Category Archives: Trust

Women, Protect Your Life: Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

giftoffearEvery so often I come across a book (in this case, it was recommended by a friend) that is worth its weight in platinum. The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker is a dazzling presentation of extensively researched facts, many of them contrary to our popular notions, that provide bright insight into our culture’s epidemic of violence. More importantly, De Becker provides practical and essential guidance for those women who may be suffering from domestic abuse, stalking, or even pushy dates, and also for those who may be wondering whether or not they should stay in a problematic relationship. Mr. De Becker also explores the mystery of why some women stay with abusive men, and provides the insight that can motivate such psychologically trapped women to break free.

Although the subject is dark, Mr. De Becker writes in a respectful yet entertaining style, and even manages to adroitly and tastefully inject humor along the way. Using numerous can’t-put-down-the-book true stories to illustrate his points, De Becker captivates while he educates.

Writing a book is tough work, and as a successful businessman for many years, it is unlikely that Mr. De Becker needed the income. It is one of those books that appears to be a labor of love, with the author motivated by a desire to share his deep knowledge and experience in order to improve the safety of women. Towards the end of the book De Becker teaches us all, men and women alike, on how to avoid over-fearfulness while being alert to danger. An impressive balancing act, successfully accomplished.

-Ed Walker

Note: I do not accept compensation, direct or indirect, for any reviews posted in Engineering Thinking


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Can You Spot A Con Man?

journeysFrom my Journeys to the Edge of Reality site:

A review of The Man In The Rockefeller Suit, The Astonishing Rise And Spectacular Fall Of A Serial Imposter, by Mark Seal.

For more Engineering Thinking guidance on coping with scammers and frauds, please see “Relationships: ET Guidance on Improving Your Interactions with Others


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Marco Rubio: A Fresh New Face but the Same Old Corruption

Thumbs Up for the Sugar Farmers (But Not You Lowly Taxpayers)

Senator Marco Rubio (R. FL) is charming and eloquent, and is in the running to be the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. His memoir, An American Son, has recently been released to great reviews. All of which proves the old adage, watch what they do, not what they say.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Rubio voted to maintain an “egregious quota program that gouges American consumers to benefit a mere 5,000 or so farmers.”

Are you surprised to learn that Rubio receives hefty campaign contributions from some of those farmers?

-Ed Walker


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Is Your Boss A Narcissist?

Narcissists, similar to sociopaths (i.e. those with antisocial personality disorder), can wreak havoc because most of us are not equipped to detect their deceptions. For a recent study, please check “Narcissists rise to the top because people mistake their confidence and authority for leadership qualities,” by Anna Edwards, 11 Aug 2011, Mail Online.

What do you do if your boss is a narcissist? If at all possible, find another job.

-Ed Walker


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Corrupt “Science” Studies

Voodoo Science

Trying to make a decision based on research, such as the correlation between cell phones and cancer? Click here for a good link that points out the shocking collapse of truthfulness in many “science-based” studies, and how to weed out the corrupted ones.

-Ed Walker


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Is Your Significant Other A Sociopath?

The word sociopath has an interesting pedigree. The original (and technically correct) meaning is derived from behavior representative of criminal groups (hence socio); e.g. members of a robbery gang.

Today, however, sociopath in the popular vernacular has come to characterize an individual’s narcissistic, self-centered, amoral behavior. (Counselor Barb informs me that the correct term for this is antisocial personality disorder.)  In any event, this type of person is the subject of this post.

So, is your SO a sociopath? Here are some clues: (bear in mind, we all may exhibit one or more of these characteristics, but rarely, and typically on a bad day):

1. The sociopath is never wrong. Never — ever — wrong.

2. The sociopath, if they appear to be wrong, will:

a. Deny the factual evidence (“That photo is supposedly of me? Nah, anyone can fake a photo.”)

b. Belittle the factual evidence (“So I did it; so what? Everyone does it; who cares?”)

c. Attack the bearer of factual evidence and change the focus to something irrelevant (“Oh, and so you think you’re perfect? You’re lucky I put up with you, after what you did four years ago…)

3. The sociopath does not — at all — understand your (or any other person’s) point of view. They do not know how to look at the world from another perspective because they are not capable of empathy.

4. However, the sociopath knows how to fake empathy and friendliness better than a used car salesman. They can make you pursue them, love them, and want to stay with them despite their almost total self-centeredness and frequent abuse. This is because they are experts at emotional manipulation, easily capable of making you feel as though you are at fault for relationship problems. (Ever wonder why your girlfriend stays with her abusive SO? Now you know.)

5. The sociopath’s skills at false empathy allow them to be very socially adept; they can even be the life of the party. Their mask, however, tends to slip — sometimes revealing extreme rage — when they are criticized or challenged. A sociopath is a prince when you’re  unquestioning and subservient, but Godzilla should you stray from your prescribed role in the relationship.

So, is your SO a sociopath? If so, what do you do? ET says run, as fast as you can. (But you may want to discuss this first with a qualified mental health counselor.)

-Ed Walker



Man-Made Global Warming A Scientific Fact? Not So Fast

Excerpts from “Update: 59 Additional Scientists Join Senate Report…More Than 700 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims“:

“Fifty-nine additional scientists from around the world have been added to the U.S. Senate Minority Report of dissenting scientists, pushing the total to over 700 skeptical international scientists – a dramatic increase from the original 650 scientists featured in the initial December 11, 2008 release. The 59 additional scientists added to the 255-page Senate Minority report since the initial release 13 ½ weeks ago represents an average of over four skeptical scientists a week.  This updated report – which includes yet another former UN IPCC scientist – represents an additional 300 (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the initial report’s release in December 2007.

“The over 700 dissenting scientists are now more than 13 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. The 59 additional scientists hail from all over the world, including Japan, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Canada, Netherlands, the U.S. and many are affiliated with prestigious institutions including, NASA, U.S. Navy, U.S. Defense Department, Energy Department, U.S. Air Force, the Philosophical Society of Washington (the oldest scientific society in Washington), Princeton University, Tulane University, American University, Oregon State University, U.S. Naval Academy and EPA.”

Science and the public are not well-served when scientists succumb to the financial rewards offered by the government in return for touting politically correct views, rather than true science. Fortunately — as indicated by the uncorruptable scientists mentioned above — science has a correcting mechanism, albeit a lagging one, which tends to elevate the truth over the self-serving interests of scientists that are corrupted by government grants.

-Ed Walker



Shameful Behavior Award Presented to “Facilitated Communications”

Parents of autistic or similarly impaired children are sometimes led to believe that communications with their child are possible with the aid of a skilled intermediary. Typically the intermediary claims that they can communicate with the child through a process termed “facilitated communications,” wherein the intermediary “interprets” the child’s  communications efforts by supporting the child’s hand or arm over a keyboard while the child is supposedly typing.

There is zero scientific evidence to support such claims. Nonetheless, and outrageously, charges have been brought against parents based on the notion that “facilitated communications” is scientifically sound.

In 2008, Julian and Thal Wendrow were jailed for allegedly sexually abusing their mute, autistic daughter, based on testimony from a facilitated communications expert. Their children were subsequently placed in foster care for months.

We present our Shameful Behavior award to this “expert” (unfortunately we do not have the person’s name), as well as Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca and assistants Deborah Carley and Andrea Dean, for failing to take the time to scientifically evaluate the fraudulent claims.

Eventually, prosecutors admitted the child was not able to communicate via typing or otherwise, and the charges were dropped. (See details here and here.)

Such abuses of prosecutorial power would not occur if our public officials were trained in ET, or would at least consult with those of us who are trained to think rationally and skeptically. It is the height of arrogance and shameful behavior for public officials who have the power to take away our liberty to do any less.

-Ed Walker



Should You Fire Your Investment Adviser?

In previous posts we’ve described the basic elements of engineering thinking. Properly applied, ET gives you a significant advantage in life, by helping you to avoid emotional blockages and to apply logical thinking.

As mentioned previously, ET does not guarantee the best decisions, but it does greatly improve the odds for very good decisions. For human beings, that’s about as good as it gets. ET can help you avoid potential scams, improve relationships, and even protect your health and your life.

Since we’ve previously established the basic principles of ET, we’re going to provide more practical ET applications. To start, let’s consider investments. The advice below may save you a bundle.

Should You Fire Your Investment Adviser?

If your investment adviser uses charts, graphs, and other “technical indicators” to make investment decisions, you may as well fire him/her and throw darts at a list of stocks in the Wall Street Journal.

Why? Because there is no scientific evidence to support the belief that prior performance (as displayed in graphs) has anything to do with future performance.

There are no sure things. There is no way to absolutely predict success in an investment. All you can do is play the odds, but not random or casino odds. The odds you want to play should be based primarily on the inherent value of the stock, which includes a lot of factors, but not graphs or charts of its prior price.

So if your investment adviser Charlie calls you up and says something like, “You should buy stock XYZ! It’s just experienced a double top point and breakout, which means its price is about to explode, blah blah blah..,” ET recommends: fire him.

-Ed Walker


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PolitiFact Earns “Pants On Fire” Rating

PolitiFact Claims To “Sort Out The Truth In Politics.” They Don’t Prove It, Earning A “Pants On Fire” Rating.

PolitiFact, operated by the St. Petersburg Times, claims to be a site to help you “sort out the truth in politics.”

As we’ve mentioned before (“Internet Hazards, Junk Journalism, and Movie Malarkey: Who Do You Trust? (Part 3)“), calling yourself a fact-check organization does not make you one. Here’s how to tell, using PolitiFact as an example:

1. Does PolitiFact disclose its sources of income, if any, that may tend to bias their evaluations? No.

2. Does PolitiFact disclose the backgrounds of its reporters and editors, so the reader may account for potential bias? No.

3. Does PolitiFact state that its staff includes an ombudsman who is tasked with presenting contrary or minority views, and ensuring balance? No.

4. Does PolitiFact provide a set of criteria to ensure (a) that a representative selection of issues will be checked (balance), (b) that both sides of the issues will be reviewed (fairness), and (c) that issues will be numerically scored with regard to degrees of truth or falsity (objectivity)? No.

PolitiFact scores a big fat zero, ranking it among sites devoted to UFOs, ghosts, psychic phenomena, and other organizations that dabble in pseudoscience.

This does not mean that PolitFact is completely biased or always wrong. It does mean that they have no sound basis for claiming that their comments are anything more than mere opinion. It also means that their evaluation criteria may shift from issue to issue, perhaps allowing them to indulge in subtle favoritism toward people or issues they like, while awarding “pants on fire” ratings to those they don’t.

For example, they recently rated “government takeover,” a slogan widely applied to the Obama health care plan, as “Lie Of The Year” (Dec 16, 2010). But since they have no scientific standards for what constitutes a lie, their pronouncement itself may be “a lie” to those who define “government takeover” as severe governmental intrusion and regulation, arguably true characteristics of the Obama plan. To brand “governmental takeover” a lie, PolitiFact had to resort to equating that term with socialism, which the plan — at least initially — is  not. However, the technical distinction between complete governmental control, versus merely huge amounts of governmental control, is likely a distinction of no consequence to average citizens, who have made clear their opposition to the Obama plan.

Without standards, the PolitiFact “fact checkers” may also shift the context of an issue, trivializing important positive aspects of events they don’t like, while emphasizing minor negative or irrelevant aspects. For example, the PolitiFact front-page coverage of the massive Tea Party march (September 14th, 2009) was headlined “Tea Party photo shows huge crowd — at different event.” Disregarding the fact that the march was indeed massive and highly newsworthy, and also disregarding the fact that the fake photo they presented was never presented as an official photo by the Tea Party, they trivialized one of the most important political events of the year.

PolitiFact may not even be aware of their selective bias, and it appears they never will be, because they have no scientific standards to guide them.

-Ed Walker





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