Michigan town wants fortune-tellers' employment history

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75 Responses to “Michigan town wants fortune-tellers' employment history”

  1. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I have a friend who’s Roma. She’s an emergency room nurse. Her family are all middle class office worker types. Yes, there are still some families that rely on petty theft for income, but that culture is dying out.

    As to legal sanctions, fortune tellers don’t encourage dependence on magical thinking any more than video games. But freedom of speech only applies to things that fanboys are interested in, doesn’t it?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Michigan is liberal in general, but some parts of it are extremely right-wing and obnoxiously religious. The county I live in (Ottawa county) has banned the sale of beer and wine on Sunday, and a nearby town (Zeeland, MI) banned the Harry Potter books in schools and public librarys. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of bible-bangers have managed to win local elections in warren and are now going after fortune-tellers in an effort to root out and punish what they consider to be pagan rituals and witchcraft.

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Jack: *applaud*

    Successful troll is successful.

  4. dw_funk says:

    I’ve always seen fortune telling tools like tarot and the I Ching to be fantastic construction kits for narratives. “Interpreting” the symbols forces you to look at something in a completely different narrative light, and that can lead to valuable insight, as long as you don’t get caught up by the idea that you’re actually telling the future.

    But yeah, this law is just creating bureaucratic hoops to make would-be fortune tellers jump through, in order to reduce the practice without outright banning it.

    • Xopher says:

      Just so! Yes. The process of interpreting the symbols is what unlocks the intuitive part of your brain and allows the different narrative to come forth.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ed Brayton;s just pissed because 5 yrs ago a “fortune teller” told him to buy GM… couldn’t go wrong!

  6. Mike The Bard says:

    I actually just came from the shop where I do tarot and rune readings, and yes, I do charge.

    Now, let’s for a moment imagine that there’s absolutely nothing supernatural going on (I personally think there’s more to it, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that you’re right and I’m wrong.). I show you a few pictures- a matter of money, a loss in your past, a strong woman close to you. The important part is not what the pictures mean to me, but what they mean to YOU. EVERYBODY has had a loss, worries about money, and knows several women. What I’m doing is taking things you already know and putting them in a context that gives you a new perspective on them.

    Moreover, the cards have a deep symbolic meaning- every inclusion, every color, every number is a reference to a spiritual path (mostly Hermetic Qaballa). Their WHOLE PURPOSE is that by studying the symbolism, you learn about YOURSELF.

    Now, I am every bit as qualified to listen to your problems and tell you what I think as any bartender. I’ve given people hope and I’ve even stopped a couple suicides- and these were people who would have never considered stepping into a psychiatrist’s office or getting the kind of help they needed without someone like me suggesting it. So, yeah- I feel pretty good about what I do.

    The problem here is that someone who says “Give me $20 and I will cleanse the negative energy from your aura” is treated completely different from someone so says “Give me $100 and God will bless you”. I’ve got no problem calling out the frauds, but don’t give them a free pass just because they quote the Old Testament instead of the Book of Thoth.

    • Jack says:

      I’ve got no problem calling out the frauds, but don’t give them a free pass just because they quote the Old Testament instead of the Book of Thoth.

      The last time I talked to a Rabbi I paid nothing; it was on the street during the “High Holy” days and he wanted to hook me into his interpretation of Judaism.

      Heck the last time I talked a friend, colleague, co-worker and even bartender (unless you count a drink). I mean, are you saying tons of homeless folks with few possessions go to Churches for solace, shelter and food because they are donating $100 a pop for the privilege? That must mean there were a lot of folks with $100 at the Bowery Mission this past Thursday in the middle of the NYC heatwave who paid money for the privilege of sitting on a pew, getting some AC and food… And religion mixed in, but c’mon. Nowhere near as nefarious. And you know, the Vatican has money money and riches based on the past: Do they share that wealth outside of the Vatican because last I checked most churches in the U.S. are failing and desperate for funding.

      C’mon, don’t exaggerate this nonsense. And I agree, it’s all nonsense on different levels. But here in NYC “fortune tellers” of “nomadic populations” are simply straight out cons or fronts for worse.

  7. Xopher says:

    Mike the Bard, I have no problem with what you do (I wouldn’t do it myself, but that’s because I’m specifically oathbound not to). I don’t think you’re hurting anyone, and probably helping some people.

  8. Travis McCrea says:

    Did everyone forget about our first amendment? There was already a precedent set against messing with fortune tellers and mediums because it violates the first amendment.

    The answer to bad speech isn’t to take it down, its to fight it with more good speech.

    If a private citizen group would like to get together, raise money to make people aware that these people are “frauds” (their words), then go ahead and do it.

    Its not the governments right to deny anyone free speech, people just need to be aware that the free speech right exists and that everything thats printed does not have to be factual.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Are you aware that Gypsies are a racial group, and saying they’re all scum is pretty much the same as saying black people/asian people/white people are all scum?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_%28disambiguation%29

  10. jphilby says:

    Who cares about the mores of sleezy Michigan potholes?

  11. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I’m an objectivist and don’t go in for mumbo jumbo but I have to admit that some people practicing as fortune tellers, psychics and whatnot seem to have something to offer. Many are plain frauds but a few seem to have a very highly attuned empathy and intuition when interacting with people. Some may know they’re reading body language and behavior, and some think they can actually read minds, but there are people who genuinely sense truth about strangers on an instinctual level. maybe there’s value in this.
    Having had recent family interactions with the Warren cops I would not want to be the one to test this law. The major industry in Warren is a plant making Army tanks and that says a lot about the community culture.

  12. jimkirk says:

    Does this law include Univac?

  13. jabo27 says:

    since we’re on the subject of going after those who offer a window into the superstitious realm, how about we start with criminal background checks, finger printing and DNA databases for priests and their ilk.

    • sisterp says:

      I don’t know that this should be tied to the religion question, but for what it’s worth, around here (Western Canada), our priests DO have to have criminal background checks.

  14. rebdav says:

    What about stock brokerage houses and financial advisors? There are a few who actually use astrology, but the standard long term analysis methods they use are nearly all suspect.

  15. Dr_Wally says:

    I believe it was the ancient Greeks who turfed astrologists into the streets, understanding that it was charlatanry. How… forward.

    • mdh says:

      and economists, how much more accurate are they?

      at least a fortune tellers lies make you feel better.

      • rebdav says:

        Since most business schools are exclusively Keynesian the best that modern economists can do is notice a trend and ask for central bank intervention and stimulus. Since I only studied that garbage to get the degree I am both right at predicting future trends and changes and I am also not employed in the finance field. I just cant stand to be surrounded by people who fervently cling to that old time false religion.

  16. andrew2.71828 says:

    It may be charlatanry, but a good fortune teller is a good entertainer, at minimum, and at best can bring some awareness to you — make you think differently, if you will — which may change your outlook, direction, and, therefore, fortune. And Warren has bigger problems than this, I imagine…

    • abstract_reg says:

      But at worst fortune tellers take advantage of the superstitious and leech off them by creating a scenario where their clients must keep coming back.

      Of course some would say that their clients deserve it for being suckers.

    • Brainspore says:

      That’s fine as long as they present themselves as entertainers. It’s when tbey make claims like “I can see your future” that they cross the line into fraud.

      • Rindan says:

        I can see your future is fraud but claiming to talk to an omnipotent all powerful god is cool? People are dumb and believe dumb things. Most people can’t save themselves from believing in magic, much less save others through the even handed force of law. Save the enforcement money for education and maybe you can get people to stop believing in ALL forms of silly magic. No need to pick on just one class of stupid magic believers and leave others to keep going to church and believe in magic there.

        • Anonymous says:

          Let’s not conflate things. Every one who plays D&D knows that fortune tellers are arcane spellcasters, while priests are divine spellcasters.

        • mdh says:

          No need to pick on just one class of stupid magic believers and leave others to keep going to church and believe in magic there.

          The founding fathers provided legal exception for that, and they were no fools. People are irrational about what they believe, and many need some calm guidance.

          I’m not a churchgoer, but I might go to a psychic – because some of them have amazing abilities to read body language and speak to things you’re feeling in ways you yourself might not be able to. Also, many are cheats.

          Many car salesmen are cheats too, but if I ever need their their service I go find one, knowing full well that everything is not as advertised. Many ministers and politicians and journalists and policemen are cheats too.

          Caveat Emptor. A phrase so true it out-lived the language.

    • mdh says:

      well said.

  17. fxq says:

    “…requiring licenses, fees, fingerprints, criminal background reports and employment histories for anyone who earns money forecasting the future.”

    I knew there was a way to stop Goldman Sachs.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I should have seen this coming!

  19. phisrow says:

    For something as relatively harmless as fortune telling, those seem like oddly stringent requirements(these aren’t doctors or engineers, here).

    It makes me wonder if this is actually just an implementation of the “If you would like to ban; but can’t, make as onerous as possible” technique and, if so, who in local government has a grudge and why?

    • JoshuaZ says:

      Phisrow, fortune-telling is not at all harmless. For example, mediums sometimes give financial advice from beyond the grave, or they convince people to part with large sums of money to the fortune tellers. And even when they aren’t doing something like that that’s a complete monetary con they tell lies about the state of reality which can be very harmful (think about what happens when someone goes to a fortune teller to find out if their significant other is cheating on them.) This isn’t harmless entertainment at all.

      • bja009 says:

        You seem to have missed the ‘caveat emptor’ post. Bad advice is only dangerous once you act on it. If you’re that dumb, well…
        Frankly, I think it’s more important to protect people’s freedom, even if it means the freedom to do stupid things, rather than spend our time trying to control the information and associations that people can have in the name of ‘protection’ from things the rule-makers think are harmful. That’s a dangerous path.

      • Jack says:

        Completely agreed. It baffles me that major organized religions are routinely torn down by others, but fortune tellers (aka: gypsies) are being treated like a great art form. Fortune tellers are fairly nefarious con artists. And here in NYC, they usually setup shop in storefronts and the like: Front part of store made for business; the back is where their whole family lives!

        What’s the con? Easy. You have to be pretty lonely and stupid to think tossing $2 to a stranger will give you insight into life. So bith/moan about your problems, and suddenly you will discover that your money is cursed! You must (MUST!) take your pile of twenties straight to this “psychic” who will “purify” the money by buying an HDTV with it!

        Now I am sure some brilliant poster here will point out other organized religions do things similarly “bad”, but guess what? They don’t. Or at least they don’t so crassly and without giving back.

        If I’m hungry or need shelter, I can walk into a church and get some help without any strings attached. Can I do that with a psychic? Nope. In fact I’d like to know what psychic/gypsy populations in the U.S. have actually contributed to the communities they leech off of. Yes, there is there music and dancing… But what else?

        Got no sympathy for gypsies. Watched them con people in NYC my whole life. And I was even around to see them and their “Look at the carpet I have while my partners rush into the apartment and steal you blind” con.

        PS: Anyone know how they can set up shop and live in their storefronts? Aren’t there housing laws on the books? And yes, it’s laughable to legalize them (or attempt to) but they are scum. Plain and simple.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am happily married to a Hungarian Gypsy and a Tarot reader. She does not charge or expect to wield unbelievable power or knowledge. But she does understand that there is a greater energy out there.
          Some call it God with a capital “G” some call it something more personal.
          I have seen many people who join together in fellowship with a common belief and find ways to pay for their structure, heat, lighting, and leaders well being. This is often found to be acceptable.
          What is not acceptable, is when it has to be a JOB because people cannot call it something other than a “service” and hold it in a lesser regard then their personal belief’s. As both of these examples are belief’s which have been around for the same amount of time in history.
          So if you are willing to accept that the “religions” of the world, which are only religion because they are accepted by a whole lot of people who defend it, are the only ones that can be. And the rest are merely lies, falsehoods, and frauds who should be stoned, taxed, tracked, and put into neat little boxes. Then you are the shining example of the people who stone EVERY major historical “RELIGIOUS” figure in HISTORY!
          If I want to give my money to the Church of Christ, Buddha, Zion, Moses, Thor, or any other Major religion. Its ok… because they are covering their religious expenses.. and they are “acceptable”
          But to support a personal belief, that is practiced in private? Between adults. Because they are taxed and have to do it in a commercial setting; Is considered fraud?
          Sir, you are a religious zealot and should be ashamed to be part of any peaceful accepting religion. Especially if you call your self a member of the Jewish faith, who understand persecution for their beliefs along side the Gypsies. Do not pretend to know who or what is right or wrong for anyone else. Or what should be examined by our government and what shouldn’t.

          • Jack says:

            Let’s go back to the original post mocking the idea of getting “licenses, fees, fingerprints, criminal background reports and employment histories…” What is wrong with that? Every other profession in the world requires some screening. And every major religion has an inherent structure that will anoint someone as a Priest, Rabbi, etc…

            Are you saying it’s completely impossible for fortune tellers to organize into some group that can control and police itself so the positive aspects of this belief system can shine past the negative history? I know that sounds hilarious—a nomadic population organizing into an entity that non-nomads can respect—but we are in the 21st century you know. Might be time to separate the positive wheat from the negative chaff.

            Especially if you call your self a member of the Jewish faith, who understand persecution for their beliefs along side the Gypsies.

            After World War II the surviving Jews learned to organize as a political force to help elevate the Jewish people and assure the Jews get a new/respected place in society. There’s no evidence of that happening in Gypsy populations such as the Roma after World War II.

            Why can’t licensing and background checks for fortune tellers be a first step? If there is a greater spiritual aspect of this that you’d love to share with others why not legitimize the faith so others don’t have fear of being fleeced by con-artists who give the practice a bad name?

          • Mike The Bard says:

            Jack- The whole problem is that this is not about fortune tellers- it is about fortune tellers not of faiths A, B, or C.

            It is NOT the duty of the state to “legitimize” ANYONE’S faith, and there are many religions that DON’T have a power structure.

            Now if we do want to go ahead with government licensing and background checks, let’s start with the Catholics- Unless of course, we consider fraud to be a much more pressing matter than, you know, actively sheltering known pedophiles from justice.

          • Jerril says:

            After World War II the surviving Jews learned to organize as a political force to help elevate the Jewish people and assure the Jews get a new/respected place in society. There’s no evidence of that happening in Gypsy populations such as the Roma after World War II.

            So now you have to invade Palestine to be treated with respect, what?

        • mr_subjunctive says:

          1. Fortune tellers =! gypsies. Maybe where you live, but not universally.

          2. I don’t really see what the number of gypsy residents per address, or the legality of their housing arrangements, has to do with anything.

          3. Now I am sure some brilliant poster here will point out other organized religions do things similarly “bad”, but guess what? They don’t. Or at least they don’t so crassly and without giving back. That is seriously questionable.

          4. If I’m hungry or need shelter, I can walk into a church and get some help without any strings attached. Can I do that with a psychic? You’re perhaps forgetting that the Catholic Church of DC was so outraged by the possibility of gay weddings in the District that they were prepared to stop all of their work with the homeless, rather than have to provide benefits for any gay employees? As with churches, I suspect the helpfulness would depend on the “psychic.”

          • Jack says:

            You’re perhaps forgetting that the Catholic Church of DC…

            I’m sure one can find exceptions to every rule, but I have never, ever in my life run into a fortune teller who is not a gypsy. Also, I’m not reading any polemics on established/organized religions. Yes, they are flawed, have issues and are still stuck in the past and have issues with manipulation, but from my perspective they still give back more positive to the world than gypsies.

            Or more to the point: Fortune tellers who are not gypsies and not eyeing you for a big con are usually some hipster kid playing around with the idea of fortune telling and not much else. Real/pro fortune tellers are genuine scumbags, thieves and (I hate to say it) gypsies who really don’t deserve protection.

            I don’t really see what the number of gypsy residents per address, or the legality of their housing arrangements, has to do with anything.

            Why can’t the issue of where these folks house themselves be discussed? Deny these folks a platform/housing and they go away. Simple as that.

            As far as storefronts go, why should a group known to destroy the lives of others be allowed to turn a storefront into a home/clip-joint? Can I go out and setup a storefront with housing the back for my own pet projects?

          • Daemon says:

            You do know that you’re a racist, right?

          • JoshuaZ says:

            I suspect you may be having a slight issue confusing nomadic with gypsies. Also note that as to the direct ethnic group, Roma, many non-Roma fortune tellers pretend to have Rom blood.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I saw this coming.

  21. Anonymous says:

    As #1 points out, if you are going to do this to one woo-woo vendor, then you might as well do it to all of them.

    As for #8, you do really think that any religious claims would pass your test for fraud?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Forget employment history, they should have to provide a detailed employment future.

  23. Anonymous says:

    A Maryland town recently tried to outlaw fortune-telling. A man sued, and, last month, won in court.

    The judge correctly reasoned that even if all fortune tellers were telling lies, you cannot stifle their free speech unless you’re going to shut down every church as well.

    I think psychics and fortune-tellers are ridiculous, but I support their right to exist.

  24. xander says:

    I’m just happy that the lawmakers in Warren, Michigan are doing the real important work.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I really don’t get this, BoingBoing. You’re all for personal freedoms and the first to raise a huge stink when someone gets asked for their receipt at Best Buy but then you get behind this? Really?!

    From so-called “natural healers” to “life coaches” there are hundreds of professions that aren’t grounded in true science and whose qualifications are unquantifiable.

    Fortune-telling is entertainment, same as going to a movie. Yes, there are people who don’t think of it as such and get addicted or get fleeced, but there are also people who spend 80% of their paychecks at strip clubs, leaving their children without food or diapers. Should we shut down those as well? Make women *prove* they’re not preying on horny and/or vulnerable men? Talk about infringement on personal freedoms.

    There’s also the socio-economic factor. The majority of fortune tellers are people of color, non-US born, and females. Easy targets, don’t you think?

    This one seems ill-thought-out. Please reconsider, Cory.

  26. mr_subjunctive says:

    Some “psychics” are relatively harmless people who just want to help others and believe (mistakenly) that they have a gift which enables them to see the future, and/or see what they do as harmless entertainment. Other “psychics” are predators who use people’s desire to know the future or hear reassuring things as a way to steal and manipulate their victims into poverty.

    As neither type can actually tell the future, and there’s no way to determine whether someone means well or not just by meeting them, one has to look at their past behavior, like, for example, whether or not they have criminal backgrounds, and restrict their ability to practice their trade accordingly. I mean, I don’t see any problem with this law: it attempts (probably unsuccessfully, since the crooks can just go to the next town over) to keep the worst of them from conning the townspeople, while preserving the ability of the populace to believe stupid things. And makes a tiny amount of money for the city besides. Win-win-win.

    Would that similar background checks were applied to the priests and preachers and faith healers and etc. who pass in and out of Warren, but perhaps in time.

  27. theyallhateme says:

    Not so much gypsies, as tramps and thieves.

  28. Anonymous says:

    So based on the last entry, how does one go about fingerprinting a Univac?

  29. yoadrian says:

    I believe Glenn Beck’s selling of “survival seeds”
    would qualify him as a fortune teller and subject to him licensing in Warren , Michigan , if he ran his racket there. Without including all the stockbrokers, preachers,weathermen,and politicians within the definition of fortune tellers, the ordinance is just another witch hunt. Fraud laws already exist that apply to fortune tellers as well as the rest of us.

    • Notary Sojac says:

      ..including all the stockbrokers, preachers,weathermen,and politicians within the definition of fortune tellers..

      True. I’ve never heard of a fortune teller who was foolish or mendacious enough to suggest that her government spending plan would keep unemployment under eight percent.

  30. millrick says:

    geez,
    why don’t they just get a psychic to verify the fortune teller’s bona fides? how hard could it be?

  31. Anonymous says:

    What about bookies. Octopus Paul etc.

  32. kchill says:

    I’m sorry I’m kinda confused right now. This is a story about forutne tellers and how they are becoming an issue enough for the local goverment to step in, I wasn’t aware there was even mention of church leaders saying anything in this article.

    In fact…there is no mention of religion in this article sans what people decided to bring up. Therefore, its impossible to argue anything about religion right now since the people who posted have obviously made up their mind and will not listen to anything beyond that, just trying to stir up trouble.

    With that said: Fortune tellers are probably getting the eye of the local goverment due to an increase in thier use I’m sure.

    If scamming is starting to become commonplace than yes they would need a proper business license, however I am unsure why you would need fingerprinting and background checks given the fact its just a job and a private job at that.

    • Rindan says:

      Religion is getting dragged into the discussion because of the implication that clearly fortune tellers are scamming ignorant people who don’t realize that magic isn’t real. The point is that people getting scammed and believing in magic is a much larger portion of the population than those that see fortune tellers. Religions also believe in magic and collect vast sums of money from people that believe their magic is real.

      The Vatican isn’t vastly wealthy and literally covered in gold because god has been using magic to send them money. They got their wealth through people who believe in their magic giving it up.

      So, if you are going to go after one set of hucksters, why not go for them all? Is it fair to go for one set of magic believers getting scammed and ignore the rest? Should the government really be in the business of valuing whose magic is more worthy?

      Frankly, I am of the opinion that it isn’t the governments place to get involved. Gullible people are going to pay for spiritual comfort. For some, it means tithing to the church and spending hours each week listening to a guy who claims magical access to an all powerful god no one can see or touch. For others, it means dropping a few bucks each week to have Madam Whatever tell you what the star magic is telling her this week about your love life. Both are, in my opinion, stupid, but they should operate under the same rules. In our society, we don’t finger print and do background checks on people use magic to talk to gods, so we shouldn’t be doing it on fortune tellers, card readers, or whatever else nonsense exists in this world.

      Spend some money on education. That is the only cure for stupid.

      • kchill says:

        It’s beyond a sad thing when people are so full of hate and arrogance that they cannot see the error going on here, that was just…such an arrogant post.

        Religion should not have even been brought up here, its a private business that people do take advantage. Is it something that should have even been brought up legislation wise, no. But tell that to the local government there.

        Honestly, its no worse than moving companies that take your stuff and refuse to return it unless you pay another 2100 bucks, at least with a fortune teller its a choice.

  33. Jack says:

    You do know that you’re a racist, right?

    No I am not. Racism implies a prejudice towards one race. Gypsy populations exist in many different cultures and races; not just Roma.

    Gypsy populations have a history of leeching off of the populations they insert themselves into. They give nothing back and leave wrecked lives. And I have literally never met a gypsy who was not involved in straight out con gigs. Whether it be as storefront psychics, the old “Let me show you this carpet…” con (see above) or even home repair gigs.

    I’m completely distrustful of gypsies because I (and others I know) have never had one positive experience with them.

    And when I lived in the midwest I learned to have a new appreciation/loathing towards “Travellers.”

    Do some research before taking the brave stance of calling someone a racist.

    • rebdav says:

      I don’t know any Gypses/Roma, but your generalizations sound like what people most people used to ‘know’ about Jews. We also come in many colors and nationalities, we used to be the dirty uneducated, now we are the greedy rich.

      • Jack says:

        I don’t know any Gypsies/Roma, but your generalizations sound like what people most people used to ‘know’ about Jews.

        Please reread my comment. I did not say “Roma.” Gypsy populations exist in many cultures and in many ethnicities. I like the Irish, but Irish Travellers can go to hell. There are also other gypsy groups in deeper Russia that are not well respected that have nothing to do with Roma.

        So unless your direct knowledge of gypsy culture expands beyond the confines of—I don’t know—that whole “Borat took advantage of gypsies…” kerfuffle, you have no idea what you are talking about.

        Oh, for the record I am Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors. I know what racism is. Learn where fortune tellers come from, who gypsies are and why getting them licensed is not that bad of an idea.

    • Xopher says:

      Jack, you are the one who needs to educate yourself. While it’s true that a) the word ‘Gypsy’ is sometimes used more broadly and b) many fortune tellers without Roma ancestry claim it to add credence to their claim of psychic powers, in origin it’s a racial/ethnic term applied to the Roma, based on the false belief that they came from Egypt. (If their language (“rromani chib”) is anything to go by, their original home was closer to India.)

      It’s not at all unreasonable for people who know the history of the Roma (including Hitler’s attempts to exterminate them along with the Jews (see rebdav’s comment above), and subsequent attempts to expel them from Germany, as recently as the 1970s) to assume that’s who you mean when you say ‘Gypsy’. It’s the default meaning of the term; you need to specify if you’re using it more broadly.

      Now you have, but before you did it was not unreasonable to call you out for racism (or at least ethnic prejudice).

      What you don’t like is “nomadic con artists.” Not an unreasonable stance. But it’s on you to specify when you use a term that’s usually associated with a certain ethnic group. Not all Roma are nomadic; not all nomadic Roma are con artists; not all nomadic con artists are Roma.

      You’ve run up against the Travellers too, you say. Well, they’re largely Celtic in origin (I think they’re related to the Tinkers of Ireland, though I haven’t researched this). If you talked all about how you hated the Irish, they’re all a bunch of thieves and conmen, etc., people would quite rightly conclude that you were in the grip of ethnic prejudice. That’s what happened when you used the word ‘Gypsy’ to mean “nomadic con artist.”

      • Jack says:

        Xopher, please save the bile for the next time Penn Jillette explains why he won’t tackle Scientology or Islam. Obviously he’s a racist in the same way I am.

  34. Anonymous says:

    @Jack
    I think he meant to call you a bigot, which is a more apt descriptor.

  35. unklstuart says:

    There is a danger of legitimizing the practice. “Look, I have a license. The State of Michigan certifies that I can tell fortunes.”

  36. Xopher says:

    Cross post. Looks like we’re thinking along the same lines, Jack, but I still think it’s on you to specify when you use the word ‘Gypsy’ that you don’t mean the Roma.

  37. Chuck says:

    Strange that a couple commenters mention economics, because I’ve noticed that a good number of people calling themselves “psychics” (or similar titles) are awfully good at econ/finance type talk.

    This little observation has led the voices in my head to come up with a theory that many “psychics” were actually econ/finance majors, but couldn’t land a job in those fields, so they took their forecasting abilities and re-branded themselves as psychics. (Or maybe I’m getting it completely backwards, and the BIG money is in the supernatural counseling services. It could be that Paul Krugman couldn’t land a job as a psychic.)

  38. Anonymous says:

    Naw… MOST fortune tellers are full of it, but if you can find a good traditional Horary Astrologer ( like Chris Warnock ) or a legit Palero or Santero ( very tough to find real ones, as so many are phony, and the real ones are REALLY off the grid, unless you are a cuban in NYC or Miami etc… ) then you’ll get hooked up. The Sketchiest of fortune tellers are the Roma ones, ussually the ones with the neon-lit store fronts with a hodge Podge of mystico-crap stauettes in their front windows. But most people get their fortune read for entertainment and so forth, or so they can hear what they want to hear, ie “Everything will be a-ok and you will marry a rich super model sans a pre-nup”… or if their lives are f’d up ” you are cuuuurrrrrsssssed”

  39. Xopher says:

    Jack, no bile intended. And I just reread my comment, and I don’t detect any. I think you’re reading it that way because you’re angry about being mistaken for a racist (which would make me angry, too). Please reread my comment and imagine that it’s all said in a calm, even tone.

    As for Penn Jillette, I believe I’ve made it clear that I think he’s a Randroid asshole. I have no opinion on whether he’s a racist, but if used the term ‘Arab’ when he meant “Muslim,” I’d conclude he was being racist, and he’d need to explain.

    Which you have done. I don’t think you intended to be racist, and I didn’t mean to pile on or sling bile. I think you used terms that made you sound racist, and that you should correct your terminology so as not to create that (false) impression. That’s all.

  40. ackpht says:

    Ignorance you can reduce through education. Stupid, on the other hand…

  41. Nytespryte says:

    To “All the fortune tellers I’ve met”

    That’s you.

    All the Tarot Readers I know have permanent addresses. They work a regular spot in the french quarter, most in Jackson Square or they work at one of the occult or tea shops.

    The ones who work in shops have a posted fee and never ask you for more money.

    The ones who work in the quarter can not legally charge but must work on donation (it was a deal struck to avoid licensing.) You can walk off without paying if you want.

    None of them has ever told anyone that their money is cursed.

    Some of them are really skeezy, just as people, but some of them are cool and sweet. The younger members of one of the local Pagan circles read Tarot for a while and then usually get more stable jobs. There were two older members who read for life, one had a deal with one of the city tours. They have both recently passed on. One of them was really skeezy but by no means a thief, one was crazy but a nice guy who did used to help some of the local homeless kids.

    Getting a Tarot reading is just one of those things many people do when they visit New Orleans, just for fun.

    • Xopher says:

      Moreover, someone who truly believes that the universe influences the fall of the cards to send messages to a skilled reader is not a scam artist (you can call them crazy if you want, along with people who believe in transubstantiation).

      And someone can sincerely read the cards without believing that. I, for example, believe that the Tarot is a symbol-heavy system for scrying, which is a process by which the brain is fooled into releasing its more intuitive functions…I don’t read Tarot, but I have other systems for doing this, and I can help other people with real things that are going on in their lives when my intuition is working properly.

      (Intuition: the unconscious processing of subliminal cues, resulting in a conscious conclusion without a conscious reasoning process. Should be taken into account but not accepted uncritically.)

      Where I part company with professional readers is that they take money for doing this work for people, but this is a matter on which reasonable and ethical people can disagree. And if they don’t believe the Tarot has any use at all other than as entertainment, and sell it as such, even that very mild objection disappears.

      For me. IMHO. YMMV. Color and consistency may vary. Do not bounce Happy Fun Ball.

  42. TypoBoy says:

    Using “Gypsy” and then explaining you mean nomadic populations in general is like using the term “Jew” and then explaining you are using it as a term for moneylender, and are referring to all moneylenders and loan sharks regardless of religion or ethic background.

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