The Mind of James Donahue


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Living With Hucksters
And Flimflam Artists
Is it just me, or has the world we used to know and enjoy been overtaken by hucksters and flimflam artists?
Everywhere I go, even in my own home, all of my senses are constantly bombarded by clever advertising schemes designed to try to make me want to buy something, consume something, or in some way indulge myself in personal pleasure.
It comes at us via our televisions, our radios, magazines, newspapers and the telephone. You can't even rent a home movie that isn't loaded with subtle promotions for products. The actors smoke a certain brand of cigarettes, drive a particular kind of car or drink a clearly visible brand of soft drink. Advertising is posted on billboards, on building walls, on the backdrops at ball parks. It comes at us via loud speakers, skywriting, aerial blimps, is posted on the sides of passing cars and buses and even on personal T-shirts.
When we enter one of the many large shopping malls or stores we are bombarded with promotion that hits all of our senses with such intensity I find the experience quite disconcerting. I make it a practice to have a list of items to purchase in hand, go right to that product, make my purchase and flee the gaudy sights, sounds and smells.
When I do make a purchase, it seems the product or service I buy is usually poor in quality. The item in the box usually bears no resemblance to the picture on the cover.
A few years back, during one of our many adventures in life, my wife Doris and I got involved in flea marketing. We bought inexpensive things at garage sales or other flea market dealers, cleaned and repaired them, and sold them at our table for a few cents more. We had a lot of fun, we learned a lot about marketing at the grass roots, but we never made any money. The operators that stayed in the game were the ones who successfully talked people into paying too much for the junk on their table.
If the flea market is a microcosm for contemporary business we should not expect much honesty.
The car insurance we purchase, usually mandated by law, no longer protects us from anything. Most of us can't afford the premium cost of insurance so we choose to drive old claptrap cars and buy the cheapest coverage allowed by the law.
Medical insurance, which once seemed to be there for us when we needed it, now demands a large co-payment that most people can't afford. Consequently, people tend to delay or avoid visits to doctors when something is going wrong. Tortured by big malpractice lawsuits and the high cost of malpractice insurance, the doctors are afraid to diagnose and prescribe in their offices. To cover themselves they send us off to hospital laboratories for blood and urine tests, X-rays, ultra-sound, EKG's and other expensive testing that few of us can afford.
 I downloaded a "free" computer program on the Internet that promised to eliminate those annoying pop-up ads and was disappointed. The program seemed incapable of doing much of anything. All it did was try to sell me a version of the program that promised to really erase the pop-ups.
I don't know how many "free" games and programs I have tried only to find out that they were not free at all. I was only allowed to try the game or program for a few days, and then send money. The money part was never mentioned at the time I was coaxed into the download.
But that stuff is just small potatoes compared to some of the flimflam schemes I see going on in the world around me. As a veteran news writer you might think that I have seen nearly everything, but lately the hucksters have been amazing me with their ingenuity. The complexities of the Enron scandal and other white collar crimes; the rip-offs of senior citizens by insurance and drug company racketeers, and the con games played by the maverick and not-so-maverick telephone companies is starting to boggle my brain.
 I have become so cynical and distrusting that I refuse to take my car to just any mechanic. I fear that someone in the shop, where I am prevented by law from going to keep watch, will take a wrench to some vital part so I will end up paying hundreds of dollars when I only needed a simple fix.
I took my car into a shop in Arizona a few years ago and was informed that a bearing in the front wheel drive assembly needed to be replaced at a cost of $300. I waited most of the day for the work to be done. A few months later that very bearing wore out after I moved a few hundred miles away. I was scammed by what appeared to be a reputable dealership.

The family is spread all over the country so we tend to keep in touch by telephone. We were shocked at what it was costing us to talk through a wire. One major telephone carrier was offering a special long distance rate and we decided to sign up for it to save money. But there were hidden costs that the telephone company failed to tell us about. We ended up paying hundreds of dollars for our first two months with that company. We switched to another carrier after a few heated conversations with illiterate fools at a telephone office located hundreds of miles away. That experience turned into a nightmare.
I have listed only a few of the horror stories going on in our personal lives, and people around us. There are many more.
The point of all this is that I believe the real god of the people is money. And the competition for it is fierce. As the economy sours and more and more people lose their jobs, the demands for money are severe. The human race is already degenerating to its animalistic nature, clawing and stealing what it wants from one another.
We have surrendered in a battle for the control of our minds. We have become so caught up in materialism and greed that we no longer know what is important. We are willing to abandon love of our family, friends and ourselves in the pursuit of wealth and things.
We are going to pay dearly for this error. The great economic crunch sweeping the world markets is not by accident. I believe it is by design. We will soon be forced to stop and smell the roses whether we like it or not.  

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