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Nelson Mandela

Detecting the Scam

 

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Obama, Osama and Trump — And Nelson Mandela's Ghost

(May 7, 2011)



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Common Sense:
Freeing ourselves of our assumptions

Someone asked me the other day for an example of how we should free ourselves of our assumptions in dealing with potential scammers. These examples came to mind…

We sometimes assume that, if there is no record that something happened, then it didn’t happen. Well, that ain’t necessarily so…

We sometimes assume that if enough people do something (e.g. invest with Bernie Madoff), then there is no need not ask any questions about the investment. Well, that too ain’t necessarily so…

We sometimes assume that if someone important says something, we can rely on it because that person is so important. Well, dream on…

We sometimes assume that if we are driving on the freeway at 70 miles an hour in a 60 mile-an-hour zone, and if every car passes us, we won’t be stopped. Tell that to the cop, but don’t hold your breath…

These are all assumptions from which we should free ourselves.

The same point was made by Charles Duelfer, the highly respected former Deputy Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, who led the Iraq Survey Group that was responsible for finding those weapons of mass destruction. In his final report, he described a problem his analysts faced in Iraq. He explained how western thought is filled with assumptions that are built into our thought processes and how we often forget that they shape our thinking and conclusions.

He explained how Saddam’s regime did not document his decisions on weapons of mass destruction. As a result, one could not draw any conclusions – one way or the other – about not finding such documents.

He also pointed out how members of Saddam’s regime habitually concealed bad news from him for fear of losing their positions – or worse. This did not stop him from asking a question of Ali Hasan Al Majid, a member of the Committee of Four. Asked how Saddam treated people who brought him bad news, Ali Hasan Al Majid replied, “I don’t know.” Mr. Duelfer surmised that he was being told the truth and that people knew the consequences of delivering bad news to Saddam.

Every scammer in history has relied on his marks making assumptions that they often had no right to make. And that is why we have to be careful to free ourselves of our assumptions when making important decisions…

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