The Classic Con

I have to confess a deep and abiding respect for the old-fashioned flimflam man, the confidence man, that knave and schemer who can bilk you out of billions (or just your retirement fund) and have you thanking him as he tips his hat in exit.

Take Stanley Huntington of Farmington, New Mexico, for example. He pulled the classic con. Huntington’s smooth, sincere sales pitch offered citizens a chance to help the government and preserve the environment at the same time. He was selling "California red super-worms"—genetically developed for the digesting of nuclear waste. For only $500, you get four pounds of super-worms to raise at home until you double or triple your total worm population and your initial investment when you resell your super-reds to the local nuclear waste burial facility. According to Huntington (and his completely false but very official-looking contract with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant), the government will pay top dollar for these "rad-reds." You’ll make millions!

Who says Americans have lost our creative edge! We may not think much of the fine arts, or even the avant-garde, but we still shell out for the con arts.

Perhaps Huntington went on scholarship to that ivory tower of scheming and chicanery called the Pentagon. Maybe he did his field study with Lockheed Martin or Boeing. Their current con is called the Ballistic Missile Defense System. Ronald Reagan’s original 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars"—the lasers and mirrors show—had to be altered somewhat due to the inconvenient fact that after billions of dollars of testing, it didn’t work (although Fourth of July laser shows have been substantially upgraded). It was proven, however, beyond any lick, spit, or polish, that allowing the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin to spend billions and billions of dollars is a phenomenally successful idea. Go figure!

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1998
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