload.

How sad. How utterly shameful.

Farewell, fair maiden of Chautauqua Lake’s shores. We once knew ye.

Out of all proportion

If there is one core element to the “new thinking” taking America down, it is victimology.

You know, the idea that everyone is a victim, and some people are special victims and some are especially victimized.

For someone to be a victim, there must be a perpetrator, and political correctness has created all sorts of creative solutions to real and perceived wounds which perpetrators can, or must!, endlessly do to atone.  America has been afflicted with this, to the absurd point where illegal aliens crossing our borders in search of better work are “victims” and deserve our taxpayer money and the right to vote themselves a lot more of it.

It is a fair idea that people should be treated fairly.  No arguing with that.  But what happens when whatever apology, compensation, or other action worth remedying the problem has been completed, and the victim identity remains?  This phenomenon is nowhere more clearly evident than in the Middle East, or technically the Near East, where “Palestinian” Arabs have wallowed in artificial and purposefully perpetuated victim status for five decades.

Even their refugee status is inherited, contrary to every other refugee situation around the world.  The UN helps maintain this arrangement.

Although there were nearly twice as many refugee Jews ejected from Arab and Muslim nations at the same time, no one talks about them.  Islamic imperialism and Arab colonialism are responsible for one of the largest and longest-standing occupations ever on planet Earth, where the farms, homes, and businesses that once belonged to Jews are now the property of supposedly well-intentioned Muslim Arabs.  Billions of dollars worth of property and banks were stolen overnight, from one group of people and given to another group that had no claim on it other than they held the knife and gun, and the victim did not.

If someone were looking for victims to feel bad for, the Jews have had that victim experience in spades, not to mention the Armenians (Christians who suffered a none-too-gentle genocide and land-theft at the hands of the Muslim Turks from 1910-1915), Kurds, Tibetans, and, well, never mind that the iconic and fiercely warlike Oglala Sioux ejected the Mandan, Cheyenne, and Pawnee from millions of acres of their historic Happy Hunting Grounds and militarily occupied them for hundreds of years…after all, the American Indians who massacred, tortured, and occupied one another are considered to have engaged in acceptable behavior.  Anyhow, I digress…..

The Jews now find themselves fighting for their lives with their backs to the wall, yet once again against Islamic supremacists, Islamic imperialists, and Arab colonists; and those same Jews are now presented with yet another double-standard: Proportionality.

This is the idea that, if someone hits you in the face with the intention of killing you, but fails to do so that first time and is winding up to hit you again and harder this next time, why, you are only supposed to hit them back once and only just as hard as you were first hit.  You are not allowed to land a knockout punch, despite having survived an attempted knockout punch.

The EU demands that endless Arab rockets from Gaza onto indigenous Jews, living an unbroken 3,000-year presence in their homeland, be met with…thousands of random rockets from Israel?  My God no! Unacceptable!

Obviously, the idea of proportionality is alien to every people that has fought a war, especially a defensive war.  War is fought to be won, and dumbing-down and reducing the effectiveness of your response is a foolish and possibly suicidal thing to do.

But Europe and America cater first and foremost to artificial victims, and no matter what, those victims are due every gift, every extra opportunity, every kind gesture in the face of bloody hands, truckloads of taxpayer money despite tremendous waste by the recipients, and so on and so forth.  Although this behavior seems suicidal, suicide seems to be the new definition of democracy, in the interest of appeasing the ‘victims’ among us, out of all proportion to whatever happened in the first place.

But to give the supposed victims their due, proportionality must be maintained, and in the Middle East today, Western civilization is expected to fight Islamic aggression, theft, murder, and occupation with both hands tied behind its back.  It is apparently the new thing to do.

Cantor loss is shocking only to those who are not paying attention

Yes, yes, yes, Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) was an important man, high up, famous, powerful…blah blah blah.  And he lost his five-million dollar primary campaign to a grass roots candidate who spent a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Hey, Republican establishment folks, are you now paying attention?

Do you maybe now understand what so many of your own voters have been telling you for years?

To wit: America is worth saving, and it can only be saved by breaking from the creeping Big Government identity of “moderate” Republicans.  That means No on amnesty, No on gun control, No on universal background checks aka gun owners database, No on ObamaDon’tCare.

In other words, Hell Yes on freedom and liberty.

Cantor failed on these issues, and his voters punished him for it.

While the NRA lost out to Gun Owners of America in this race, probably no group was more closely identified with Cantor, and the Republican establishment around him, than the Republican Jewish Coalition, a nice group I have had some exposure to.  Sadly, RJC mishandled Cantor’s loss in a gargantuan way that may spell the organization’s descent or even demise.  In many ways, Tuesday night’s RJC is emblematic of the larger Republican establishment, which also seems determined to drive itself over a cliff.

Late Tuesday night, 11:26 PM, to be exact, the RJC issued a brief lamentation about Cantor’s electoral loss and how great Cantor was and blah blah blah.

Did RJC acknowledge that REPUBLICAN voters had spoken?  Nope.  Did RJC congratulate the winner, economics professor David Brat?  Nope.  Did RJC publicly stake out hopes for Brat to follow closely in Cantor’s pro-Israel shoes?  Nope.

Instead, RJC came across as soundly rejecting the wisdom of REPUBLICAN voters in Cantor’s former district, and failing to acknowledge the Big Government issues of a) gun (citizen) control and b) illegal aliens, who are destroying American democracy, disenfranchising American voters, and robbing American taxpayers.

RJC may be a small group with great intentions, but Tuesday night, they were the lost voice for the entire Republican Establishment.  And it shows just how out of touch the establishment is with the American citizen.  Every conservative activist who reads the RJC statement will wonder what the hell is in the DC Beltway water, because it sure isn’t anything they’d want to drink.

The folks who ran and funded Cantor’s campaign, who issued public statements for him, who stood by him when he wafted in the wind on critical issues, and who bewailed his loss, are incredibly out of touch with the actual voters, taxpayers, citizens, moms, dads, students, and out-of-work-car-won’t-run Americans who are slowly, surely, awakening to the crisis we are in, and who are not not shocked that Cantor lost.

But the experts…they are shocked.

What does this portend or mean to Pennsylvanians? Here is one suggestion: Political parties are supposed to represent the voters and stand for principles. Once the PA GOP returns to that model, winning elections will be easy.

US Supreme Court decides straight forward case with weird outcomes

Fernandez v. California was decided yesterday by the US Supreme Court.  Everything about it is just…weird.

In a holding that is enraging advocates of private property rights, limited government, and citizen privacy, the Court’s conservatives were joined by two liberals to allow the police to enter a private home without a warrant, even if one resident says they cannot enter, because another resident said they could enter.

In other words, if the police get a resident of a home to grant permission to enter that home for the purpose of searching for something illegal, which the police now do not have to specify in writing, the police may enter.  What they are looking for could be unknown, or undocumented.  Maybe they are on a fishing expedition, just looking for anything they could use against the person who said they did not want the police to enter.  It seems like planting evidence would be a lot easier, now.  In any event, your home is no longer your castle, if a pissed off teenager inside decides to take out their misplaced teenage aggression against their loving parents.

Seems like a recipe for disaster.

Justice Ginsburg wrote a dissent, noting the obvious erosion in Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches and seizures that result from holdings like this.  Ginsburg is the court’s most liberal member, an extremist who has spoken out against the US Constitution she is sworn to uphold, and an authoritarian statist who otherwise just loves, loves, loves state power over citizens.

And here’s the really weird stuff: The facts involve “illegal guns,” which in California is anything down to and including a Daisy BB gun, and documented domestic violence.

The person blocking the police from entering the home to search it was the Mr. Wife-Beating Fernandez, a scumbag who held his cringing wife prisoner under brutal circumstances.  After he was momentarily out of the picture and not a direct threat, she allowed the police to search the house, where they found the illegal guns (let’s be clear – California is on the path to making all gun ownership illegal, except by the police, which is otherwise known as a police state, a separate topic).

Thus did Mr. Macho Wife Beater get into even more and more serious trouble with the legal system, and thus did he subsequently attempt to suppress the evidence the police found, which really put him away behind bars for a while.

Ginsburg and other liberals typically trumpet the rights of domestic abuse victims, but here they are clearly ranking them beneath the rights of the gun-owning wife beater.  Weird.

Conservatives like Alito typically champion the rights of gun owners and are split 50/50 on privacy rights.  But here they are so obviously opening up the flood gates of potential abuse by police.  No warrant?  No documentation for probable cause? Husbands and wives typically cannot testify against each other, but here they are now allowed to defy one another in the family ‘castle’ so the state apparatus may enter at will.

Seems like a pretty huge detonation of American citizens’ privacy rights.  Weird.

 

It’s official: Sunday hunting in VA

Two weeks ago the Virginia state House passed a Sunday hunting bill out of a committee that had bottled up similar bills for decades before. It was a surprising statement that it actually got through committee.  Then it passed the full state House, which surprised even its most ardent sponsors.

Well, today the Virginia state Senate passed the companion bill.  It allows hunting on private land on Sunday, a private property rights win if there ever was one. If you pay property taxes, say on a remote mountainside property, and you are deprived of 14.2% of your full use of that property for some vague reason, you might get frustrated.  It is your property.  You can shoot 1,000 bullets at a target on Sunday, but you cannot shoot just one at a squirrel.  Laws like this are by their definition arbitrary, the bane of democracy.

Virginia’s governor says he will sign the bill into law.

Welcome to the modern era, Virginia! We are envious of you.

Kudos to Kathy Davis of PA-based Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (www.huntsunday.org), who has devoted the past two years of her life to this issue, and who helped a great deal with getting the Virginia law passed and the lawsuit filed there.  The lawsuit compelled the state legislature to act, before a judge ruled against the state and the entire state was opened up.  While I would like to see public land open for Sunday hunting, I am satisfied with private land as a start to implementing it state-wide.  This really is an issue of the most basic American rights.

Visiting DC? Try this landmark

With original carved woodwork, tiles, and other intact original surfaces the Christian Heurich House is worth the five bucks admission fee. The basement was built as a traditional German inn or pub, and includes the nicest torchier I have seen. Antlers linking three old halberds together, this torchier undoubtedly was part of a larger set used to illuminate the day’s take, arranged just-so on the ground after a traditional hunt. Photos are not allowed, so I did not take one. Hopefully the association will publish a book on the place where you can see it all in detail.
http://www.heurichhouse.org/